If you’re looking to liven up your living room or your workstation, growing poppy flowers will surely satisfy that need for a little color. These flowers are cheerful and an easy way to add color to your indoor space. Moreover, they’re generally considered very easy flowers to grow and nurture.
Poppies come in various colors that you can use to complement other plants and flowers in your home garden. While often grown as a decorative outdoor plant, you can also grow poppies indoors fairly easily. In this article, we’ll detail everything you need to know about growing poppies indoors.
Different Varieties of Poppies
Poppy flowers are one of the most recognizable flowers. Their paper-like petals and bright colors are a dead giveaway. Like most species of flowers, poppies have several different types characterized by their unique colors, shapes, and sizes. Depending on your planting type, you can breeze through the process of growing poppies, or it can become quite a difficult task. You should aim to pick a variety that matches the level of effort you wish to invest in your plant as well as one that offers an aesthetic you enjoy.
Some popular varieties include:
The Oriental Poppy – The most popular poppy flower that you’ll find, and the one most commonly grown by gardeners. The striking red to-orange flowers make a bold statement, and add color to any room. This variety is also one of the easiest to grow and is a great choice for first-time gardeners or those looking for a low-maintenance houseplant.
Flanders Poppy – Another well-recognized type of poppy flower. It became a symbol of the lives lost during WW1 with its blood–orange/red color. This is another popular variety for both outdoor and indoor gardens, and is very easy to grow.
Greater Celandine – These types of poppy flowers are very aggressive growers and are considered invasive in many parts of the world. They are easy to grow but should be contained or they will often out-compete neighboring plants.
Himalayan Poppy – This poppy flower comes in a gorgeous sky-blue color. While the unique color of the flower will look stunning in your indoor home garden, it isn’t easy to grow. This is one of the harder poppies to properly cultivate, especially indoors, and should be reserved for experienced growers.
This is just a small sample of common varieties; there are over 120 types of poppies so there’s certainly no shortage to choose from. While they range in difficulty, many of them have similar care needs.
Another thing to keep in mind is the overall size of your poppies. Poppies can grow to a wide range of heights, some as small as 1 foot while others will reach 5+ feet. When growing indoors, it’s important to grow a variety that matches your space. Also, look out for “dwarf” varieties that are specifically bred to grow smaller than normal.
The rest of this article will focus on generally caring for poppies and should provide a broad overview of care. More difficult poppies will generally require a closer adherence to proper care but are roughly the same. Still, any aspiring poppy grower should check their variety and confirm proper care.
The container you select should be at least 12” deep to provide ample room for root growth. Your chosen container should also have proper drainage holes to prevent issues with overwatering.
A well-recommended tip includes setting the bed of the pot with small rocks or gravel for a better drainage system. A few inches at the bottom is enough to give room for excess water to drain away from the roots of your plant.
Any container material can work for poppies, provided it meets the above requirements.
Most gardeners will start their poppies from seeds as they germinate quite easily, grow quickly, and are cheap to obtain. Opt to sow your seeds in your container as opposed to a started tray as poppies transplant poorly. If you’re growing outdoors, sow them directly into the soil for the same reason.
Poppy seeds do best when they go through a process called cold stratification. This is the process of exposing your seeds to cooler temperatures, which mimics what they’d experience in nature. The best way to do this is to wrap your seeds in a moist paper towel. Then, place this in a zip-loc bag and cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks before planting.
After this process, you can plant your seeds to a depth of about ⅛”. If the depth on your seeds packet is different go with that number as this can vary slightly by variety. A few seeds per container is generally enough as poppies germinate quite well. You should still plant a few more than you want as you can always cut them back once they sprout.
Before they germinate, keep the soil moist and relatively warm. A nice sunny spot is a good place to keep your un-sprouted poppies. Once they do sprout, you should cut back on watering and follow the normal care detailed below.
When Should You Plant the Seed?
