California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, also known as calis, bring a vivid splash of colour to the garden in summer. Their cheery, funnel-shaped flowers open whenever the sun shines, in shades of orange, coral, pink, red, yellow, ivory or white, and are held above feathery, blue-green leaves. The flowers can be single or double and are followed by long, curved seedpods.


Californian poppies are technically short-lived perennials but are grown as annuals in the UK. The botanical name of this plant, Eschscholzia californica, applied in the early 19th Century, references the naturalist Dr Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz. They are native to Mexico and the south of the USA and are the official state flowers of California.

California poppies are easy to grow from seed and are useful for growing in hot, dry spots where the soil is poor – they do well in coastal, exposed and gravel gardens. Their flowers lack nectar but are rich in pollen and attract a wide range of bees. They will readily self seed but rarely become a nuisance. If the winter is mild, seeds sown the previous year may flower again the following spring.

How to grow California poppies

Grow Californian poppies in poor, well-drained soil in full sun. Deadhead regularly to ensure a long flowering period. It's best to sow them direct, where they are to flower, as they suffer if moved. Sow in spring or autumn.

More on growing California poppies:

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Where to grow California poppies

California poppies growing in a wildflower meadow
California poppies growing in a wildflower meadow

California poppies need a spot in full sun for the flowers to open. They do best in poor, well-drained soil and can be grown in exposed or coastal gardens. They also look good as part of an annual wildflower meadow.

How to sow California poppies

How to grow California poppy – sowing California poppy seeds
Sowing California poppy seeds

California poppies are easy to grow from seed and are best sown direct where they are to flower, as they cannot cope with having their roots disturbed. Sow in autumn for earlier flowers the following year, or sow successionally from mid-April to June for a long flowering period. Once sown, you will probably find that California poppies self seed around.

Step 1
Make a straight drill by pressing a bamboo cane into moist soil. Rows need to be about 15cm apart, in a sunny site.

Step 2
Take pinches of seed and scatter thinly along the drill or you will waste seed and spend more time thinning out.

Step 3
Use a trowel or your fingers to cover seeds very lightly with soil. Label the rows and water using a watering can with a rose attachment.

Step 4
Thin seedlings out once they’re about 4cm tall and again at 8cm, so that they’re spaced about 15cm apart.

Where to buy California poppy seeds online

Caring for California poppies

California Poppy

California poppies need little care – they're drought tolerant, so should get all the water they need from rainfall. They do best on poor soil so there is no need to feed them.

Growing California poppies: problem solving

Californian poppies are generally pest- and disease-free.

Advice on buying California poppy

  • You can find California poppy seeds at the garden centre or online
  • For the best selection, visit seed retailers online
  • Check you have the right conditions – California poppies need full sun and very well drained soil

Where to buy California poppy online

Varieties of California poppy to grow

California poppy 'Peach Sorbet'
California poppy 'Peach Sorbet'

Eschscholzia californica 'Peach Sorbet' – masses of pastel-peach coloured blooms above loose mounds of ferny foliage.

H x S: 25cm x 25cm

Eschscholzia californica 'Sun Shades' – vivid orange and yellow flowers.

H x S: 30cm x 30cm

Eschscholzia californica 'XL Jelly Beans' – a mix of colours, including orange, rose, salmon and gold.

H x S: 25cm x 25cm

Eschscholzia californica 'Thai Silk Mixed' double and semi-double flowers with ruffled petals in a range of colours.

H x S: 25cm x 25cm