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Annual Biennial

Papaver somniferum

opium poppy

a smooth, glaucous annual, to 120cm, with heart-shaped leaves, the upper ones clasping the stem and with toothed, wavy margins. The wide-open flowers have large petals surrounding a green, urn-shaped capsule with a flat cap, and many dark purple or yellow stamens. The capsule enlarges after flowering and makes a decorative cut flower fresh or dried. Colour is variable, often white or mauve, but garden selections may be in many shades of red, pink, purple and near black. Double and laciniate forms are widely available

Other common names
balewort
carnation poppy
see morefairy's charms
Joan silver pin
John's silver pin
marble flower
maw seed
opium
peony poppy
white poppy
dream plant [2]
flower of Venus [2]
moonflower [3]
sweet slumber [2]
Synonyms
Papaver hortense
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Size
Ultimate height
1–1.5 metres
Time to ultimate height
1 year
Ultimate spread
0.1–0.5 metres
Growing conditions
Chalk
Loam
Sand
Moisture
Moist but well–drained, Well–drained
pH
Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Colour & scent
StemFlowerFoliageFruit
Spring Blue Green
Summer Purple Pink Red White Blue Green
Autumn Blue Green
Winter
Position
  • Full sun
  • Partial shade
Aspect

South–facing or East–facing or West–facing

Exposure
Exposed or Sheltered
Drought resistance
Yes
Hardiness
H5
Botanical details
Family
Papaveraceae
Native to the UK
Yes
Foliage
Deciduous
Habit
Columnar upright
Potentially harmful
Harmful if eaten. Wear gloves and other protective equipment when handling
Genus

Papaver can be annuals, biennials or herbaceous perennials with simple or pinnately divided leaves and short-lived, saucer-shaped, 4-petalled flowers which may be solitary or in racemes

Name status

Correct

How to grow

Cultivation

Easy to grow in any well-drained or moist but well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Short-lived flowers have distinctive ""pepper-pot"" seed pods

Propagation

Propagate by seed in situ during spring

Suggested planting locations and garden types
  • Gravel garden
  • Prairie planting
  • Wildflower meadow
  • Cottage and informal garden
  • Flower borders and beds
Pruning

No pruning required but deadhead if seed is not required

Pests

Generally trouble free but may be attacked by aphids

Diseases

May be affected by downy mildew in wet conditions and fungal wilts

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