With its brilliant scarlet flowers, usually with a black blob at the base of the petals, this native wild flower needs no introduction.
Papaver rhoeas offer a profusion of flowers from June through to September and are a good choice for naturalising in a meadow garden or flower lawn, or anywhere you want a bright splash of colour with no maintenance. It self-sows readily, the leaves are deeply lobed and the plant is fully hardy.
The single, red, cup-shaped flower is the classic poppy bloom, a native wildflower of Europe, poppies paint a new road verge or embankment a brilliant hue in their first year.
The common poppy suffered a decline with the advent of intensive agriculture and the increasing use of herbicides after the Second World War, but had a revival in Britain in the 1980s as a result of the policy of ‘set-aside’ in which farmers were rewarded for taking agricultural land out of production.
In more recent times, the Corn Poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day as it was the flower which grew on the fields of Flanders after battles of the First World War (1914-18).
Sowing: Sow directly in autumn or in spring.
Sow seeds directly where they are to grow in early spring or after the last snowfall, between March and May for an early summer showing. For late spring blooms, sow seeds in early autumn, between August and September.
Poppies prefer to be grown in well drained soil, in a sunny position. Dig over the ground and prepare a seed bed, adding well rotted compost if necessary.
Scatter the seeds by hand, or use a broadcast spreader to randomly sow the seeds over the prepared soil. Sow seeds thinly. Because poppy seeds are small, gardeners often mix them with sand to achieve a more even distribution. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil or sand. That helps protect the seeds from birds and small animals.
If you desire a more orderly outcome to your garden, plant the seeds into shallow trenches and mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label if sowing more than one annual in the same bed. The seedlings will appear in rows and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily. Moisten the poppy-seed soil bed after planting and as needed. Poppies prefer a consistently moist soil; they possess a delicate root system and should be watered gently until taking root. Germination is dependent on climate and should occur between 4 and 25 days.
Cover seeds lightly with a layer of fine soil. Firm the top soil gently and keep moist. Seedlings appear in 2 to 3 weeks. Thin seedlings, if desired, when they reach a height of 12cm (5in). Plants placed 15cm (6in) apart will face less competition and produce more pods and seeds. Alternatively, leave them to grow as small clumps, of 4 to 6 plants every 30cm (12in) or so. Continue watering regularly and keep them weed free.
Feeding is rarely needed but for more vigorous plants liquid fertiliser can be added.
Water well if there are prolonged periods of drought. Poppies offer a profusion of flowers from June through to September. To encourage prolonged flowering, take off any dead heads throughout the flowering season.
At the end of the season, leave a few plants to die down and self seed. Others can be pulled up and composted. Harvest the largest pods, and save the seeds for the next planting.
Poppies are self-seeding, the seed, which is produced from July onwards, can remain viable in the soil for many years. To ensure poppies come again from self sown seed the ground should be disturbed in the autumn. This gives space for the next generation of seedlings to establish.
For Cut Flowers:
Cut when flowers are in bud, hold the base of the stems for a few seconds in a flame or boiling water and the flowers will last several days in water.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Borders and Beds, Wildflower meadows, Butterfly & Bee Gardens, Cut Flowers.
The origin of Papaver rhoeas is not known for certain. As with many such plants, the area of origin is often ascribed by Americans to Europe, and by northern Europeans to southern Europe. The European Garden Flora suggests that it is ‘Eurasia and North Africa’; in other words, the lands where agriculture has been practiced since the earliest times. It was probably introduced into Britain along with agricultural crops at least as far back as the Late Bronze Age. It has had an old symbolism and association with agricultural fertility.
Common poppy is found on a wide range of soils but is most frequent on light, calcareous soils. It is pollinated by insects, particularly bumble bees.
The genus name Papaver is the classical Latin name for the poppy
The species name rhoeas is probably derived from the Latin word from 'rho' meaning red.
Synonyms include Papaver strigosum, Papaver commutatum, it is a species of flowering plant in the poppy family, Papaveraceae
Common names include Corn Poppy, Corn Rose, Field Poppy, Flanders Poppy and Red Poppy. Colloquial names include headache and headwork as its odour is said to cause them.
Due to the extent of ground disturbance in warfare during World War I, corn poppies bloomed in between the trench lines and no man's lands on the Western front. Called 'Flanders poppies', they have been adopted by many countries as a symbol of fallen soldiers.
Even if you've never seen a Flanders poppy in person you've seen the artificial poppies worn during the weeks before Memorial Day. They inspired many poets and authors including John McCrae who wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields, and Moina Michael's, We Shall Keep the Faith.
The Flanders Fields Red Poppy was first created as a symbol of Remembrance by Miss Moina Belle Michael, an American teacher. Moina described the way that the idea for a memorial emblem came to her in her autobiography, ”The Miracle Flower, The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy” published in 1941. Moina dedicates the book to the late Colonel John McCrae, whose poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ was the inspiration to her for the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.
As a result of Moina Michael's tireless campaigning, her complete dedication to the cause and the inspiration her idea gave to others, the delicate flower of the red field poppy has become an internationally-recognised symbol of Remembrance and welfare for war veterans.
Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), the poet and art critic was a brilliant man. he was born in Lancaster and worked at the British Museum as Keeper of Prints and Drawings. He was a scholar of William Blake and of Oriental Art before he going to war. He was a Red Cross volunteer at the Western Front.
He is best known for his poem For The Fallen (1914), which contains seven stanzas (verse). It is perhaps the most widely known and widely quoted poem of the Great War. The fourth stanza is now used all over the world during services of remembrance and is inscribed on countless war memorials.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
- Additional Information
Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 1,000 seeds per gram Family Papaveraceae Genus Papaver Species rhoeas Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Synonym Papaver strigosum, Papaver commutatum Common Name Corn Poppy, Flanders Poppy, Field Poppy, Wildflower Other Common Names IR. Cailleach dhearg Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Scarlet flowers, usually with a black blob at the base of the petals Natural Flower Time June through to September. Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Spread 30 to 38cm (12 to 15in) Position Full Sun Aspect West or South facing. Sheltered. Soil Well drained, Light. Germination 4 to 25 days dependent on temperatures.