You can grow them but wait until April to start poppies from
My neighbor gave me two poppy stems after they dried and
I saved them to try and start new plants from the seeds. They are
red and orange poppies. I saved the seeds in plastic bags. How do I
go about starting them? - R. -
You can sow those seeds in late April then transplant the
seedlings outdoors in late May. Yours may be prime to sow then, as
seeds of many poppy (Papaver) species are most likely to
sprout if first stored dry for about six months after ripening.
There are a few, less common poppy species that sprout best if
planted fresh. If your poppy happens to be one of those, you can't
do anything to counteract it. If you have that kind you may see a
lower germination rate than if you'd sown them in fall -- perhaps
ten to twenty percent of the seed will sprout rather than seventy
percent. This isn't usually a great loss since most of us want just
a few plants, whereas one poppy seed pod may contain hundreds of
Since poppy seed is tiny, sow it in a moistened potting mix made
especially for starting seeds, such as Ultra Premium Seed
Starter. Such mixes have been milled very fine so there are
no big gaps where small seed can fall. Fallen seedlings may exhaust
their reserves growing back up to the light, or die before reaching
Keep the sown container at 70 degrees. Don't let the surface dry
out -- mist it if it begins to dry, or tent the container with
clear plastic to maintain the humidity. Light isn't necessary for
poppy germination but check daily and move the container into full
light as soon as any seeds sprout. Germination usually happens
within two weeks.
It's always tempting to start seed early but usually a bad move.
Start seeds just four to six weeks before the weather will allow
you to move the young plants outside to their permanent locations.
Seedlings kept too long under grow lights are apt to become
spindly, as only their upper leaves get adequate light.
Poppies present a special reason to delay sowing. They develop a
tap root, which resents disturbance more as the plant ages. After
the tap root reaches the bottom of the container, bends and pokes
out a drain hole, it's a poorer candidate for a move. So you're
more likely to succeed in transplanting a younger than an older
seedling to an outdoor bed.
Do we have hops vines locally?
You say you admired Humulus lupulus in England,
G.D. and wonder if it can be purchased hereabouts. You bet!
Southeastern Michigan garden centers have a stellar selection of
perennials, vines, shrubs and trees. We don't say this just to be
pro-Michigan but because we have compared our garden centers to
other areas as we travel and work. There have been times in our
work as a professional gardeners when we have purchased plants here
and taken them with us to clients in Chicago, Boston and New York,
because Michigan's growers offered better variety, quality and
Thanks to many of you condo owners for the
...after my last week's advice to G.P. about the practicalities
of pruning a blue spruce. You're all right, that landscape plants
in condominiums are subject to rules which condo residents must
respect. That's beyond the scope of our writing, however. We'll
keep explaining the "how to" of horticulture and trust our readers
to handle the legalities.
That said, here's our horticultural advice about those condo
association rules. Seek multiple opinions on the plant choice
recommendations included in your rules. Too often we see that very
large, fast growing trees such as Austrian pine are recommended
there for planting as close as ten feet from foundations. That's a
recipe for trouble!
Green thumbs up
to tree pruning crews who make the effort to communicate
effectively with people about their trees. The best can listen to
the tree owner's wishes, weigh those against long-term effects of
various pruning procedures, come up with a compromise and then
explain that in layman's terms. Thumbs up, too, to homeowners who
know the talking takes as much skill as the pruning, and appreciate
it enough to take extra steps to develop such a parlay.
Green thumbs down
to inattention to roadside plantings. You've probably washed
salt scum off your car several times this winter but never noticed
that same white film on trees and shrubs near the street. Drag out
a hose as soon as there's a thaw. Rinse those plants before
budbreak or the salt will kill soft new growth and even small
twigs. If you're in a condo, don't trust to maintenance crews to do
this for your communal plantings -- move to have it done.
Originally published 2/22/03