How to Grow and Care for a Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), also known as Flanders Poppy, Field Poppy, or Shirley Poppy, is hardy annual with vividly colored, papery red, pink, or white blooms that rise above lacy foliage. The fuzzy stems reach heights of 2 feet (60 cm) and more at maturity.

Easily grown by seed, Corn Poppies are often planted by state highway departments for spectacular displays of color along roadsides across the nation. Corn Poppies are beautiful as cut flowers, and the dried seed pops add interest to dry floral arrangements.

Growing Conditions and General Cultivation

Sow Corn Poppy seeds directly on top of cultivated soil. In mild climates, plant the seeds in late fall or early spring when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 ºF (15 and 21 ºC). Corn Poppies thrive in full sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil. If the soil is poor, incorporate 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of compost or manure before planting.

Water Corn Poppies when the top of the soil feels dry. Saturate the root zone thoroughly, as shallow waterings promote a shallow root system. For best results, water by hand with a hose or use a drip system to keep the foliage as dry as possible. If you use a sprinkler, water early in the day, so the foliage has time to dry before evening. Soggy soil and damp foliage place the plant at risk of rot and fungal diseases.

Papaver rhoeas – Corn Poppy
Photo via

In the spring, spread 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of mulch around the plants. An organic mulch such as shredded leaves or dry grass clippings keeps the roots cool, conserves moisture, and prevents the growth of weeds.

Apply a balanced liquid or granular fertilizer if newly emerging foliage has a yellowish appearance. Use the fertilizer in accordance with label recommendations. As a general rule, Poppies require no supplemental fertilization if granular fertilizer or compost is incorporated into the soil at planting time.

Pinch off flowers as soon as they begin to fade. This process, called deadheading, prevents the plants from setting seed too early. Remove the bloom, along with the stem, down to the next leaf.

Remove all seedpods at the end of the season if you don't want the Poppy to self-seed. If you want Poppies next spring, allow a few pods to remain on the plants.



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