It’s easy to see why California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, have made their way into the hearts of gardeners throughout the world. Their golden and orange hues are positively beautiful, especially when carpeting a landscape or tucked in between grasses and lupines, and their adaptable, drought tolerant nature makes them easy to grow — often where it’s difficult to grow anything but weeds.
These pollinator powerhouses (particularly for bees) are native to much of North America, far beyond its namesake, and seem to magically appear in spring thanks to their fast growing habit. If you’re lucky and conditions are ideal, they’ll bloom consecutively from spring to summer.
Direct sow by simply scattering seeds where you’d like them to grow or add them to seed bombs for hard to reach locations.
California poppies are hardy from USDA zones 5 to 10 and are technically a perennial, as noted by its sturdy tap root (which resembles a young carrot). However, they behave as an annual in colder climates. Sow them in spring or, if planting in hardiness zones 7 or warmer, sow them in fall to give them a head start. You can try sprouting them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date but they generally don’t transplant well. If you choose to transplant, start seeds individually in plugs or other, deep containers.
You’ll first notice grey, green feather like foliage appear along with other spring weeds. Take care to weed around them or even pull them if you’ve found they’re growing where you’d rather they weren’t. Let them grow from flower to seed. Harvest seeds by collecting seed pod and all. Wait until pods are dry and you can hear seeds rattling around inside but of course try to get to them before the pods open (at least some of them). I use a paper bag when collecting and store seeds in a cool, dark place until ready to plant again. Or, if you live in a warmer climate, let plants reseed themselves.
Foliage will dry and turn brown once their life cycle is complete. This is when I come through and clean up any dead material.
The flowers are pollen rich and a fabulous source of food for bees and a key player in natural food webs.
Flowers naturally close in the evenings or with variable, cloudy weather. A prolific re-seeder, saving seeds means you’ll have extra to give as a gift or for making seed bombs.
There are many species and sub species. Take care to grow a species that is right for your climate and region. Also, check to be sure they’re not considered weedy for your area.
Grow in meadow gardens, rock gardens, herbaceous borders and with other, native plant mixes for a care-free, pollinator friendly garden. Pairs beautifully with lupines, owl’s clover, checkerblooms, grasses and more.
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