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Year of the Poppy

Year of the Poppy

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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Poppies take the front stage with their designation by the National Garden Bureau of 2003 as “The Year of the Poppy”. These common yet fascinating plants are certain to add color and excitement to your garden as you include them as a part of your floral displays.

Poppies are probably the most popular wildflower in America and they deserve a place in any garden. They add their beauty to wildflower and meadow plantings, perennial borders, cutting gardens or mixed flowerbeds. With all their diversity, there is certain to be a place for them in your garden.

Few flowers show the color of the poppy. While most of us are familiar with the traditional orange Oriental poppy, the choice is almost endless. The colors range from vibrant to subdued-from deepest crimson, bright orange and yellow to soft pink, dusky peach, rose, lilac and cream.

Poppies vary in height from two to three feet tall, although there are dwarf strains of the Iceland poppy that reach only 12 inches.

Look for all of the variations in the flowers. They may be single, double or semidouble, with amazing texture and size. Iceland poppies produces flowers up to seven inches across, the Shirley poppy bears single or double crepe-paper-like blooms edged with white and field, or Flanders, poppies sport single, crimson flowers.

Many plants are members of the poppy family of Papaveraceae. Those that bear the name poppy include California poppy (Eschscholzia), blue poppy (Meconopsis), plumed poppy (Macleaya) and prickly poppy (Argemone). Those in the genus Papaver, include most of the poppy species including many annuals and perennials.

The annual poppy, P. rhoeas goes by a variety of common names, from corn or field poppy to Flanders poppy and Shirley poppy. The "corn" of corn poppy does not refer only to its habit of showing up in cornfields. Corn is Old English for seed and from korn, the Greek word for grain; the seed in this case refers to fields of grains like rye, wheat and oat.

Poppy seeds lie dormant in soil for years and germinate when the soil is disturbed. Flanders poppy is the single, red flower that carpeted fields in Flanders. These flowers became famous during World War I when John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, wrote a poem about them in 1917 commemorating the soldiers who had died.

These words, "In Flanders Fields, the poppies grow/Between the crosses, row on row...." immortalized the flowers forever.

Iceland poppy, P. nudaucaule, a perennial, is not actually from Iceland but from Asia. It undoubtedly cross-pollinated with a few of its closely related species, including P. radicatum, which is from Iceland. Iceland poppies are easy to grow from seed or from transplants and are best planted with pansies in the fall. Other poppies include the perennial Alpine poppy (P. alpinum and other diminutive species), which fit beautifully in rock gardens. It grows 5 to 10 inches tall and blooms from late spring to summer with white, yellow, or occasionally orange or red flowers. It is hardy in along the Wasatch Front but not in the colder areas of Utah.

The perennial Oriental poppy, P. orientale is usually grown from root divisions not seeds. It grows 2 to 4 feet tall, blooms from late spring to midsummer and bears scarlet, salmon, pink, peach, white or rose blooms, usually with a black blotch at the base of the petals. The foliage dies back after flowering but begins to regrow in fall. It is hardy in all but the coldest areas of Utah. These poppies are very drought tolerant and will grow and bloom with little or no supplemental irrigation.

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