This native wildflower is famous for blanketing hillsides in California, but gardeners in many other regions can also enjoy its sunny blossoms. California poppy grows as a mound of ferny, finely dissected, gray-green foliage, topped from early spring to mid summer with many slender, upright flower stems. The simple, cup-shaped flowers have satiny petals in shades of orange; there are also many cultivars available that expand the color range with reds, pinks, yellow and creamy white, and semi-double to double flower forms. Not surprisingly, California poppy is quite drought-tolerant. It’s an excellent choice for garden spots with dry, sandy soil, and it also thrives in nutrient-poor conditions.
Common name: California poppy
Botanical name: Eschscholzia californica
Plant type: Short-lived perennial or annual
Zones: Perennial in zones 8 to 10
Height: 10 to 15 inches
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Sandy, well-drained
• Moisture: Low to moderate
• Mulch: None
• Pruning: Cut back browned foliage in late summer if desired.
• Fertilizer: None
Pests and diseases
• Prone to foliar and root fungal diseases in very humid climates or overly wet soils.
• ‘Mission Bells’ has double and semi-double flowers in a range of colors (white, orange, pink, yellow).
• ‘Rose Chiffon Thai Silk’ has silky rose-pink double flowers.
• ‘Buttercream’ has creamy palest yellow flowers.
• ‘Tropical Sunset’ is a mix of single and semi-double flowers in shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and cream.
• California poppy is a cool-season bloomer. In warm climates, sow seeds in fall for late winter to spring bloom; in colder regions, sow in spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
• California poppy foliage often dies back in late summer, but new foliage returns in cooler autumn conditions.
• It’s a prolific re-seeder—this can be a welcome quality in difficult sites, but if seedlings spread out of bounds they’re easy enough to pull or hoe.
All in the family
• California poppy is a member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), a large group of mainly herbaceous plants that occur in temperate to sub-tropical regions.
• Poppies are beloved for their silky petals in rich, vibrant colors. Garden favorites include corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Oriental poppy (P. orientale), and breadseed poppy (P. somniferum).
Where to buy
• Park Seed; 800-845-3369; http://parkseed.com
• Renee’s Garden; www.reneesgarden.com
• Swallowtail Garden Seeds; 877-489-7333; www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com