Author Topic: Cultivation of Papaver somniferum  (Read 37056 times)

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Cultivation of Papaver somniferum
« on: March 02, 2011, 10:30:27 PM »
Papaver somniferum a.k.a. breadseed poppy and opium poppy is a widely cultivated plant in flower gardens as an ornamental and for its seeds which are edible among other things. It is widely naturalized across the globe, wiling and able to grow in a wide variety of environments, and in poor soils.
One of the biggest mistakes the novice poppy grower will make is over seeding the flower bed. Seeding a bed with the proper amount of seeds will take some practice, but one way to help is to mix the seeds 50/50 or more with sand and throw that mixture down. This will help to spread out the seeds more, and save time later on when you won't have to thin your patch out. The seeds come in a variety of colors and maintain viability for many many years, store in a cool dry place. They will range in color from near white/gray to almost black or brown.

Preparing the bed:
While poppies can be grown in pots, they do best when sown directly on the ground and allowed to grow in the ground. They require disturbed soils, so the bed must be turned or tilled. The poppy can grow in poor soils, but addition of fertilizers will help greatly (sustane 4-6-4 is a favorite), especially if the bed is grown year after year. They do best in loamy soils but will also do ok in sandy and clay soils will the right amount of preparation of the bed (turn it as best as you can, and fertilize it as best as you can). The poppy can grow a large tap root, over 1ft deep on large mature plants. Prepare the soil as soon as it is workable

Germinating seeds:

Sow the seeds directly on the soil surface. The seeds will germinate in temps from 35-60F, the optimal range being 40-60F as the seedlings have a tendency to die out when its too hot (80F+), even though they will germinate. Sow as soon as the ground is workable and the snow is almost melted (if you live where it snows). The seeds will require at least 3 days of moisture to germinate sucessfully. In Minnesota I sow poppies in mid-April, as the ground thaws and snow melts, and I try to get lucky and sow seeds before some April showers. 1 day of rain and 2 additional days of cloud cover is all you need to get them germinated. If you don't get lucky with the weather, simply water your bed 1-2x a day to help the seeds to germinate

General Cultivation:
The seeds will begin to grow and the plants will form rosettes and will grow vegetatively under the short days for about a month and a half. After the rosette matures, they will begin to bolt and produce the flower bud and subsequent flower and seed pod. They bloom during the long days (June-August). Thinning out of the seedlings must occur during the first month of growth, as if the plants grow too dense and start to crowd each other they will become stunted very easily. The plants have a tendency to tip over occasionally though (the larger vars like giganteum and Tasmanian do at least) and those vars like to grow in clumps of 2-3 plants right next to each other as they use each other for support. More bushy varieties like Lauren's Grape do better when each plant is given more room, as they can produce up to 20 flowers/pods (although on the small side, they bloom for a long time as they keep producing flowers). Optimum densities vary from 1-4plants per sq ft for best growth to 4-8. They require full sun, but will tolerate part shade. The mature plants like the heat and are drought tolerant usually, but will also be fine if watered regularly but watch for rot on the rosettes, but once the flowers bolt the plants should be ok even if they have had some rot damage.
The flowers will last for 1-3 days. Bees are the most active pollinator, along with flies (esp the mimic flies). the stamens are found attached to the base of the receptacle above the petals, and the stigma is located on the top of the immature seed pod, and has a fuzzy texture when the flower opens and is receptive of pollen. The plants are self fertile.

Transplanting poppies

One of the most difficult aspects to the cultivation of the poppies is attempting to transplant the seedlings. While it is not impossible, far from it, it is not very easy and requires some skill and plenty of luck. to transplant them successfully, the root ball must not be disturbed at all. If you are transplanting from seeds started in pots to the ground, the root ball cannot fall apart at all, and the roots cannot be damaged at all. The soil must come out of the pot perfectly and be planted quickly and gently. If you are transplanting seedlings that have germinated in the ground to another spot in the ground, it is easier, but still not easy. The soil should be moist but not wet, as this will help it maintain its cohesiveness and then the dirt chunks you dig up wont fall apart on you. find a clump you want to transplant and the spot you want to move them too. Dig out the hole they are to be transplanted in, and then carefully dig up all the dirt around the germinating seedlings and the entire root. The clump of dirt must remain in one piece or at least a few of the seedlings must not have their roots disturbed. Then plant it in its new home.
Transplanting must also occur on a cloudy, cool day. it helps greatly to use a high percentage shade cloth if the weather doesnt cooperate, as the sun will fry freshly transplanted seedlings easily. it is also a good idea to very very gently water the transplanted seedlings with the mister nozzle from the hose or a very light shower, but moisten the soil around the plants to water them in. Expect high mortality rates at first, but the main things to keep in mind are the environment (cloudy, cool, moist) and dont disturb the root at all, any seedlings that are disturbed at the root will have a 99% chance of dying.

Too many seeds:
« Last Edit: March 23, 2011, 07:57:13 AM by Planter »
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