The herbaceous perennial Oriental poppy has silk-like dainty blooms that are assorted in colors. You can think deep maroon, pink, salmon, peach, red, orange, and white. Combine them with evergreens and shrubs and other plants of contrasting hues, and you can create a stunning display of color. Bees, butterflies, and birds love the Oriental poppy. Beneficial insects are also attracted to the Oriental poppy.
Propagation by Division
The division method is the easier way. The best time is in the fall, after the rains have come and perked up the roots of the dormant Oriental poppy. You can, however, also divide in the spring. Cut the roots about two inches long and sow in sandy soil.
Propagation by Seed
The seed method is harder. A seedpod appears when the Oriental poppy has bloomed and gone into dormancy. Once the seedpod has dried, something like papery brown, you can break open the pods and collect the seeds. (Seedpods left during the winter will attract the winter birds looking for food.) Properly cleaned seeds can be stored, so that you can direct sow after the last frost. You will need a cold frame setting to sow the seeds before the first frost. When you see the new shoots come out in the spring, you can place them in the pots. Wait until they are about four inches before you transplant them. Oriental poppies do not like being transplanted, but it is possible. Direct sowing is best.
When danger of frost is gone and the soil has warmed completely, around 70°F, it is time to sow the Oriental poppy seeds. Choose a location where there is full sun and where the soil is well-drained, rich and loamy. Soil pHshould be 6.1 to 7.5.. Apply a little amount of organic fertilizer in the planting hole. Space the seeds from one-a-half to two feet in between, and plant about one cm deep. (To plant an Oriental poppy you bought from the nursery, plant it in the same depth it came in the container.) Germination is between ten and twenty days. The Oriental poppy grows up to 36 inches tall. It can bloom for you a second time if you cut the flower off the stem. The foliage dies after flowering.
Caring for the Oriental Poppy
The Oriental poppy requires little irrigation, so avoid over-watering. Keep the soil moist and well-drained during dry weather and rainfall is absent.The Oriental poppy becomes dormant in the late spring, and will require no irrigation during the dormancy period. In mid-summer, cut old stems to ground level. Before the first hard frost, mulch well the Oriental poppy. Next spring, apply about three inches or organic compost. At any application, avoid applying any on the top of the plant. Also, keep the mulch from the stem, to avoid any rot from setting in. Provide support for tall Oriental poppies, if necessary.
When shopping for an Oriental poppy, look for a healthy plant with signs of new leaves and bud. Choose the plant in four-inch to one-gallon containers. Also note that the plant is a highly toxic plant. The Oriental poppy can be fatal if ingested.