When you’re growing poppies indoors, the best season to plant the seed is right around the start of spring, right between March and May. If not, your next best bet is to plant the seed during autumn. Make sure to prep a few weeks before so you have time to cold-stratify your seeds. Most poppy seed packages have instructions on when to plant them for the best results. Be sure to read the pack before you proceed.
Any poppy flower you choose to grow will require either full or at least partial sunlight. You want to place them in a bright location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Any less than that and your plant will have trouble growing and will become more susceptible to disease.
There are, however, a handful of poppies that can grow in partial shade. This is the exception to the rule though, and you should do thorough research before planting a poppy in a shady location.
Water and Fertilizer
You’ll have to water the plant consistently throughout its growing season as poppies like a nice moist soil. As noted above, prior to germination you want to keep the soil very moist. After that, you can cut back on watering and do so as needed.
A good rule of thumb is to water when the top 2-3” of the soil is dry to the touch. This helps ensure that your plant stays moist, but isn’t overwatered. When watering, do so until the drainage holes begin to leak. This is a good indicator that the soil is saturated, any more will be excess that can harm your plant. Watering is always a balancing act, too little and your plant will wither and die, too much and its roots can rot and also die.
The poppy seed also needs fertile soil to grow but generally doesn’t care too much about the specifics. We recommend giving it a dose of balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once per month during its growing season. You can also a slow-release fertilizer which can last for several months.
If you think you don’t have to prune poppies’ flowers, you’re missing out on the opportunity to accelerate the plant’s blooms. Do so after the blooms of the flowers have died back. Simply cut the stem of the poppy about 3” above the ground and discard the old blooms. This process helps stimulate new growth and is an important part of the plant’s life cycle. This is also a good time to harvest seeds to plant next year.
A word of caution, depending on the variety it may be technically illegal to harvest your poppies in this manner. Papaver Somniferum, for example, is used to make opium and is a controlled substance in the majority of the world. Make sure to understand the legality of your poppy harvest before doing so, or grow varieties that aren’t involved in any illicit activity.
Planting Poppy Flowers Outdoors
There isn’t much difference between growing poppies indoors and growing them outdoors. The only difference is that you’ll have to adjust the process to fit for unexpected elements that could arise. For example, if you’re growing poppies outdoors, you’ll probably end up with an abundance of seedlings. In this case, you’ll have to thin them out. If you don’t, the seedlings can end up choking the airflow, attracting diseases and pests.
Outside of that, the care tips above all apply. Make sure to pick a sunny spot, provide well-draining nutrient-rich soil, and prune back as your plant’s blooms die.
Growing Poppies Indoors
Poppies are an excellent plant to add some color to your indoor garden. With a huge range of varieties, there’s the perfect poppy out there for everyone. Most gardeners should choose one of the popular, easy-to-grow varieties, but experienced gardeners can challenge themselves with a more picky type. In any case, poppy growers can look forward to beautiful blooms and an overall gorgeous plant both indoors and out.
Which Type of Poppy Seed is Easiest to Plant?
As mentioned above, growing poppy flowers can be difficult or relatively easy depending on which type of poppies you’re growing. The easiest poppy flower that any newbie can try to grow is Flanders Poppy – otherwise known as Papaver Rhoeas, or the standard oriental poppy. Either of these are very easy to grow and require minimal care to bloom
How Long Does it Take For a Poppy Seed To Germinate?
Usually, it takes about seven to thirty days for the poppy plant to sprout. In most cases, though, this will tend to be towards the shorter end.
What Distance Do Poppy Seeds Need To Be Planted?
Space your seeds at about 12-24” inches apart. This way, the plant will have adequate space to grow and will not suffocate. You can plant them closer than this at first, but look to prune them back as they begin to germinate.
Do Poppy Seeds Need Sunlight to Germinate?
Yes, poppy seeds need sunlight to germinate properly. They require about ⅛” of soil to cover them, and a nice, bright spot in order to sprout properly.
Are Poppies Toxic?
Yes, many poppies are considered toxic to both humans and pets. It’s best to keep these out of reach of anything likely to accidentally ingest it like kids and pets.