The Power of Poppies

Poppies are truly remarkable flowers, steeped in history, with forgiving natures, with even the smallest pockets of soil, most people have room in their garden for poppies.

Once you have planted poppies once, you will find that each season they will pop up again. This isn’t because they are long lived plants (they are annuals which means they live and die within one growing season), but is due to their generous spirit - they readily set seed once they finish flowering. And as they germinate so easily from seed, you often find once you have planted poppies once, they reappear each season.

The soldier poppy or Flanders Poppy associated with Anzac day, is easy to recognise with its dark red petals and black ink-like marks at the base of each petal. Its origin lies in the red poppies which appeared in the battlefields at Flanders in Belgium after the guns had stopped firing. They are a symbolic representation of hope and gratitude to those involved with the war. To find out more about the commemorative poppies visit www.rsa.org.nz

Growing Poppies:

Sowing poppy seed

Poppies enjoy light (sunlight) to germinate. Only cover with a very thin layer of soil when planting in the garden; or when sowing seeds in trays of Tui Seed Raising Mix. However, Oriental poppy is fine seed and needs more light to germinate, so don’t cover with any soil.

Poppies for free: Save you own seed

After poppies finish flowering, the flowers turn into very attractive seed pods, inside these pods are dozens of seeds. Collect the seed heads and store somewhere dry and dark until next season, a nice idea is to post a few to a friend and share the poppy love.

When, where to plant, sow and grow:

Poppies do not thrive in the intense heat of summer, hence they are at their best in spring, autumn and winter. Poppies grow easily from seed, seeds are best sown in late August, early September. Plant loads so you can really appreciate them on mass. Poppies enjoy full sun, a rich soil; they happily thrive in pots and containers, filled with Tui Pot Power or Tui Flower Mix. Lay plenty of Quash around to keep the slugs and snails away.

Pick and Mix:

Poppies look fabulous mixed into the vegetable garden as well, for winter colour, plant with cabbages, broccoli, winter lettuce, beetroot, Brussels sprouts and kale. For spring interest, team them up with rocket, mizuna, potatoes, yams, herbs, rhubarb, onions and carrots.

By Rachel Vogan

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The Power of Poppies Comments

  • I think you are not showing the real Anzac/Flanders poppy - it has a black centre and not a black dot on each petel. The one you are showing is the ladybird poppy and is often sold - wrongly - as the Anzac poppy. But if you look at your Anzac poppies you will see they only have the one, dead centre, black spot.

    Cheryl Lichtwark

  • I found the readings on the Poppies very interesting. I am keen to grow some seeds now

    Violet McOnie

  • Thank-you for your tips on growing poppies .I have 2 pods one red the other double pink and lve just opened the pots with all theses seeds .I would have covered the seed but see you don't so was glad to get your tips Thanks Viv

    Viv Harwood-Patterson

  • Thanks for the poppy tips, I'will get scattering seeds on my new garden. Once again a big thank you.

    Sue ingram

  • hi ,I picked poppies from roadsides in France the last time we were there and they did not have any black on them at all ,completely red with dark brown stamen ,they were amazing to see ,whole hillsides covered in them

    sharon

  • Hi Cheryl, thank you for your message. The poppy shown is also commonly called the Flanders/Anzac poppy, in addition to the poppy with a black centre. Thanks, Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • Rachel, can you tell me where I can buy the white poppy seeds, please. Thank you.

    Annette

  • Hi Annette, you can get them from Kings Seeds. Thanks!

    gemma

  • Hi, I've planted Flanders poppies en masse to commemorate WWI; was just wondering how to tell when the seed pods are ready to collect to save for next year? I have plans for the space they are in at the moment and want to make sure I get the seeds before they drop.

    Deborah

  • Hi Deborah, after poppies finish flowering and the flowers turn into very attractive seed pods, you will inside these pods dozens of seeds. You can then collect the seed heads and store somewhere dry and dark until next season. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team

    jenna

  • when is the best time in Auckland to sprinkle the seeds please?

    sue

  • Hi Sue, the best time would be autumn for spring flowering. Thanks, Tui Team

    jenna

  • Every year around our bridge club hundreds of red Flanders type poppies had colonised - just growing wild. I always meant to collect the pods but forgot until 2010. Then in February the earthquake destroyed our clubhouse and surrounds. Those precious seeds I had taken home sprouted and flowered. I felt so fulfilled enjoying the living links of our destroyed clubhouse.

    Judy Giles

  • I have just found my packet of Flanders Poppy seeds. Is it too late to plant them now that we are in summer? Will the seeds last until next year? They came with NZ Gardener magazine to commemorate ANZAC day.

    lemurkat

  • This is my first attempt and growing these beautiful flowers. I purchased punnets of plants, but have noticed two weeks after being planted, some plants have yellow leaves. I have dug it sheep manure (old) before planting, is there some other fertiliser needed?

