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Home & garden.

Updated: 9 May 2022

How to grow poppies and best varieties

Create a wonderful drift of colour in your garden with easy-to-grow poppies. Discover our best poppy varieties and tips for how to grow them
Ceri Thomas
Ladybird poppies in a border

Full of colour and busy with bees, annual poppies can be a vibrant addition to your border. They’re simple to grow and provide a succession of blooms that produce a beautiful display. Breeding has meant that you don’t have to settle for blocks of colour as some poppies are now delicately speckled or picotee. Although each bloom may be fleeting, a succession of them make these plants well worth growing. 

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties to see which would give us the best display.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Hardy annual

POSITION Full sun

SOIL Well-drained

How to grow poppies: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune


SowSow

JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember


Sow


Best poppy varieties

Which? members can log in to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join now to get instant access.

Full testing results for poppies

Field poppies

Variety nameOverall ratingFlowering durationFlower impactGerminationPests & diseaseInsect attractionSeedhead attractiveness

Opium poppies

Variety nameOverall ratingFlowering durationFlower impactGerminationPests & diseaseInsect attractionSeedhead attractiveness

USING THE TABLE OVERALL RATING The more stars the better. Rating ignores price and is based on: flowering duration 35%, flower impact 25%; germination 10%; pests and diseases 10%; insect attraction 10%; seedhead attractiveness 10%.

How we test poppies

In spring, we planted 12 single varieties of opium poppies, and 11 varieties and mixes of field poppies, into a prepared bed at the Which? Gardening magazine trial site at Capel Manor, north London. As poppies look best in drifts, we planted in a series of circles with gaps between each variety or mix. 

Once the seedlings appeared, we thinned them out as necessary. We kept the young plants well watered through the summer and looked at whether they came true to the description, compared how long they flowered for and how attractive they were.

Caring for your plants

Sowing direct in the ground

Direct sow in autumn or in spring. Prepare a weed-free, moist seed bed with loose soil, and sprinkle the seeds over to create a drift of plants. Keep the bed moist but not wet. Thin the seedlings to around 20cm between each plant.

Sowing in module trays

Although poppies don’t particularly enjoy being disturbed, you can grow them in module trays and transplant them. Sow them thinly in module trays in the autumn or spring and transplant them when they have four true leaves. Keep them well watered until they're established. 

Watering

Keep watered in exceptionally dry spells. 

Deadheading

If you don’t want poppies to spread, remove the seedheads before they ripen and open.

Common growing problems

Aphids

Aphids can be a problem, so either squash any you find or treat with an insecticide such as Best Buy Westland Resolva Bug Killer if they look like they’re getting out of hand.

Read more about aphids