Four Important Points About Growing California Poppies Successfully

California poppies are an interesting perennial flower in that while they are native to California and other southwestern areas, they will overwinter in cooler gardens. Or, to be more precise, if happy in their garden setting they will self-sow.

The mother plant dies out at 20F so I don't consider it a perennial in my garden but rather a self-sowing annual.

So what's a poppy like you doing in a garden like this? Sow them by direct seeding whenever possible. They do not transplant well. If you do decide to start them early indoors (6 weeks before the last frost) then transplant them into packs or pots when very young. Letting them get more than 4-6 leaves before transplanting is asking for trouble.

California Poppies & Drainage

They demand excellent drainage. If you've got clay soils, you won't grow this plant for very long.

For some reason, they like even moisture and growing them in pots and containers (with heavy watering every day and then drying out) is not to their liking. Don't count on them as container plants. They love cool gardens during the summer and will grow much better in cooler areas than they will in dog-day heat. (They are found naturally in higher, cooler areas rather than hot lowlands.)

california poppies
Photo courtesy Wikimedia


California poppies will grow approximately 12-18 inches tall and the flowers are roughly 2 inches across. When you sow them in your garden, barely cover the seed. If you sow them deeply, you're burying the seed not sowing it. You can expect roughly a 60-70% germination rate in three weeks - maybe four weeks depending if your ground is warm enough (60-70F) for good germination.


You'll get blooms by the end of July from a May sowing and these blooms tend to open up in late afternoon. You will recognize the plant from surrounding weeds because of the blue-green foliage (take out the weeds).

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Seed Saving

You can save California poppies and their seeds by harvesting the seed pods that appear behind the flowers. Wait until the pod is dry (turning brown) before harvesting. Store the seeds in an envelope in a cool dry location.

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