California Poppies Care Guide

California Poppies Care Guide

Part of the Papaveraceae family and native to California, Eschscholzia californica are beloved by humans and pollinators alike. Commonly called California Poppies, they appear in various shades of gold across the hills of Napa Valley in all summer long. 

Eschscholzia californica is perfect for ground cover or in cottage garden-style settings, requiring virtually no care at all and happily blooming in places where little else thrives.

The Basics

  • Height at maturity: 30-45 cm
  • Spread at maturity: 12-14 cm
  • Light needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-11
  • Type of soil: Well-draining soil, keep moist but not wet
  • Soil pH: Any
  • Where to plant: Cottage/Informal Garden, Prairie Planting, Wildlife Gardens, Flower Borders and Beds, Container Gardening
  • Features: Drought-tolerant wildflowers, heat resistant 
  • Pruning: Not necessary
  • Pests: No major pests or diseases.
  • Best time to sow seeds: Spring or fall, but can be sown year-round
  • Flowering period: Summer until the first frost
  • Common names: California poppy
  • Plant type: Annual (but considered a perennial in hot areas)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Warning: All parts of this plant including the seeds are poisonous to humans and animals.

Starting your Seeds

Direct sow in early spring or fall; or in late winter in areas with mild winters (zones 8-10).

It is best to sow seeds directly as poppies have a long taproot and do not tolerate root disturbance. Sow 3 mm deep and 30 cm apart, or simply sprinkle seeds across the surface of soil amended with sand and compost in late fall or in early spring after the threat of frost has passed.

Poppies do well in an open sunny open site as the blooms do not open in shade. Fertilizer is rarely needed, unless the soil is particularly poor.

Germination takes 14-21 days at 20°C. They do not perform as well in areas where temperatures get below -4°C.

Growing On

Once your poppy plants are established, they are very drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering. They will likely not need any water except during particularly dry spells, however, regular watering may encourage more blossoms.

It takes about 65-75 days to maturity. If growing as cut flowers, you can harvest the blooms as buds, but they do not last very long as cut flowers.

Cut them back to bloom again. Deadhead if you do not want it to self-seed.