Last updated on May 5th, 2022
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Even if you don’t have the space to accommodate a very large flower bed, you can still successfully grow Poppies using pots and containers, although we do prefer to grow Poppies in the ground as our first choice.
Poppies will provide you with a colourful display of flowers that might look delicate, but rest assured the plant itself is not. Growing Poppies in pots and containers are the perfect solution for anyone that has a small garden, limited access to the sun and therefore needs to be able to move the pot back and forth, or if they plan to grow them in containers on a porch or balcony.
Choosing the right variety
Perennial orientale Poppies
If you are going to grow Poppies in pots or containers you need to start by having the right varieties. Orientale Poppies have large flowers and they appear between the end of spring and the beginning of summer. The large orientale Poppies are typically orange or red in colour, however, you can get some varieties that produce flowers that are white and even purple in colour.
There are some softer varieties that are pink or white and are perennials. The orientale Poppy is one of the most popular Poppies for growing in containers and is the variety we would always recommend first. Orientale Poppies, such as the Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’ reach a mature height of around 70-80cm tall.
The Iceland Poppy is another option for pots and containers. This is grown typically as an annual or a biennial from seed. It doesn’t enjoy hot summers so it works very well for growing in UK gardens. It is lightly perfumed with flowers that appear between the middle of spring and the middle of summer in an array of colours featuring white, pink, yellow, red, or orange.
This cultivar fades more slowly than others, which is what makes it so popular for sustainable flowers. It reaches an ultimate height between 30 and 60cm, making it ideal for smaller locations. You can even get some even more rockery varieties, for example, the ‘Garden Gnome’.
Choosing the right pot
When you are growing Poppies in containers they do best in a medium-size pot no matter the variety you choose. This is because Poppies do not appreciate being waterlogged, so you need to make sure that whatever pot you choose has enough drainage holes at the bottom.
If you pick a medium-sized plastic container it will not only weigh less, making it easier to move around your garden if you’re chasing sunlight, you can always drill extra holes in the bottom to help with the drainage.
Other than this, you don’t have to drastically worry about the type of pot you use in terms of material. Realistically, they grow best in plastic or ceramic containers and each material you might choose brings with it its own set of pros and cons. So consider where you’re going to place it, whether it has a permanent spot in your garden or whether it will be moved around throughout the season, and so on.
Planting Poppies in containers
Growing them from seed (usually annuals)
When you are ready to plant your Poppies, you can grow them very easily from seed. Make sure that you put the pot in a position that gives them access to bright light so that the seeds can germinate properly. Most Poppies do not appreciate being transplanted so it’s best that you plant the seeds in the pot where you want the Poppies to grow permanently.
Once you disperse the seeds, tamp them down lightly on the compost and cover them with a very thin layer, ideally, riddle or use an empty pot with small holes in to sieve a thin layer of compost over the seeds. This will keep them in place but still give them access to light for germination. The soil should be kept consistently moist until germination, which can take up to 25 days.
Poppies have a very delicate root system when they are new so handle them gently and be sure to water the seedlings gently. If you sprinkle a handful of seeds in a single container for germination, which is recommended, you will have to thin out the seedlings to make sure that they are a few centimetres apart once they germinate.
Planting container-grown Poppies into a larger container (usually the perennial varieties)
If you have purchased Poppies grown in containers, you can plant these into a larger pot. Just be careful not to plant them to deeply and only to the original level there were in their supplied pots. A good quality multi-purpose or potting compost will be fine.
Growing Poppies in containers
Poppies love sunlight so make sure that wherever you choose for their permanent position it is somewhere that gets at least six or seven hours of sunlight every day. This is why it’s important to consider the material and how heavy the material is for the pot you select because you might have to move it around throughout the day in order to reach this level of requirement.
Poppies are able to thrive in a variety of soils
Aside from this, Poppies are able to thrive in a variety of soils unless you have a very clay soil that blocks drainage. It’s always best to use a rich loamy potting soil that’s not too loose but not to compact either. It’s recommended that you have a slightly acidic to neutral soil PH content.
When the Poppies are flowering it’s important to water them on a regular basis. Once they have finished flowering let the soil dry out in between waterings and only water once the top few centimetres are completely dry. Overwatering can lead to waterlogging and you certainly don’t want that.
Poppies don’t need a lot of fertiliser. They can tolerate different types of soil but if you are growing in pots you’ll have to add some fertiliser at the beginning of the planting season, usually in the spring, and then a slow-release fertiliser throughout the growing season so that you can optimise the flowers you get.
If you are already growing Poppies in containers and you haven’t added a slow-release fertiliser to the soil, you can give them a balanced, liquid fertiliser twice a week once they start growing in the spring. As soon as the growing season is over, and the flowers are gone, stop giving them fertiliser.
Deadheading is important if you want to encourage more blooms throughout the growing season.
Pests and Problems
Iron and magnesium deficiencies cause yellowing of the leaves
Note that Poppies are very prone to iron and magnesium deficiencies so you can always add a bit of epsom salt to the soil if you are seeing signs of these deficiencies. Yellowing of the leaves is usually a sign of both these deficiencies.
Powdery mildew or root rot
Aside from this, if you overwater, you might notice powdery mildew or root rot but aside from that, there aren’t many diseases you need to worry about with Poppies. Keep your eyes peeled for spider mites and aphids though, and be sure to eradicate them as soon as you see signs of them.