The Q&A Archives: Poppies

Question: We are planning to plant poppies in our yard this fall for blooming in the spring. When do poppies bloom in Southern California? At what point should we trim the heads off? Does the greenery survive long after the flowers are gone, or should we plan to plant something else there when the poppies are through? How do we harvest poppy seeds for next year, and when is the ideal time to do this?

Answer: Poppies resent being transplanted, so you're right in sowing the seeds directly in the garden bed. You can expect the foliage to grow in the spring and the flowers to follow in June. The plants will die back in mid-summer, so put some tall annuals in the bed with your poppies to mask the dead foliage. You can allow the flowers to produce seedheads. When the seed capsules turn tan and the holes on top open, cut the head from the stem and shake the seeds out into a container. These can be used in cooking. Or, allow the plants to self-sow (spread the seeds on their own). Oriental poppies are perennial plants. After the tops die down, the roots will live on, and produce new foliage the following fall, with flowers in the early summer. Shirley poppies are annual plants that need to be renewed each spring. They self-sow easily, if you allow the flowers to form seedheads.

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