For a short time in the summer, oriental poppies enliven borders with a flamboyant floral display. The foliage appears early in the year, forming neat rosettes concealed by spring-flowering tulips. In late spring, tall stems yield fat buds wreathed in hairy cases, from which spill their gloriously crumpled, papery petals. Their easy-access middles provide easy access bees, butterflies and other pollinators too.
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Oriental poppies can be started from seed in spring or autumn, although most are hybrids that don’t come true from seed, so it’s easier to buy a potted or bare-root plant. Bare-root plants should be planted November-March, potted plants can be planted all year round, but are best planted in spring or autumn. Get them off to a good start by incorporating plenty of organic material into the soil, such as home-made compost. Or better still, why not propagate your own oriental poppies by taking root cuttings.
After flowering, cut them back to ground level and you could even have a second flush of flowers in later summer or autumn.
Browse 10 stunning varieties to try, below.
Papaver orientale ‘Maiden’s Blush’
A distinctive variety with pretty salmon-pink ruffled petals. Grows to a height of 60cm.
Papaver orientale ‘Beauty of Livermere’ (Goliath Group)
This popular variety boasts deep scarlet, crepe paper blooms and an ebony-black centre. A giant among poppies, it can grow up to 1m tall.
Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’
‘Patty’s Plum’ has dark, dusky pink, silk-like petals on hairy grey-green stems. Looks spectacular within a pastel or silver plant palette. Grows to a height of 80cm.
Papaver orientale ‘Turkenlouis’
This striking variety has bowl-shaped flowers with deeply fringed petals in scarlet red, with a dark purple centre. Grows to a height of 80cm.
Papaver orientale ‘Garden Glory’
A relative of popular variety ‘Patty’s Plum’, ‘Garden Glory’ has large, double-ruffled, salmon-pink petals. Unlike its cousin, the petals don’t flop. Grows to a height of 75cm.
Papaver orientale ‘Avebury Crimson’
‘Avebury Crimson’ has papery, bright scarlet flowers on strong, tall stems. Grows to a height of 75cm.
Papaver orientale ‘Wisley Beacon’
An intensely orange, cup-shaped poppy with neat petals and contrasting black blotches. Grows up to 60cm tall.
Papaver orientale ‘Manhattan’
‘Manhattan’ bears large, blowsy, ruffled-pink blooms on strong stems. Grows to a height of 80cm.
Once finished, poppies can look a real mess. Shear the whole clump back to ground level to both keep it tidy and rejuvenate the plant. Neat rosettes may then re-grow, and with luck, more flowers.