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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,

image 7

& the whole Fruition crew

800 x 400 poppy packet

10 thoughts on “Secrets to Establishing Poppies

  1. I am attempting to sow my poppies inside this year. They are not on a heat mat, but they are in a small greenhouse that is keeping the temperature warm and the air moist, along with the grow lights. Should I move them out of the tented, moist greenhouse into a slightly cooler area? How warm is too warm?

    1. Thanks for asking Katherine! It’s true poppies love to establish in cool soils. They do germinate quicker on a heat mat or in a warm area. Once they germinate we suggest moving them off the heat mat immediately and into a more ambient inside temperature before being hardened off and moving outside to establish in cool soils. Don’t hesitate to reach out with more questions!

  2. We have grown these bread seed poppies for the past 3 years. They are definitely fussy – prone to having such a teeny thin stalk as a seedling, easily getting moldy, falling over, etc. But we have always gotten a very high germination rate and maybe half of them survived transplant. This year we made soil blocks and not a single seed germinated. (In the same set of soil blocks, all the other seeds did fine.) We just ordered more and are starting over, but any ideas what went wrong? The soil blocks had a mix of native soil, potting mix, and a tiny bit of peat, and again our onions, tomatoes, and strawflowers (which are the ones that have germinated already) seem fine with just about 100% germination.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Apologies that we are just now getting you a reply we are responding to a backlog in product reviews, and iterating our teamwork to ensure we are consistently and quickly responding with care to reviews, now and in seasons to come. We appreciate your patience alongside your feedback! Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I am sorry to hear these seeds did not germinate as you expected.Seeds are sensitive beings, and we love sharing some of the steps we take to try to provide seed that is ready to germinate: we flag for review any variety or seed lot that does not reach 90% in a germination test (although legal minimums for selling seed are sometimes as low as 45%!). Our tests are handled by a 3rd party that specializes in germination testing. The vast majority of our varieties never have any issue reaching that 90% threshold. If need be, we take care to re-winnow lots, or overpack packets to help provide the foundation for your garden to grow abundantly.

      Surrounding you with beauty and abundance is why we do what we do. We would love to see you find more delight this season! We have reached out directly by email to joyfully provide you with a coupon for a free packet of seed OR a refund on this variety. Please feel free to read our Satisfaction Guarantee and email should you wish to reach out any time in the future. Thanks for growing with us!



  3. I just get impatient growing Poppies. This year I put my seedlings in those paper like pots you can put in the ground after the germination process is done. Hopefully it’ll work out for us this time. Very impatient… Thanks

  4. Are poppies suitable for winter sowing?

    1. That is how I am going to do mine. I was already wondering about it when I saw your question and looked it up. I don’t have room in the house to start all the flowers and veggies I need to start . Found a good article by home For the harvest about poppies. Just do a google search. I started some strawberry seeds I collected off store bought organics. I winter sowed them. They grew!

  5. Hello there I am about to purchase some seeds from you (plum variety) and Hungarian Blue and Drama Queen and I don’t want to ruin another batch of seeds. I have tried to grow poppies indoors for the past five years.. yes a long time to not have any success. Now I just learned (I don’t know how this escaped me) about the cold environment necessary for seeds to sprout. What ALWAYS happens is the seeds get going and the stems are long and high and then they always just disintegrate before your very eyes. In the morning they will look fine and then something happens, like they appear SO FRAGILE and the stem just can’t grow upwards any longer and then either is dies or after watering they will fall over and die at that point. I have tried planting them in those pods with coconut growing medium, plain top soil or potting soil in reg pots and growing trays.. nothing surviving. So I’m thinking it’s because I now know that the environment wasn’t cold enough and I’m guessing that this will make the stem stronger? the other thing I read was that the stems for a period so lop over onto it’s side and apparently this is à natural process but I think what is being described is something that happens a little later in the growing life of the plant.. like after it’s already got a few leaves then it will flop over and continue to grow and then right itself towards the sun. Any thoughts? I would appreciate some feedback if you would be so kind. Thank you for your time.
    Michele Montague

  6. Hello. So I’m in Utah. It’s been pretty cool highs of 45 degrees in the day and mid thirties at night. I have no sand but lots of potting soil. If I start them inside what’s the best container. Or should I sprinkle them in the garden?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Duane, thanks for asking, there is no one way to garden, however since it is late in the season we would recommend starting them in doors using a shallow container.

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