In 4th grade, students study California history and learn about its state flower, the California Poppy. As a kid I picked a bouquet and put it in a vase. I was intrigued that the flowers closed at night and opened in the morning. I happened to mention it at school and some mean boy told me I was going to get arrested because it was against the law to pick poppies. I remember being SO scared that the cops were going to come to my house and get me, LOL. (Incidentally, it’s not against the law to pick the poppies if you plant them in your yard.)
The California Poppy was voted our state flower in 1890, beating out two other flowers, including THE Anne of Green Gardens flower, the Matilija poppy. Cue the crickets. When I read this just last week, I was seriously astounded. I mean, I like our state flower and all…but it beat the Matilija poppy? Really?? The matilija poppy is absolutely stunning, breathtaking. But it didn’t even get one vote. HOW is this possible?!?
Moving on. (ahem). If you want to grow California poppies, you need to live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a through 10b. Plant poppies in fall The best time to plant poppy seeds is in fall. Scatter the seeds where you want them, and then wait. Don’t bother covering them up or watering. When the winter rains begin, the poppies will germinate. In winter, tiny bluish green plants will appear. By early to mid spring, the poppies will bloom. Let the flowers make seed, so more poppy seeds can be planted naturally for next year. The CA poppy is a cool season annual, so as soon as the weather heats up, it will die. In other areas of the U.S., CA poppies can be grown in zones 6a through 10b.
To grow Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri), you’ll first need to find a plant source. Contact your local California Native Plant Society Chapter for help. Most chapters have at least 2 sales per year, and hopefully they can find this plant for you. If you don’t live in CA, check out Dave’s Garden, where gardeners can trade plants, and vendors that sell this poppy are listed.
Matilija poppies grow in USDA zones 7a to 11. They reach between 4-6 feet tall and and several feet wide, so make sure you have enough space. Once established, this poppy doesn’t need much water. It’s considered invasive, as it tends to spread quickly. But how could that be a bad thing?? (tee hee). Please tell me if you plant it in your yard. Send photos! Post photos! I can never get enough.
I will only mention in passing that someone in history gave this stately, (okay, maybe the wrong word), glorious poppy the name “Fried Egg Flower.” I find that name highly offensive. If I could name it, I’d choose “Crepe Chiffon Flower” or something more dreamy and exotic. 😉