People often ask me how I manage my California poppies. This is what I do to extend the bloom period and collect seeds for next year.
Poppies emerge in early spring with blue-green, feathery, segmented leaves. As the season progresses, the flower and leaf stems elongate and are often covered with powdery mildew. In gardens that receive supplemental water, or during rainy years (like this one!), the plants may experience more and earlier mildew. Although this does not look great, it usually doesn’t effect the bloom much.
The flowers go to seed next, forming long capsules. The capsules change from green to tan as the seed matures. Once the capsule dries, it will split open popping out (dehiscing) its seeds.
I often harvest the pods before they are fully dry and store them in a paper bag in dry place. On a hot afternoon, I can hear the pods popping open in the bag. If left on the plant, the seeds are propelled about 6 to 12 (or more?) inches from the plant.
The seeds should be dark brown before you remove the pods from the plants.
Extending the bloom
Next I cut the plants back nearly to the ground as shown below. Although often considered annuals, poppies can sprout and bloom at least twice in a season. The resprouted plants and flowers are smaller, but can brighten a garden into late fall.
The dazzling California poppy
In 1903 the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) was officially designated the California state flower. And with good reason! This delightful and showy plant paints patches of hillsides bright orange throughout much of the state. With the abundant rains this year, the poppy fields were a special treat.
Poppies are also a must for new gardens, putting on a beautiful display before other plantings have a chance to spread their branches and fill their space. In fact, you can, and should, create your own superbloom in your native plant habitat garden!
See the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plant Guide for more information on California poppies.