    Vicki

  • Hi Vicki, we suggest feeding with Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser. Enjoy these beautiful flowers. Thanks, Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I rescued some poppies seeds that my mum had in her garden when my grandma lived her before she passed away. Mum sold her house so had to get in before. New owners ripped out the garden. So the seeds are from last year I'm so scared I will not get them to germinate. I live in Taupo when should I sow into a pot?

    Gemma

  • Hi Gemma, poppies are very generous by nature, and as these ones are special to you, it may pay to sow them in a tray, rather than just scattering them in the garden which is what we would normally recommend. Don?t be too kind to them, as the naturally germinate in cold temperatures with no heat and without any soil covering the seed. They do need sunlight to germinate, therefore when sowing the seeds do not cover them with a fine layer at the end. Sow in fresh seed raising mix anytime over the next month, seedlings will appear in 4 to 6 weeks, transplant once about finger height. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I have read with interest your info on Flanders Poppies, I can grow most things but dismal failure with these,scattered 3 full pkts this Autumn via info from Tony Murell, and not one came up, however saw your report re not covering with seedling mix, will try that next time. I'm obsessed .

    Jan Currie

  • Hi there, poppies can be sown in autumn, simply scatter them where you want them to grow and Mother Nature will do the rest. This seed will also store until next season, so the choice is up to you. Thanks, Jenna, Tui Team.

    jenna

  • is it possible (in season) to plant poppies to appear for Anzac day in Auckland? If so what Dates wouldyou recommend scattering seed

    selena

  • Hi Selena, great question. Poppies need a cold period to stimulate flower bud initiation and a flower, so aiming for Anzac Day isn?t the easiest as the plants would need to be started in the warmer months. This doesn?t correlate in how they like to grow, however you can try and see how it works. Sow seed in December, and let us know how you get on. All the best, Tui Team

    jenna

  • Thanks for such helpful ideas! Is it possible to sow directly onto a kikuyu lawn? If it is, I might sow these at the start of August for Armistice Day.

    Natalie

  • Hi Natalie, yes you can scatter seeds of poppies into your lawn, just be prepared not to mow the area once the seeds have germinated, as you will chop the tops of the poppy plants. Happy gardening from the Tui Team!

    jenna

  • Can I confirm with you that when I?m planting them that I don?t need to put soil on the top? Thanks

    Lucy

  • Hi Lucy, thanks for getting in touch. Not sure the kind of poppies you are looking at planting, however Oriental poppy is fine seed and needs light to germinate so don?t cover. Other poppy varieties should only be lightly covered when sowing. Poppies are best sown direct as they don?t transplant well :) Happy poppy planting! ^Tui Team

    jenna

  • Will Flanders Poppies grow in Central Otago ? If left to selfseed will the seeds survive the winters down here ?

    Jim Carroll

  • Hi Jim, great question and the answer is yes, they will easily grow and readily self-seed. They are generous plants and cope with both hot and cold temperatures. Sow in September or October. Happy gardening ^Tui Team

    jenna

  • Racheal where can i bye your book on Tui the nz flower garden i have found one copy and that at the libraries

    john robertson

    • Hi John, thanks for getting in touch. The Tui NZ Flower Book is no longer produced and hasn’t been produced for a number of years now, so it can be hard to find sorry. We can only suggest checking online (search or Trademe), or checking at local garden centres as there could be the odd copy around. Kind regards ^Jenna.

      Tui Team

  • I planted my Soldier Poppies in the autumn and the plants are lush and get the sun more than shade but no flowers on any of them. How do I get them to flower?

    Heather Rush

    • Hi Heather, it's probably still a little early for them to flower. In October/November they should be flowering.

      Tui Team

  • After flowering has commenced in Spring, for what period of time will the Flanders poppy continue flowering?

    Chris

    • Hi Chris, their flowering period is brief and may last for 6 weeks but it largely depends upon the weather. Once flowering has finished deadheading and removing spent flowers will prolong flowering. Collect the seed heads for sowing in autumn in warmer climates or early spring in cooler climates.

      Tui Team

  • Now that my peonie poppies have finished flowering, can I cut the seed pods while they are still green to hang until dry and then collect the seed? Or do they have to stay planted until they turn brown?

    Jennie Jonsson

    • Hi Jennie, yes you can cut the seed pods while they are still green and hang to dry. Place a paper bag over the seed pods, tie around the stems and hang upside down to dry.

      Tui Team

  • Hello, it would be nice if your article actually states the months to plant seeds. You comment seedlings are available in spring but I went to look at this article to find out what month to plant in seed trays.

    Lori Mackie

    • Hi Lori, thank you for your feedback. Depending upon what the plant is, seeds are sown 6-8 weeks before seedlings are planted out. Poppies are sown in early spring, which is the end of August, early September. They can be sown directly into the garden if temperatures are warm enough, or sown in trays and planted out. 

      Lianne, Tui Team