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Secrets to Establishing Poppies

Poppies are such magic!

The breathtaking beauty and resilience of Papaver somniferum poppies will surround you with joy for years if not generations, though establishing them, without question, is the hardest part.


Establish Poppies in Cool Seasons

While most flower seeds prefer to germinate in warm seasons, poppies are assuredly an exception.

To Sprinkle or Sow Indoors?

Poppies can be sprinkled, sown directly into soil, or they can be started indoors. We only sprinkle them when we have an abundance of seed, since only a fraction establish. Sown indoors, their germination rates are much higher and it’s much less weeding, as well.

Sowing Poppies Indoors

Start poppy seeds indoors about eight weeks before final frost and plan on hardening off/transplanting them about four weeks before final frost. Since they don’t love heat, no need to sprout poppies on a heat mat! We’ve found poppies are adaptable and can thrive sown in mini-blocks or straight into large soil blocks as well as cell trays and other seed starting approaches.

Determining final frost is always a guess, but because poppies prefer to establish in cool soil, we err on the side of early — unlike tomatoes, which we err on the side of late. Here in Zone 5, we start them indoors late March/early April and plant them out (after hardening them off learn more in this blog as well as in our free online course, Starting Seeds with Ease!) about four weeks later, once they have 2 sets of true leaves.


Sprinkling & Seed Balls!

Especially if you have an abundance of seed, sprinkling your seeds outdoors is always a delight. In both fall and spring, we sprinkle poppies when the soil overnight freezes and thaws in the day, gently working those seeds into the ground. In fall here in Zone 5, this is generally late September through early November; in spring this may be mid-March to mid-April. Experiment! Play! Don’t be disappointed if nothing emerges, it’s all a learning process! And if you’re attached to them germinating, sow them indoors.

Seed balls are a delightful way to sprinkle poppy seeds with greater confidence in their germination. Check out our blog, Making (& Throwing!) Seed Balls (so fun!) as well as our Seed Ball Collection (so handy!) and just remember to tuck only 2 to 4 seeds in each ball and ideally there are more than 4 inches between plants as they establish.

seed ball

Seeds to Sow Alongside Poppies

Phacelia, borage and calendula also love to germinate in the cool seasons, Friends! While poppy will resist establishing in warm seasons, these seeds will thrive – so don’t feel obligated to plant them alongside your poppies – but if you do, be prepared for the magic of spring to unfurl ~

organic poppy seeds

Take Notes!

Always optional, taking notes can transform our understanding of patterns, cycles, growth and our gardens. Recording our successes and ‘failures’ can dramatically amplify our abundance.

800 x 400 across the seasons

Jot down when you sow and when you harden off, when you plant out and when your poppies flower…as well awhen the daffodils bloom and when the tanagers return! All these are clues to hone our sense of seasonality, even (especially!) as climates change. We made our sweet Across the Seasons perpetual calendar to help make taking notes simple as well as joyful!

800 x 400 across

You Got This!

If we can grow poppies, you can, too! Like riding a bicycle, the learning curve is notable and not being daunted or discouraged is so crucial: let’s compost our failures (they’re learning opportunities, right?!!) and reach out to your fellow gardeners, you’re so not alone and gardens grow us more than we grow them.

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

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& the whole Fruition crew

800 x 400 poppy packet
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