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How to Grow California Poppies
Home & Garden

How to Grow California Poppies

Don your gloves and start planting because it’s time to spruce up your garden with gorgeous orange hues of California poppies. Team


4 min read

January 11, 2024

Colorful splashes of wildflowers, green grassy fields, bright blue skies…you can only imagine what beauty lies within the Golden State’s expansive landscape. But, one thing is for certain, without the iconic California poppy, no landscape is complete.

Rather than admiring the vibrant orange poppies from time to time, why not learn how to grow California poppies in your own backyard! Don your gloves and start planting because it’s time to spruce up your garden with gorgeous orange hues.

The California poppy is a drought-resistant flower and adapts well to the state's climate.

A Guide to Growing California Poppies

California poppies are easy to grow. The plants are durable, drought-resistant, and self-seeding. These striking beauties need little preparation before planting and require minimal maintenance. While most plants need sunshine and water, California poppies can flourish even in the harshest conditions. If there’s one thing you need to know about gardening, it’s that these plants are flexible. California poppy seeds can remain active in fertile soil for up to eight years. 

When to Plant California Poppy Seeds

If you’re wondering when to plant California poppy seeds, the best time is in late winter or early spring. Planting California poppy seeds in winter coincides with the least sunlight and shortest days. Slightly frosted soil is good for the seedlings. For better results, sow several rounds of seeds a few weeks apart from each other. This ensures that your garden is in bloom for a longer period of time. If the heat or the cold damages your plants, your garden will still have enough healthy California poppies to grow. 

Other names of the California poppy include La Amapola, Copa de Oro, and Dormidera because it tends to open its petals later in the morning.

How to Plant California Poppies

When planting the California poppies, preferably pick places that are exposed to the sun. If you live in a warm climate, your poppies need a spot that gets enough sunlight as well as protection from the scorching afternoon sun. When planting poppies in cooler temperatures, expose them to as much sun as possible. Plant them correctly and they will become the best version of themselves.

Plant the seeds two to three inches apart and gently press the seeds into the soil. Remember not to cover the seeds with extra soil. While water is necessary to grow the poppies, too much of it will eventually do more harm.  

Germinating takes place between two weeks up to a month. The first few weeks after germination is when the seedlings need moisture the most. Once they start developing roots, they won’t be needing as much water. Poppies actually prefer less moisture and thrive in drier conditions. Excessive watering can negatively affect plant health, so when in doubt, stay on the drier side. 

Planting California poppies in your garden means adding color and attracting pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds.

Keep in mind that in order for California poppies to thrive, you should imitate its natural growing conditions. Adding too much of soil nutrients will harm the flowers. Although feeding your soil is gardening 101, don’t get carried away using fertilizer—you’ll have more leaves but fewer flowers. 

Another thing to consider is soil aeration and drainage. California poppy taproots love sandy and rocky soil—they’re ideal for drought-tolerant landscaping. The best part is that these flowers can also be grown in raised beds or container culture. Just make sure you’re using clay soil in these cases. Poppies generally don't transplant well. However, if you'd like to transplant your poppies, keep in mind that it's best to transplant them when they aren't actively growing. Transplant gently as to not destroy the root. 

It goes without saying that California poppies require plenty of sunshine. When planted in damp conditions, you’ll end up with moldy flowers and diseased plants. Though there are antifungal chemicals to reverse the damage, the best natural remedy is planting right under the sunlight. If you’re dealing with slugs, the best course of action is controlling them with organic baits, traps, and sprays.

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While they're usually pale yellow, orange, or cream in the wild, you'll find California poppies in available in whites and shades of red and pink.

How Long Does It Take California Poppies to Grow From Seeds?

If you’re impatiently asking yourself how long it takes California poppies to grow from seeds, the answer depends on many factors. Despite being perennials, California poppies mature quickly. On average, it takes about two to three months to see them in full bloom. 

Sow the seeds during fall and they’ll germinate after the first rainfall. When experiencing mild winters, you’ll wake up to blooming poppies early in March. In cooler coastal climates, California poppies continue to grow and bloom all summer.

During hot summers, poppies usually go dormant. Don’t overwater them; just patiently wait for the next blooming season.

During favorable blooming conditions, California poppies emerge en masse to create “super bloom” events.

How Long Do California Poppies Bloom For?

California poppies survive only a few days. But don’t worry, these beauties generate new flowers all the time. When planted under direct sunlight, the poppies will experience dense growth. Most poppies bloom for the first time during spring and the second time in fall when planted properly.    

There are plenty of grooming tricks to revamp your garden and create better conditions for your California poppies. Deadheading goes a long way when fixing a sad withered plant. Getting rid of faded flowers freshens up your poppies and prevents them from overseeding. But don’t throw them out just yet—California poppy’s petals can be used as garnish and even eaten in salads.

If you want to use the faded flowers as cut flowers, make sure to harvest the poppies before the bloom opens. Before putting them in an arrangement, cut the stem and seal the end with a lighter. This will ensure long-lasting blooms for your California poppy cut flowers. 

Minimal care and multiple blooming seasons make these vibrant flowers a go-to for low-maintenance gardeners. 

The California poppy became the state flowers in 1903. Since then, it has appeared on the numerous Scenic Route signs.

How Tall Do California Poppies Grow?

California poppies grow in a variety of ways. They can form wide flower mats or grow upright in smaller groups. The poppies are usually more broad than tall; they can be anywhere between four to 12 inches tall. Besides basic growing conditions, spacing also greatly affects how tall California poppies grow. With a lot of free space between them, the poppies can grow up to two feet tall. 

Use your space to your advantage and feel free to experiment with the area. California poppies grow well with other wildflowers such as daisies, gilias, phacelias, and bachelor’s buttons. As long as you know how to grow California poppies, your garden will explode with vibrancy. 

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