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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

All Kinds of Poppies

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

bouquet of roses and poppies
Shirley poppies with 'Fourth of July' roses

Most poppies are in the genus Papaver, so they’re closely related. Sometime soon I’m going to write a post about scientific names – they’re useful and no one should be afraid to use them. But not today – for today I’ll simply say that the poppies below are related, and the California poppies are the more distant cousin in the group.

All the poppies below are beautiful and I recommend growing them for cut flowers. But some of these are large plants, and frankly, not that attractive, so you might want to put them at the back of the flower bed. I'll start the list with the smaller types.

Papaver nudicaule, Iceland poppies. Small plants that hug the ground, sending up tall, wiry stems that blossom into fragile looking flowers. Read more about them here.

Eschscholzia eschscholzia, California poppies. Small plants that can fill in at the front of a bed. But they can spread, so unless you absolutely love them, be careful. The bright orange ones are maybe better left in the wild. But hybrids like ‘Alba’ or ‘Rose Chiffon’ are welcome in the garden and don’t take over.

California poppies from Annie's Annuals

Papaver commutatum. One of my favorites, the plants are a little smaller than the types below, making it easier to fit into small gardens. Brilliant red blooms with black markings. I recommend buying theses as plants; Annie's Annuals usually has them available in winter and early spring.

poppies in a garden
Red 'Ladybird' poppies, Papaver commutatum

Papaver rhoeas, Shirley poppies. Big, burly plants with delicate flowers that look like they're made of sheer silk or colored tissue paper. 'Falling in Love' is a good mix to grown from seed; you won't know for sure which ones you'll get until they bloom, but they're all beautiful. The photo below is an example - white petals edged in coral.

poppy flower
Shirley poppy 'Falling in Love' mixture

Papaver somniferum, breadseed poppy. Actually, these are opium poppies, but breadseed sounds better. These are tall, tough plants, so plant them at the back of the bed. They come in many colors and markings; singles, doubles, fringed and ruffled petals. Check out the seed selection at Floret.

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