Papaver- Poppy

Annuals and hardy perennials with large, vividly coloured flowers.


Annuals can be grown for cutting or in the summer border. Alpine poppies are usually grown as biennials, although they are actually perennials. The hardy perennials are planted in borders. Full sun is not always essential; poppies tolerate a fair amount of shade.


Very undemanding as regards soil. Iceland poppies require a very well-drained situation.


Annuals are sown in situ in early to mid spring. Iceland poppies are sown in early summer and subsequently cultivated as biennials. Hardy perennials are increased from root cuttings or by division in spring.

Annual species

Papaver rhoeas: Height 30-60 cm; flowering season late spring to mid summer or later. In the species the flowers are bright red, but there are white, rose red, scarlet/white, slate blue etc cultivars. The so-called ‘Shirley’ strains produce large flowers.

Papaver somniferum: Height to 1 m; very large flowers, red, white, dark violet etc in summer months. In the fringed varieties the petals are incised. In the Far East this poppy is grown for opium.


Papaver alpinum: Dwarf species; height 10-20 cm; white or orange flowers in early to mid summer. The foliage is blue green, the stems are not downy.

Papaver nudicaule, Iceland poppy: Height 30-45 cm; thin-stalked, saucer-shaped flowers – yellow, red, white or orange – in summer.

Hardy perennials

Papaver hracteatum, now also called Papaver orientale:

Height 80-120 cm; the very large flowers with two bracts in late spring and early summer are scarlet to blood red, all with a dark centre.

Papaver orientale: Height 60-90 cm; flowering season late spring to mid summer; the flowers are large, red, with a black blotch in the original species. There are a large number of garden varieties, very suitable for the border.

In a good catalogue you will also find rose red, white, orange and crimson garden forms.

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