How to plant papavers (oriental poppies)

Native to Caucasia, northern Iran and western Turkey, papavers or oriental poppies are glamorous hardy perennials bearing large, voluptuous, papery flowers and bristly leaves on stiff, hairy stems. Flowering in early summer, these emblematic wildflowers loved by pollinating insects will provide years of colour to the border and will bring a quiet elegance to the cottage or contemporary garden. Try mixing with campanulas, dahlias, geraniums, nepetas or other plants that will fill the gap left by their faded foliage.

Plant in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Dead-head as soon as the flowers fade to prevent self-seeding. After flowering, cut back hard to encourage a second flush of flowers in late summer. In frost prone areas, protect with mulch.

Papavers are supplied as bare-roots in 9 cm pots. Always unpack and plant on arrival.

Potential problems, pests and diseases:

Papavers are resistant to rabbits, deers, snails and slugs. However they can be affected by:

  • Aphids: these sap-eating insects can weaken plants and spread viruses. Whenever possible, pick off by hand using gloves.

  • Downy mildews: these fungal diseases usually caused by planting in the shade or by poor air circulation can be seen in the form of yellow marks on the upper side of leaves and white, powdery coating on the underside. Cut off any infected leaves before disinfecting your scissors.

  • Fungal wilts: these fungal diseases can cause the plant to wilt and potentially die. Leaves usually turn yellow and wilt whilst hosts may stunt. Remove and destroy any infected plant.
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