Eschscholzia californica is a lovely species of summer-blooming plants in the Papaveraceae family. This flower goes by many common names in cultivation, such as the California poppy, California sunlight, golden poppy, golden cup, or cup of gold. It is native to several regions of North America and Mexico and it is appreciated by gardeners worldwide.
In general, California poppies are very easy to grow, care for, and even propagate. These low-maintenance plants perform best in full sunlight, mild temperatures, and well-draining soils. They are also drought-tolerant for long periods, making them an excellent choice for forgetful growers or beginners.
Keep reading our guide to find out everything you want to know about these spectacular flowers. From this article, you will learn that caring for California poppies is more about letting them be rather than giving them too much attention.
About California Poppies
- Some cultivars of E. californica, such as ‘Apricot Chiffon’, ‘Dali’, and ‘Rose Chiffon’, have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Their common name “California poppy” comes from the large number of specimens that grow in California. In 1903, California poppies have become the official state flowers of California.
- The most interesting varieties of these plants are ‘California Golden’ (bright orange flowers), ‘Golden West’ (orange blooms with dark centres), and ‘Mission Bells’ (cream, pink, or salmon semi-double blossoms).
- In traditional medicine, people have used California poppies as a herbal remedy for several problems including tension reduction and pain relief.
- California poppies produce high amounts of pollen. Their flowers are very attractive to several species of pollinators like butterflies or bees.
- These plants are wonderful additions to rock gardens, butterfly gardens, naturalized plantings, beds, borders, and also along walkways or paths. They can look adorable as potted plants too.
- They can make for great companions to other species of plants like Baby’s Breath, Cornflower, Drumstick Allium, Lavender, Mexican Feather Grass, Sage, Wood Sage, or Yarrow.
- All parts of California poppies are pretty toxic to humans and animals if ingested. For the safety of your curious pets or kids, grow these flowers in a location where your loved ones cannot reach them.
California Poppies Features: An Overview
- They belong to the Eschscholzia genus that contains exactly 12 species of annual or perennial flowering plants. The most popular species include E. caespitosa, E. californica, E. glyptosperma, and E. lobbii.
- California poppies are herbaceous perennials that can reach from 5 to 60 inches (13-152 cm) in height and up to 18 inches (46 cm) in width. In some regions, they grow at their best as annuals.
- The dense foliage of these plants consists of numerous blue-green leaves that show up alternately arranged on branching stems of the same colour. Their leaves present round and lobed segments.
- In general, California poppies produce flowers in summer. However, in the northern hemisphere, blooming can occur from spring through fall (February to September).
- During their blooming period, these plants exhibit silky-textured flowers that appear solitary on long stems. They come in various shades of orange, yellow, red, or sometimes pink.
- Their blossoms have four petals that close at night and also in cold, windy weather. The petals usually open again the next morning, but they may remain closed in cloudy conditions.
- Once their flowering season has ended, fruits will show their charm where the blossoms were. They are slender, dehiscent capsules of up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length and contain many tiny dark brown or black seeds.
Growing California Poppies
When in doubt, keep in mind that California poppies are your best friends and they will forgive your small mistakes. These plants do not have many environmental and growing demands, but they will perform better in some particular conditions. But no worries! As long as you understand their needs and meet them accordingly, you will be the best owner for them!
In terms of lighting, California poppies thrive in lots of full sunlight. Make sure you grow them in a spot where they can receive at least six hours of bright and direct light each day. Shady conditions will cause your beloved plants to look somewhat ragged and be more sensitive to diseases. As a general rule for both indoor and outdoor settings – the more sun, the better.
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- California poppy wild flower seed produces a dense display of beautiful orange flowering blossoms across the U.S. in USDA zones 3 - 9.
- Eschscholzia californica is an annual flower seed; however, it is a prolific reseeder. These poppies will drop their wildflower seeds and reseed themselves the following spring.
