Common poppy – characteristics, cultivation and use

a red poppy flower
a red poppy flower

Common poppy is a unique cultural companion due to its blood-red flowers. The poppy plant can be used both as a kitchen plant and as a medicinal herb, but only small amounts should be consumed. In folk medicine, common poppy is considered a small brother of poppy, but the soothing effect of its red petals is very mild and is not recognized by conventional medicine.

Profile of common poppy:

Scientific name: Papaver rhoeas

Plant family: poppy family (Papaveraceae)

Other names: corn poppy, corn rose, field poppy, Flanders poppy, red poppy

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: May – August

Harvest time: July – August

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, seeds

Location: sunny to full sun

Soil quality: rather sandy soil

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: sleep disorders, nervous restlessness, slight fatigue, hoarseness, eczema

Use as aromatic herb: flowers as decoration, seeds as baking ingredient

Plant characteristics and classification of common poppy

Origin and occurrence of common poppy

The common poppy is a typical wild field plant whose origin is in Europe. The plant can be found today wild in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, and spread to western Asia and North Africa. This poppy species is a typical cultivated plant that has spread rapidly in ancient and medieval times through agricultural and forestry activities.

It grows mainly on roadsides, meadows, slopes and on dumps. In the past, it also grew a lot on cornfields, but it almost disappeared because of weed control there.

Plant order of common poppy

The common poppy (Papaver rhoeas) belongs to the poppy family and is thus directly related to other medicinal plants such as the greater celandine or the (Canadian) bloodroot. The genus poppy (Papaver) is relatively species-rich with almost 100 species. These include the well-known species opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) or scarlet poppy (Papaver bracteatum).

Characteristics of common poppy


As a typical herbaceous plant, common poppy grows to heights between 30 and 100 cm (12 and 40 in). The plant is usually biennial, but sometimes only annual. The plant grow up to 100 cm (40 in) long creamy white to light brown taproots.


The leaves are clearly pinnate, hairy and roughly sawn and reach lengths between 15 and 20 cm (6 and 8 in). In the first year, the plant usually forms only a down-to-earth leaf rosette without noticeable stems. The typical thin hairy stem is often formed only in the second year. The stem or contains numerous milk tubes, which are each closely connected. Through these flows typical for the species white milk juice.


The plants show their delicate red to blood-red flowers with a diameter of 7 to 12 cm (3 to 5 in) in the period from May to August. The flowers usually last only one day and then fall off. Each stalk always has only one flower, which is on the upper end. The flowers are always hermaphroditic and four petals are formed. Striking is the large number of stamens: Each flower develops around 160 stamens that provide the pollen for the propagation of the plant.


After the flowering period, the flowers develop into the characteristic capsule fruits. Every single poppy fruit contains numerous poricidal that contain the small black poppy seeds.

poppies on a meadow
poppies on a meadow

Common poppy – cultivation and care


Poppy prefers sunny to full sun location and does not grow in the shade.


The soil should always be permeable, nutrient-rich and slightly calcareous. A sandy or gravelly soil with moderate to good nutrient availability seems ideal. Pure peat-containing potting soil and many packaged herb ponds are not recommended for the cultivation of poppy seeds. A few weeks before planting in spring or autumn, the soil should be enriched with compost. In addition, the soil should be well drained.


The best sowing time for the poppy is the beginning of spring. The small black seeds should be sown end of March to mid-April directly in the field or in bigger pots on the balcony. If the seed is to be spread directly into the field, it is advisable to mix the seeds with a little sand. Poppy seeds need light to germ and should be covered with soil not more than 1 cm (0.4 in). A planting distance between 25 and 30 cm (10 and 12 in) should be kept. The germination period is about 14 to 21 days.


If there is a nutrient-rich soil, fertilization is usually not necessary. Low-nutrient soils are best mixed with compost before planting. If the poppy is kept in pot culture, additional fertilizers are usually necessary. Organic depot fertilizers based on pellets or sticks are recommended.


