It’s still raining, but spring will be upon us before you know it. Now is a great time to sew seeds for spring/summer blooming annuals and perennials, and one of my favorites is California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). A late summer to fall deciduous perennial often grown as an annual, wild California Poppy ranges in color from yellow to bright orange, and horticulturists have developed cultivars in lovely shades of apricot, scarlet, and mahogany as well as creamy white. Cup-shaped Poppy flowers are silky in texture and blooms close at dusk, and stay closed on cloudy days. The species is native to much of the western United States, and is the state flower of California.
California poppy does not contain opium. However, the plant is used in herbal medicine to treat anxiety and promote sleep, alleviate tooth pain and muscle soreness, as well as other ailments. It is often used in the form of a tincture, and poppy tea is also a popular remedy.
California Poppy is wonderful in the garden, and is very easy to grow from seed. Sow the seeds shallowly (1/16-inch deep) in fall or early spring in mild, wet winter climates, including most of California west of the Sierra-Nevada. Seeds will germinate after the first fall rains or when the soil warms in the spring. In hot summer areas, the poppies will bloom in spring and early summer, and then the tops will die back and the plants become dormant during the heat of the summer. The poppy survives in the form of a fleshy taproot. In cooler coastal climates, California poppies may bloom most of the summer. Sandy, well-drained soil in full sun is best. No supplemental watering is required unless the growing season is exceptionally dry.