Many people in the recent past have asked me for my advice on growing Poppies in Zone 3. I have to start with the truth…
I don’t particularly like growing Poppies.
They’re beautiful and all, but they’re sort of a pain in the rear. Even so, I have successfully grown Poppies in the past. I even have some planned for my cut flower garden this spring and will be growing Amazing Grey as part of my $100 cut flower garden this year. Without further ado, let’s get into my tips and tricks for growing Poppies in a Zone 3 cut flower garden.
A NOTE ON COOL FLOWERS
First thing first: Poppies are referred to as cool flowers or hardy annuals. This means that Poppies prefer cooler growing temperatures. These and other cold-hardy flowers are perfect for cold-climate gardeners with short growing seasons like me in Zone 3 in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Lisa Mason Ziegler has a fantastic book, Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques, with gardening advice that directly relates to growing poppies. Her advice is great for those gardening in Zone 6 and up, but those of us in Zone 5 and down need to make some modifications. If you’d like to learn more, even though it doesn’t directly speak about poppies, my ebook Frost Proof Flower Garden is a great tool for growing a variety of cool flowers.
WHAT’S THE BEST METHOD OF GROWING POPPIES?
One of the most frequent questions I hear is Should I direct sow, seed start, or winter sow my poppies? For anything other than Iceland Poppies, I would try to seed start them outdoors before the snow falls (essentially winter sowing, but not in containers).
For Iceland Poppies, however, because the seeds are just so expensive in comparison and the flowers are so precious, you’ll want to start them indoors. Iceland Poppies don’t like their roots disturbed. To cater to their picky ways, I start them in newsprint pots, and then you can just plop them into their new home once temperatures are fine.
SOME TIPS FOR SEED-SOWING POPPIES
Poppy seeds are like dust so in order to seed start properly, you’ll need to get creative. I use a toothpick, stick it in a jar of water, swirl it in the seeds, cross my fingers, and then scrape the toothpick (which is hopefully now coated in Poppy seeds) into the soil.
You don’t have to wait until the last frost date to put your Poppies outside. As soon as nighttime temperatures are consistently above -10ºC/14ºF you can put them out. If you’re nervous you can also put a row cover over them to keep them safe overnight!
Check out my new ebook Seed Starting Success for more about seed starting, including helpful videos and tips for the most common flowers and vegetables everyone wants to grow!
Poppy varieties like Iceland, Shirley, and Thai Silk have beautiful tissue-like flowers and long stems, perfect for a cut flower garden. There are also some special Poppy varieties that can be grown for their seed heads, like Oriental and Breadseed. When dried, these make interesting ornamental additions to fall bouquets. These and most other cut flower varieties do not produce the kind of seeds you’d want to eat.
Many Poppy varieties do have edible seeds, though, such as Hungarian Blue and Black Swan. These poppyseeds are the kinds used in yummy recipes like Lemon Poppyseed Zucchini Muffins and Poppyseed Cake with Caramel Frosting. Giganthemum are also grown for their edible seeds, and have seed pods the size of a baseball!
What Poppy varieties are in your cut flower garden plan for this year?
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Ready to grow your own beautiful cut flower garden, without the hassel?
I’ve taken all the guesswork out of creating a cut flower garden with my e-book, Cut Flowers Made Simple. Whether you’re a farmer florist, a beginner gardener, or anything in between, you’ll be able to start your own cut flower garden, with or without seed starting, growing annual flowers.