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California Poppy

Wispy, bright California poppies conserve water and provide a spectacular display of long-lasting colors.

California PoppySunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 55-75 days from seed to flower
Height: 4 to 12 inches
Spacing: 4 to 8 inches apart in all directions

Home gardeners growing California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are rewarded with their fern-like foliage and lively orange, red and yellow flowers. Easy going, drought-tolerant plants are a favorite for use in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens and waterwise (xeric) landscapes.

First noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who was the leader of a Russian expedition in 1815. This West Coast wildflower was officially designated the state flower of California on December 12, 1890. Even though this flower is from sunny California, it’s a cool-season annual, growing 4-12 inches tall.



Poppy Seeds

We carry both Oriental (perennial) and annual types of this colorful favorite.

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Tired of the same old flowers? Heirloom flower seeds — the ones that Grandma used to grow — add charm to your garden while stirring memories with their abundant blossoms and arousing scents. Best of all, we ship them FREE!

Quick Guide

  • Perennial in warm climates that self-seeds easily
  • Direct-seed outdoors in rich soil; needs full sun
  • Minimal watering, no fertilizer
  • Blooms early summer to early fall
  • To use as cut flowers, harvest before bloom opens

Site Preparation

California poppies like rich, fast-draining soil, ample water and plenty of sunshine. However, they are adaptable and will tolerate poor soil conditions and some drought. Work a shovelful or two of well-aged manure or organic compost into the soil prior to planting to improve soil conditions and help promote abundant blooms. Read our article on how to prepare soil for planting here.

How to Plant

Direct seeding is preferable, as poppies do not like to have their roots disturbed. Sow in early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible (watch – video). May also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes. Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days.

Poppy plants are not heavy feeders. Too much fertilizer will cause plants to produce excessive leaf growth at the expense of flower production.

Remove the spent blossoms, or use them as cuttings in flower arrangements, to extend the flowering season. Make sure to leave some faded flowers on the plants, especially later in the year, as poppies are self-seeding year to year.

Tip: For long-lasting blooms for cut flowers, snip stems and then seal the end using a lighter or match before putting them in an arrangement.

Insects and Disease

Poppies have few pest problems. However, aphids and thrips can sometimes appear almost overnight. Watch closely for these soft-bodied, sucking insects and release ladybugs to reduce pest numbers. Apply insecticidal soap with pyrethrin if plants are badly infested.

Foliage and flowers are susceptible to moisture-related diseases, such as gray mold, downy mildew and powdery mildew, which can disfigure plants if severe. To reduce and prevent common plant diseases:

  • Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
  • Properly space plants to improve air circulation
  • Apply organic fungicides to prevent further infection

Seed Saving Instructions

Extremely easy for seed savers. When the blooms fade a long narrow seedpod is formed, turning from green to brown. Once the seedpod turns brown, simply cut off and allow to completely dry before cracking open and removing the hundreds of small sand-like seeds. Store seeds in a cool dry area. Read more about saving heirloom flower seeds here.

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13 Responses to “California Poppy”

  1. John Dumitru on December 15th, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    “First noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz”….you would be much more accurate to say: “First noted by a European on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz”. The Native Americans used them long before he showed up. Here is a great resource: (it’s not mine). Please, let’s leave the Eurocentric world view behind and embrace the native wisdom of the world’s peoples. JD

    • Matthew on February 5th, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

      I for one prefer not to leave the Eurocentric world view behind. The current U.S. as we know it is Eurocentric-based because that is the predominate culture in our country and established our current form of government. We shouldn’t ignore the Natives but let’s not assume our culture and lifestyle is based on their original culture.

    • Michelle on May 19th, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

      Thank you! Your response was totally appropriate and sensitive. We ARE a Eurocentric culture, but facts are facts. It was named by Dr. Eschscholtz because he was the first one who noted it and wrote about it, but it was used by people who were here way before he wrote about it. No need to state facts incorrectly! I think the webpage title may have put him off…

    • Anonymous on June 5th, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      Malarkey to eschewing our European heritage and world view. It’s as valid a way of looking at the world as any other cultural point of view.

  2. Chiemi on January 21st, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    What soil brand is recommended to pant these in?

  3. Erin on February 1st, 2016 at 2:07 am #

    I planted mine by seed around September just for fun knowing nothing about the plant. Well now I have a yard full of beautiful foliage but no blooms. Can anyone tell me if I will get some in spring? They are in the front yard and look like weeds if you didn’t know better. I wanna give a chance to bloom before I pull them.

  4. Yoli on February 29th, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    I am in the same boat! Have had the green leaves for @ least 6 months. Hoping they bloom soon!!

  5. nikki on May 7th, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    Mine wont even come up. Planted seeds over a month ago and no signs of growth.

  6. Sue Smith on August 4th, 2016 at 1:33 am #

    I have good tall green leaf growth but no flowers yet (3rdAugust). Will thinning out help? Thanks Sue from Southport, Merseyside

  7. Gerry Blodgett on June 23rd, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    Give him credit, at least he said “noted” and not “discovered”. Back to topic: I have a long 5′ wide planting strip alongside my driveway. Years ago during our first drought scare, I tilled it, laid down cloth and covered it with bark mulch. Golden poppies began to sprout up seeming to root only in the bark mulch itself and as years go by, they continue. I let them flower and wither then I pulled them all up by hand. In spite of this, each year I have a glorious strip of golden poppies as my “landscaping”. No water, no care except for some light weeding. I plan to introduce some purple (maybe lupine) for contrast.

  8. Meghan on July 9th, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Here in San Diego, our golden poppies bloom in January/February. They usually dry out and die by April/May but always reseed themselves for the following year. From personal experience I recommend seeding around December.

  9. Martha on August 21st, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Should you pull up the withered poppies at the end of summer, or just cut back dead foliage? Do they come back on the same plant?

  10. Matt on January 13th, 2018 at 9:44 am #

    Will these flowers grow in a continental climate (midwest) and survive the winters? Also, are these a buffet for stupid rabbits (our neighborhood is infested)?

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