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When to Plant Poppy Seeds: Spring or Fall?

With papery petals and vibrant hues, poppy seeds are a charming wildflower to add to your garden. Depending on where you live, the best time of year to plant poppy seeds may vary! Here’s exactly when to plant poppy seeds for a lively display of flowers.

poppy seed head

Poppy Seeds: When to Plant

Poppy seeds are one of many seeds that need to be exposed to cold temperatures to germinate. You can plant in either fall or early spring to ensure that they go through this cold phase before the season warms up.

Most types of poppies will self-sow, meaning they will spread their seeds on their own, and you will have them again next year in your garden. Poppies will go to seed in the fall, so you can mimic this by planting seeds in the fall.

However, if you missed your window in the fall or live in a very cold climate, early spring is also an acceptable time to sow poppy seeds. You can even spread them on top of the snow in your garden beds!

cut open poppy seed head
Each poppy can have hundreds of poppy seeds within.

When to Plant Annual Poppy Seeds

Annual poppies like Papaver rhoeas (Flanders poppy) and Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) can be started in early spring in zones 3-7. Like the perennials, they do best when there is still a chance of frost in the air.

However, if you live in zones 8-10, you will want to plant them in the fall instead. This ensures they get the necessary cold they need to germinate.

If you want to get those big, large heads, such as on the opium poppy, you’ll want to sow the seeds in fall to early winter.

purple opium poppy
Papaver somniferum

When to Plant Poppies Seeds Indoors

I highly advise against starting poppies indoors. Poppies prefer direct sowing and will resist being transplanted outside if you start them indoors. This is because they have a tap root and do not like their roots to be disturbed.

If you do start the seeds indoors, do so 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Aim to keep the soil temperature at 12°C.

When to Plant California Poppy Seeds

In California, the poppies will self-seed in the fall. You can do the same in your garden if you live in a similar, mild climate.

In colder climates, sow the seeds of California poppies in early spring.

Poppy Planting Tips

You can check out my full poppy guide for more growing tips, but here are some bonus tips for planting your poppy seeds.

  • Sow the poppies on the surface of the soil. This is because they need lots of sunlight to germinate. Lightly step on the soil to ensure they don’t blow away.
  • If you have a heavily mulched area, you may need to pull some of the mulch aside before spreading the seeds.
  • Mix the poppy seeds with sand to help you see where you’re spreading them.
  • Poppies may need thinning when growing. Focus just on the clumps.
California poppy
Plant these perennials once and enjoy them year after year!

Frequently Asked Questions About Poppy Seeds

When is the best time to plant poppy seeds?

You can plant your poppy seeds in early spring or fall. Some people will even sow the seeds in the winter. Poppy seeds need to go through a phase of cold to germinate. Milder climates will get away with sowing in the fall, while colder climates may want to do early spring instead.

I would recommend doing some experimenting! If unsure, you can always spread some in fall and spring.

What is the best month to plant poppy seeds?

You can start to sow seeds as early as late January and February. You can plant as late as in April or May, but they may not get the cold they need, and you’ll get fewer poppies your first season.

For the fall, plant in September and October.

dried seed heads displayed in jars
Dried poppies make for beautiful decor

More Posts About Planting Poppies

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