Poppy seeds

(Question)

I live in northern Ontario and have some lovely poppies. I plan on moving to southern Ontaro next spring, and would like to takes some seeds with me. It is time to collect them…but then, what do I do. I heard they need to be planted in the fall. Should I freeze them?

(Answer)

I love poppies – they are so delicate looking, like floating paper, yet hardy. And the colours! So wonderful. You did not specify if you have annual or perennial poppies, so I will answer for both. There are hundreds of varieties of annual, biennial and perennial poppies in the Papaveraceae family.

Annual – these are easy to grow, and because the seeds are so small, a trick for planting is to mix them with sand, for a better distribution. Since you say you are moving to southern Ontario, the timing for sowing is late winter, February or March. Mark the spot! The feathery foliage sprouting from the ground in spring are poppies: don’t weed them out. If you continually sow through the spring, you can get a much longer period of bloom. If you get to southern Ontario too late in the spring, don’t worry, they can be sown in September to October, for the following spring.

Perennial – these are the big, Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) that are hardy to zone 3 (and even zone 2, with mulch). These prefer a richer soil than the annuals, and really don’t like wet roots. You can sow them much like the annuals, but they should be thinned to about 30 to 60 cm apart, as they are big plants. They can also be started in pots, and transplanted when they reach about 10 cm high.