Poppy

(Papaver spp.) Poppies all fall under the genus papaver, though there are several species within the genus and these can be both annual and perennial, so be sure to refer to the description to determine which kind you have. Perhaps no flower has mesmerized humans quite like the poppy. Since prehistoric times, they’ve been grown for food, for beauty, for medicine — and self-medication. Opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) produce addictive and powerful narcotics. In some countries, it’s illegal to cultivate them. In addition to the opium — or breadseed — poppy — there are about 70 other species, in hundreds of varieties, from the frilly perennial Papaver orientale to the feathery annual Papaver somniferum laciniatum. All poppy varieties are very similar to start from seed, and all require well-drained soil. Poppy seeds can be sown in the fall, allowing the cold-hardy seeds exposure to winter temperatures. Most gardeners choose to sow their poppy seeds in very early spring because this cold temperature helps to get the seeds to germinate faster. They need about 15 consecutive days of at least 55 degrees F in order to germinate. Surface sow seeds and cover with a very fine layer of soil as light aids germination. Spacing will vary depending on variety. Plants prefer full sun unless in the hottest climates, where they like some midday shade. Keep well watered in very hot, dry climates. Elsewhere they can tolerate dry and poor soil, as they are not very thirsty, and there's no need to fertilize.

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