A striking, sun-loving and reliable flower, the numerous Papaver varieties offer a strong interest plant for every landscape. Papavers have lovely wrinkled tissue paper-like single petals that offer texture and height (1-4 ft.) to your sunniest spots with a variety of bloom times and colors throughout the year.
Papaver has a long history within human civilization dating back to 5000 B.C.E. in ancient Egypt as well as within Greek Mythology, representing Demeter, the goddess of fertility and agriculture. In North America, they are a common symbol of WWI veterans.
Ecologically, Poppies are an important pollen source and attract numerous bees to your yard, so they often benefit any plant needing pollination to produce, such as tomatoes, fruits, etc.
The foliage of some species, dies back after blooming in the spring, which offers the opportunity for summer interest plants to fill their space during the warmer months. In the cooler fall months, the mound of fine, hairy foliage will reemerge, adding winter color and texture to a generally void garden.
Iceland Poppies (P. nudicale) bloom very early in the spring, and tend to have shorter, smaller, more delicate looking flowers with green, smooth foliage, dying back in the summer months and reappearing again in the fall.
Oriental Poppy (P. orientale) blooms a bit later in the spring through early summer and has taller, larger, and showier flowers with very hairy foliage and stems. which also dies back in the summer months and reappears again in the fall.
Shirley Poppies (P. rhoeas) and Breadseed Poppies (P. hybrids) are reliable re-seeding annual poppies which are known to spread and multiply wherever their seeds land, so this may not be suited for the organized gardener. Many plants such as California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri), Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) and others do not belong to the genus Papaver, but largely prefer the same sunny, well drained sites as true poppies.
Papavers of all varieties want rich, very well-draining soil in a bright sunny spot, next to the veggie garden or near other summer interest plants within your landscape. Add plenty of woody compost and/or pumice to your soil when planting for reliable drainage to avoid root rot, especially during the rainy winter months of the Pacific Northwest.
Some varieties you can find at the Portland Nursery include:
Papaver alpinum ‘Alpine Poppy’
Lacy blue-green foliage and nodding flower buds open to cute, silky blossoms in shades of orange, yellow, and white. Grows 6-9” high 12” wide. Reseeds. Zones 2-8
Papaver nudicale varieties: Perennial in zones 2-9
- ‘Champagne Bubbles’
3-4” flowers in shades of orange, yellow, salmon, gold, coral and white March through May. Grows 12-18 » high and 18 » wide. Summer dormant, reseeds.
A dwarf variety growing 10-12’’ high and 18’’ wide
Papaver orientale varieties: Perennial in zones 2-9
An orangey red single flower with black spots in the center. 18-24” tall and wide.
- ‘Beauty of Livermere’
Stunning, large, fire engine red single flowers with black center. 24-30” tall and wide (see side panel for image).
Scarlet blooms with contrasting dark center. 24-36” tall and wide
Lovely soft pink flowers. Grows 24-30” tall 18” wide (see side panel for image).
- ‘Patty’s Plum’
Unique dusty plum colored flowers with a black center. Grows 24-30” 18” wide (see side panel for image).
- ‘Princess Victoria Louise’
Large salmon pink flowers and dark centers. Grows 30-36” high and 18” wide.
- ‘Royal Wedding’
Large flamboyant white flowers with contrasting black spot at base. Grows 30” tall 18” wide.
Fringed reddish orange petals. Grows 24” tall and wide.
And many more!
Papaver ruprifragum ‘Double Tangerine’
Soft orange, 2” semi-double flowers in late spring and early summer. Distinctive silvery grey, finely cut foliage. Grows 12-18”h 12” wide. Drought tolerant when established. Perennial in zones 3-9 (see side panel for image).
Papaver rhoeas Shirley Poppy
Also known as corn poppy, An annual reseeding annual poppy with shallow cupped, red flowers with black spots on thin wirey stems. They grow 2’ tall. A common variety in wild flower blends.
Papaver hybrid Breadseed Poppy
Annual reseeding varieties that come in shades of pink, red, purple, lavender and white and single and double forms. Most varieties grow 3-5’ tall and 12”-18” wide.
Common Name: Papaver, poppy
Origin: A large genus found in temperate and subtropical climates; native to Eurasia, Africa, and North America.
Culture: This reliable herbaceous plant can be perennial or annual, and prefers to be planted in full sun with well drained soil. There are over 600 species covering a wide range of climates, but generally they are hardy in Zones 5-10.
Maintenance: Easy-care! The mound of fine foliage of perennial members of the genus Papaver forms in the fall and sustains the plant until after flowering in the spring, at which time the foliage will die away and can be cut back to the ground. New foliage will form again in the cooler fall and winter months.
These perennial types can be propagated by root cuttings. Annual varieties will re-seed themselves, so any dead foliage can be pulled out after flowering, and new plants will reemerge the following spring wherever the seeds can find soil, so look out for these delicate poppies budding from the cracks in your driveway!
Pests and Disease: Papaver is prone to root rot, so well-draining, loamy soil is a must to sustain these plants. Slugs and snails are also known to enjoy them as a snack so any protection you can give from these pests will benefit you and your poppies.