Poppy Enchantment

Time for the four P’s

There are four annuals with pretty petals and names starting with the letter ‘P’ that can be purchased in punnets and which could be planted for gorgeous late winter and early spring colour. Poppies are one of these P’s. Spending time on your knees planting them out now will keep you busy for a few hours, but will give you great joy a few weeks later.

Poppies are solitary bowl-shaped flowers made up of silky petals will gently dance on thin, hairy stems above deeply lobed, fuzzy grey-green leaves. No cold spell or miserable weather will spoil their dazzling beauty, and the more blooms you pick, the more you will encourage to appear again. Although the Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) is classified as a perennial veld flower, it is usually grown as a winter and spring annual, perfect to supply bright colour between dormant rose bushes, amongst spring-flowering bulbs, as border plants or as part of a cut-flower garden.

Planting notes for Poppies

  • Pick the sunniest spot possible.
  • Provide well-draining soil enriched with compost.
  • Buy young seedlings not showing any colour yet, and take great care when releasing them from the seedling trays and transplanting them as they have very delicate root systems.
  • Keep the soil moist but do not overwater them. It is best to water at soil level, preventing water from landing on leaves and flowers.
  • Feed the plants constantly while in flower to prolong the season.
  • Deadhead spent blooms regularly to encourage more.
  • Pick blooms for the vase as soon as you see a blush of colour, and preferably early in the morning. Leave them in a bucket of deep water in a cool place for a few hours before arranging them.

A good range to try is ‘Champagne Bubbles’, with strong stems and bushy plants. Individual colours include ‘Orange’, ‘Pink Shades’, ‘Scarlet’, ‘White’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Citrus Mix’ (with white and yellow flowers) or ‘Mix’.

The Gardener