California Poppy

This native wildflower is famous for blanketing hillsides in California, but gardeners in many other regions can also enjoy its sunny blossoms.

California poppy grows as a mound of ferny, finely dissected, gray-green foliage, topped from early spring to mid summer with many slender, upright flower stems. The simple, cup-shaped flowers have satiny petals in shades of orange; there are also many cultivars available that expand the color range with reds, pinks, yellow and creamy white, and semi-double to double flower forms. Not surprisingly, California poppy is quite drought-tolerant. It’s an excellent choice for garden spots with dry, sandy soil, and it also thrives in nutrient-poor conditions.

Common name: California poppy

Botanical name: Eschscholzia californica

Plant type: Short-lived perennial or annual

Zones: Perennial in zones 8 to 10

Height: 10 to 15 inches

Family: Papaveraceae


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy, well-drained
  • Moisture: Low to moderate

Care

  • Mulch: None
  • Pruning: Cut back browned foliage in late summer if desired.
  • Fertilizer: None

Propagation

  • Seeds


Pests and diseases

  • Prone to foliar and root fungal diseases in very humid climates or overly wet soils.

Cultivars

  • ‘Mission Bells’ has double and semi-double flowers in a range of colors (white, orange, pink, yellow).
  • ‘Rose Chiffon Thai Silk’ has silky rose-pink double flowers.
  • ‘Buttercream’ has creamy palest yellow flowers.
  • ‘Tropical Sunset’ is a mix of single and semi-double flowers in shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and cream.

Garden notes

  • California poppy is a cool-season bloomer. In warm climates, sow seeds in fall for late winter to spring bloom; in colder regions, sow in spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
  • California poppy foliage often dies back in late summer, but new foliage returns in cooler autumn conditions.
  • It’s a prolific re-seeder—this can be a welcome quality in difficult sites, but if seedlings spread out of bounds they’re easy enough to pull or hoe.

All in the family

  • California poppy is a member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), a large group of mainly herbaceous plants that occur in temperate to sub-tropical regions.
  • Poppies are beloved for their silky petals in rich, vibrant colors. Garden favorites include corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Oriental poppy (P. orientale), and breadseed poppy (P. somniferum).

Where to buy