- Buy these seeds for planting and rest assured these heirloom, non gmo, open pollinated seeds will produce a brilliant wildflower display for your flower garden, landscape, or meadow.
- Orange poppies will reach 12 - 16 inches in height and bloom very quickly from flower seeds.
- Buy seeds in bulk and plant 4 ounces per 1,000 square feet or 10 pounds per acre for a magnificent wildflower meadow.
California poppies are typically hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10. These flowers grow at their best in mild temperatures that range from 50 to 75 °F (10-24 °C) all year round. Excessive heat can damage the overall health of your plants and also cause dormancy when not needed.
When it comes to humidity, they prefer low to moderate levels. If you grow California poppies in high humidity, good air circulation and soil drainage are mandatory. These basic requirements can help you prevent fungal diseases and pest infestations.
Although California poppies are carefree plants, stem rot, mold, or powdery mildew can stress them out occasionally. These problems usually occur if you are growing your flowers in wet areas or those with frequent rainfalls. In case of infection, you can treat your plants with proper fungicides. Yet, correcting their growing environment is your best long-term option.
Planting California Poppies
You will notice a lot of California poppies in gardens because these particular settings allow them to grow the same as in their natural habitat. Of course, you can grow these beauties indoors in pots, but they will live for a shorter time. In containers and also hot regions, you will have to treat them as annuals and plant new seeds in the following growing season.
When we are talking about soil, California poppies are not as picky as other flowering plants. These buddies can do just fine in poor substrates as long as they have excellent drainage. Still, make sure you are planting them in sandy or rocky soils and avoid heavy clay ones. If you want to grow your flowers indoors, look for containers that have drainage holes at the bottom.
For both perennial and annual types, less is more when it comes to fertilizers. Even if you provide your California poppies with nutrient-poor soils, they will not need extra fertilizing. In fact, only one feeding is enough to produce excess foliage at the expense of their stunning flowers.
During their blooming period, California poppies will benefit from regular deadheading. You can remove all spent flowers to make room for new ones to flourish beautifully. But if you want your plants to self-seed, you must leave a few flower heads alone to drop some seeds.
Watering California Poppies
What makes California poppies even better is their ability to tolerate long periods of drought. In general, these plants need very little water to thrive and are ideal candidates for beginner gardeners that love a touch of flower here and there.
During their active growing period, in spring, California poppies do well only with just rainwater. If you live in a region with seldom rainfalls provide your flowers with water once every week. During hot summer months, these plants usually go dormant and do not require supplemental irrigation at all.
Propagating California Poppies
California poppies have their innate talent to fill our surroundings with delicate and vibrant flowers. Because of this, it is pretty hard to part ways with them when the time comes. Luckily for us, romantic gardeners, the solution is right before our eyes – propagation! And when it is all so fun and simple, you can also make more of these fellows for your beloved family members or friends.
Since they cannot handle disturbed roots very well and neither stress from cuttings, sowing seeds is the best way to do it. This method requires no past experience or effort, so you will have as many superb California poppies as you want without any trouble. Moreover, the seeds will germinate in a few days after planting, bringing you almost instant feedback on your skills.
You can collect seeds from spent flowers and plant them in autumn or the next growing season, usually in early spring. California poppy seeds germinate better and faster if you sow them in somewhat cooler soils. Due to this fact, you can sow them directly in the ground and let them be for as long as it takes.
We recommend you plant the seeds at a distance of 8 inches (20 cm) to avoid over-crowding the seedlings. After sowing, make sure you water the soil gently to avoid dislodging your tiny California poppy seeds. With proper care, germination should occur in about 10 to 15 days.
We can tell you a lot of stories about growing poppies, but the best way to find out how charming and easy-going these plants are is to grow them yourself. After all, why wouldn’t you give California poppies a chance? Their hypnotic flowers can make for great additions to both indoor and outdoor settings without much effort on your part. Summertime is almost here, so you surely do not want to miss the chance to satisfy your curiosity about these friendly companions!
Are you already growing poppies? Share your experience in the comments below!