Last updated on September 13th, 2021
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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 in pots and containers although we do prefer to grow poppies in the ground as a first resort.
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 plan to grow in containers on a porch or balcony.
Choosing the right variety
Perennial oriental poppies
If you are going to grow poppies in pots or containers you need to start by having the right varieties. Oriental poppies have large flowers and they appear between the end of spring and the beginning of Summer. The large Oriental poppies are typically orange or red in colour but you can get some varieties that flower white and even purple.
There are some softer varieties that are pink or white and are perennials. The Oriental poppy is one of the most popular poppies for containers and is what we would recommend first. Oriental poppies such as 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 summer so it works very well for UK Gardens. It is lightly perfumed with flowers that appear between the middle of spring to 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 30-60cm which makes it ideal for smaller locations. You can even get some even more rockery varieties such as Garden Gnome.
Choosing the right pot
When you are growing poppies in containers it does best in a medium-size pot no matter the type you choose. Because poppies do not appreciate being waterlogged, 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 which makes it easier to move around your garden if you’re chasing sunlight, but you can always drill extra holes in the bottom to help with that 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 that you might choose brings with it its own set of pros and cons. So consider where you’re going to move it, whether it has a permanent place in your garden or will be moved around throughout the season, and so on.
Planting the poppies in containers
Growing from seed (usually anuals)
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 it 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 puppies to grow permanently. Once you disperse the seeds, lightly 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 cms apart once they germinate.
Planting container-grown poppies into a larger container (usually 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 deep and only to the original level there were in there previous pot. 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 the final resting place for your container is somewhere that gets at least six or seven hours of sun 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 sun requirement in the UK.
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 come packed. It’s recommended that you have slightly acidic to neutral soil PH content.
When the poppies are in bloom it’s important to water on a regular basis. Once they are done flowering let the soil dry out in between waterings and only water once the top few centimetres are completely dry. Over-watering can lead to waterlogging and you certainly don’t want that.
Poppies don’t need a lot of fertilizer. They can tolerate different types of soil but if you are growing in pots you’ll have to add some fertilizer at the beginning of the planting season, usually in the spring, and then a slow-release fertilizer throughout the growing season so that you can optimize the flowers you get. If you are already growing poppies in containers and you haven’t added a slow-release fertilizer to the soil, you can give them a balanced, liquid fertilizer twice a week once they start growing in the springtime. As soon as the growing is over, and the flowers are gone, stop giving them fertilizer.
Deadheading is important if you want to encourage more blooms throughout the growing season.
Pests and Problems
Iron and magnesium deficiencies causes 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.