Oriental poppy – info, planting, care and tips

Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale)
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale)

The Oriental poppy is a gorgeous perennial and a favorite target for bees and many other insects.

Profile of Oriental poppy:

Scientific name: Papaver orientale

Plant family: poppy family (Papaveraceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring and autumn

Flowering period: May to June

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutrient-rich to nutrient-rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, individual planting, group planting, overgrowing, borders, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-37 °C / -35 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of Oriental poppy

Plant order, origin and occurrence of Oriental poppy

The Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) originates from eastern Turkey, northern Iran and the Caucasus. There, the perennial grows mainly on calcareous slopes at altitudes of up to 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) and on meadows. Like the other poppy species, the Oriental poppy belongs to the poppy family (Papaveraceae) and is poisonous.

Characteristics of Oriental poppy


Oriental poppy quickly develops into a stately cluster of up to one meter (40 in) in height. The plant forms a taproot. The numerous stems and also the leaves of the Oriental poppy are bristly hairy. Don’t be surprised if the poppy withers its leaves after flowering and eventually disappears completely, as this is absolutely normal. It then allows itself a little rest, stores all the important nutrients from the foliage in the roots, to sprout fresh again in September. These new leaves then remain attractive through the winter.


The leaves of the Oriental poppy are basal and form a dense rosette. They can grow up to 30 centimeters (12 in) long, are long-stalked, pinnately and hairy.


The large cupped flowers presented by the Oriental poppy in May and June sit singly on long, thin stalks surrounded by conspicuously hairy sepals. They are often darkly marked in the center and reach up to 20 centimeters in diameter. The individual petals are very thin and look almost like tissue paper. The petals are either slightly or strongly crinkled, and the leaf margins are entire or strongly fringed. In addition to the scarlet wild form Papaver orientale, there are now varieties with flowers ranging from white and pink to every shade of red imaginable. While the flowers of the species are still single, semi-double varieties can also be found in the trade today.


The seed pods of the Oriental poppy are also an eye-catcher and are often used in floristry. Inside them are the numerous small seeds. They ripen in July and August and then burst open, distributing the seeds via the wind.

Oriental poppy – cultivation and care


Full sunny locations are best for the Oriental poppy. It likes it warm and finds a suitable home in cottage gardens and wildlife gardens, among others. Remember not to plant the Oriental poppy in the foreground of beds. After its flowering, its foliage retreats and then there would be gaps in the bed that cannot be covered up.


Papaver orientale will thrive in any normal garden soil as long as it is reasonably well-drained and humus rich. The perennial prefers moderately dry to fresh soil with moderate nutrient content.

Planting and Sowing

Oriental poppy can be established in the garden both by sowing and planting. When sowing, the seeds are distributed in small pots from April and only slightly pressed on, as they need light to germinate. The seeds should germinate within two to three weeks, provided they are kept evenly moist. About ten weeks after sowing, the young plants can then be moved into the garden. If you want to plant pre-sown plants, you can do so during the classic planting seasons for perennials, which are spring and autumn.


Due to its home in dry mountainous regions of Asia Minor, the Oriental poppy tolerates intermittent drought and heat extremely well. Only if the dry periods last longer, it should be watered.


Oriental poppy does not necessarily need a monthly application of fertilizer. It copes with poor soils. However, an application of complete fertilizer such as compost or horn shavings, before flowering, in autumn and spring is useful. It has a beneficial effect on flowering. In the pot, the Oriental poppy should be fertilized sparingly every 2 weeks from April.


Because the Oriental poppy develops a taproot, it is difficult to propagate by division.


Oriental poppy is most easily propagated by means of its seeds. Gladly it takes over this task by itself. If you want to specifically tackle the sowing, you should choose the period between April and June for this.

The seeds are lightly covered with soil, as they need light to germinate. The substrate is moistened and kept moist for the next few weeks. Without any problems, the seeds can be grown in pots. At a temperature between 18 and 20 °C / 64 and 68 °F they germinate quickly. It takes an average of 10 to 14 days until the first leaflets appear on the surface.

A propagation by root cuttings is also possible. This method of propagation has the advantage over sowing that the offspring has the same characteristics as the mother plant. If you want to make root cuttings, carefully dig up the poppy in early fall and cut the long roots into pieces about five centimeters long with a sharp knife.

Tip: Cut one side at an angle so that later you will still know which direction the plant is growing. Then put the cuttings into pots filled with growing medium and water them well. Then place the pots in a bright, frost-free place over the winter. In the spring, the plant offspring can then move to the bed.

Diseases and pests

Although at first glance the silky flowers and delicate stems of the Oriental poppy do not suggest it, the species and varieties are quite robust plants. Occasionally there is an infestation of aphids. This can be prevented with a plant swill made of stinging nettle.

Unfortunately, the Oriental poppy has been heavily infested with downy mildew for a few years now. This has become so rampant in recent years that many nurseries no longer offer Papaver orientale. Therefore, when buying seeds, be sure to check that they are disease-free and tested. The young plants offered in the nurseries are usually also healthy plants that can be planted in the garden without hesitation.


Oriental poppy is hardy, but it should still be protected from heavy frosts. In the autumn, place a layer of brushwood over the newly sprouted leaves. In spring, as soon as heavy frosts are no longer expected, the brushwood can be removed again.

In winter, poppies in the garden do not need to be watered at all. Poppies in plant containers should not dry out completely.

Use in the garden

It’s best to place your Oriental poppy in the center of the bed so that a pre-planting can conceal the gap created by the retraction. Keep in mind that strong colors like bright red should always be used with some caution in the garden. To make the color look harmonious, make sure that the striking red hue is accompanied by delicate flower and foliage colors when designing the bed. A combination with blue, silver and yellow tones gives a harmonious overall picture. Good partners are baby’s breath, coneflower or catmint, which provide the next splash of color in the bed from July. Delphinium, sage and lavender also make a nice contrast with their elongated flower shapes, as do silver- and gray-leaved plants that accentuate the red flowers of the Oriental poppy.


There are numerous varieties of Papaver orientale on the market, many of which originated in the USA, the Netherlands or Great Britain. Probably the best known Oriental poppy hybrid is ‘Beauty of Livermere’ with strikingly large, scarlet flowers. But the burgundy ‘Marlene’ and the purple-purple ‘Patty’s Plum’ are also very popular. With pure white flowers and black basal spots, ‘Perry’s White’, ‘Royal Wedding’ and ‘Black and White’ are captivating.

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