Common poppy can tolerate longer dry phases through its deep root system usually without problems. There is therefore no special watering necessary. A normal watering is sufficient. Exceptions are longer consecutive heat periods and potted cultures. Here it may be advisable to water vigorously in the later evening hours. However, on normal temperate days, abundant watering should be avoided, as this may increase disease and pest infestation.

Diseases and pests

Inasmuch as care instructions are observed and the weather does not turn out to be too humid over the year, common poppy is considered to be a very robust plant.

As a classic disease, poppy fire can be a problem. This bacterial disease is usually triggered by persistent moisture. The leaves show transparent spots, which turn brown in the course of the disease. In order to protect the plant from infestation, it has proven useful to ensure a sufficient distance between the individual plants when planting poppies. If poppy fire occurs, all infested poppy plants should be completely removed as soon as possible (do not put on your compost).

Poppy is also often attacked by aphids. Against this spraying with self-made sting nettle swill will help.

It can also be infected by downy mildew. On the underside of the leaves a whitish-gray coating can be seen that feels velvety. The top of the leaves gets yellow and brown spots, which can also extend to the stems.


There are no special wintering instructions to observe. One-year-olds usually die after the fruit has ripened. Two-year-old poppy plants are very frost-tolerant.

poppy blossom
poppy blossom

Use of poppy

Common poppy as a kitchen herb

The young leaves of poppy can be used in small quantities in salads or boiled like spinach before flowering. The taste is reminiscent of cucumber and hazelnut.

The poppy flowers can be used as decoration for fruit salads or pies. For this purpose, the individual petals are plucked individually.

The small black seeds can also be used as a cake topping. However, one should refrain from making a complete poppy cake with the seeds, as it can lead to symptoms of intoxication if consumed in large quantities.


Poppy is slightly toxic. All plant parts contain alkaloids, especially the white milky juice. Excessive consumption of parts of plants, especially seeds, can cause gastrointestinal complaints, vomiting and abdominal pain. Children and especially infants and babies should refrain from eating, as it can lead to symptoms of intoxication.

Common poppy as a medicinal plant

Common poppy is rarely used in today’s natural medicine. This is mainly due to the fact that much better natural remedies are available for many diseases and complaints and that some ingredients have a weakly toxic effect. However, folk medicine likes to use poppy and indulge it calming effects.

In the Middle Ages, poppy was a well-known. The plant has been used to treat insomnia, constipation, fever, internal pain, and generalized gynecological disorders. All plant parts were used.

Common poppy can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • boil
  • cough
  • insomnia
  • nervousness
  • promoting menstrual
  • skin problems

Medicinal properties

  • analgesic
  • emollient
  • expectorant
  • reassuring
  • toning

For sleep disorders and nervous restlessness, a syrup from the poppy flowers should be helpful. In addition, since slight symptoms of intoxication are possible, for the supportive treatment of nervous restlessness or sleep disorders rather recognized medicinal plants such as valerian or lemon balm should be used.

Preparation of poppy tea

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how to prepare a poppy tea by yourself

  1. put 1 teaspoon of poppy in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 10 minutes

  4. strain the flowers

The tea is used for insomnia and nervous restlessness. But also help against cough and drycoughing, as well as it should have a pain-relieving effect.

Side effects and instructions for use

Common poppy should always be used in small doses. At low dose, side effects are usually not expected. If, however, parts of the poppy are taken uncontrolled, there is a risk of poisoning, which may be accompanied by a slowing of the heartbeat, shortness of breath and nausea. If such symptoms occur after consumption, consult a doctor immediately.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy common poppy – What is there to pay attention to?

Common poppy is in recent years more and more used as an ornamental plant.

Seeds for cultivation in the garden or on the balcony can be found in garden centers and online. In addition to the wild form some varieties are sold. The cost of poppy seeds are usually between 1 and 3 EUR / $.

If you want to use common poppy medicinal, you will mainly get dried poppies on online marketplaces. Here you can find mostly cut and ground flowers. The ground flowers are usually used as a dye. From the cut flowers teas or syrup can be made. The prices here range from 5 to 15 EUR / $.

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