Poppies provide bright spring and summer color for borders and cut- ting. Give ordinary, well-drained soil; feed lightly until established. Perennial species tend to be short lived. When using poppies as cut flowers, sear cut stem ends in a flame before placing them in water.
P. atlanticum. MOROCCAN POPPY. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Morocco. Grows to 1122 ft. tall, with downy, gray-green leaves in a basal rosette to 6 in. across. Flowers are soft orange to red, 24 in. across, opening in late spring and early summer. 'Flore Pleno' is soft orange, doubled, and grows 2 ft. tall. Sow seed in fall. To prolong bloom period, remove spent flowers.
P. commutatum 'Lady Bird'. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Selection of a species native to Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran. To 1 ft. tall and nearly as wide. Downy, coarsely lobed, medium green leaves to 6 in. long. Blooms profusely for several weeks in midsummer, producing 3-in., bright red flowers with a black blotch in the middle of each petal; flower stems are softly hairy. Sow in late winter or early spring; or set out plants in midspring. In Tropical South, sow in winter.
P. nudicaule. ICELAND POPPY. Short-lived perennial in Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Grown as annual in most places. Native to subarctic regions. Blue-green, coarsely hairy, divided leaves make basal rosettes 6 in. wide. Hairy, 1- to 2-ft. stalks bear cup-shaped, slightly fragrant flowers to 3 in. across, in yellow, orange, salmon, rose, pink, cream, white. For winter or spring bloom, sow seed or set out transplants in fall. To prolong flowering, pick flowers freely. Deer don't seem to care for Iceland poppies.
Champagne Bubbles series (to 1 ft.) and wind-resistant Wonderland series (to 10 in.) are widely grown strains. Oregon Rainbow series (to 1520 in.) produces large (to 8-in.-wide) blooms in pastel colors, including bicolors and picotees, but in the South many buds fail to open.
P. orientale. ORIENTAL POPPY. Perennial. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, northern Iran. Needs winter chill for best performance. In mild-winter areas, flowers tend to form without stalks, so they are partly or completely hidden among the leaves. Height is variable; some types are just 16 in. tall, others reach 4 ft. Plants spread by offsets to 2 ft. or more. These are among the leafiest of poppies, forming bushy clumps of hairy, medium green, coarsely cut leaves to 1 ft. long. Blooms are 46 in. across; deeply crinkled petals often have a black blotch at the base. Many named varieties are sold, offering single or double flowers in orange, scarlet, red, pink, salmon, or white.
A great many named selections are sold; they bloom in late spring and early summer, then go dormant in midsummer. In all types, new leafy growth appears in fall, lasts over winter, and develops rapidly in spring.
Set sprawling perennials such as Symphyotrichum, Gypsophila, or Perovskia nearby to cover bare areas after poppies die down. Plant dormant roots in early spring with tops 3 in. deep; set container-grown plants flush with soil line in fall. Give well-drained soil and make sure air circulation is good. Divide crowded clumps in August, after foliage has died down.
P. rhoeas. FLANDERS FIELD, CORN, or SHIRLEY POPPY. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to Eurasia, North Africa. Slender, branching, hairy-stemmed plant to 3 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide, with short, irregularly divided leaves. Resembling its original or wild form with single scarlet flowers and black petal bases, 'American Legion' or 'Flanders Field' poppies are recognized as the flowers that grew on the disturbed soil of WWI battlefields and graveyards and are often grown in remembrance. The Shirley group was selected in, and named for, the English parish of Shirley. Single- or double-flowered forms are 2 in. or wider, in white, pink, red, orange, salmon, scarlet, lilac, soft blue, bicolors. 'Angels' Choir Mixed' offers double flowers on 2- to 2-ft. stems. 'Falling in Love' from 11 ft. tall has double flowers in white to red and shades of pink and coral in between. 'Bridal White' is pure white; Mother of Pearl group includes pastel shades such as grayish pink to soft orange, white, and picotee blooms.
Mix seed with an equal amount of fine sand, and broadcast it in fall where plants are to grow. For cut flowers, pick when buds first show color. Remove seed capsules (old flower bases) weekly to prolong the bloom season. Prolific self-sower. Not usually browsed by deer.
P. somniferum (P. paeoniflorum). OPIUM POPPY, BREADSEED POPPY. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Believed to have originated in southeastern Europe and western Asia. To 4 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. Virtually hairless, gray-green leaves have jagged edges. Late-spring flowers are 45 in. across, in white, pink, red, purple, deep plum; sometimes single, usually double. Some of the double forms have fringed petals. Blooms are followed by large, decorative seed capsules used in dried arrangements. Opium is derived from the green capsules; ripe pods yield large quantities of the poppy seed used in baking. Shake pods over a tray to collect the seeds. Because of its narcotic properties, this species is not as widely offered as many other typesbut since the flowers are exceedingly beautiful, the seed is often shared among gardeners. Sow in late fall; barely cover seed with soil.