Growing & Harvesting Poppies
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Poppies germinate best at cool temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees. They are frost tolerant and may be planted in the spring or fall. If the seeds are to be germinated anywhere else from where they will be grown we recommend using biodegradable "coir" pots. Coir pots, which are made from coconut husks are an environmentally friendly alternative to peat based pots. Poppy plants are easy to grow but do not like to be transplanted.
Water the biodegradable pots from the bottom instead of from above. Place the biodegradable pots in the sink or in a couple of inches of water until moisture appears on top of the soil.
Press the poppy seeds into the soil but do not cover and do not bury the seeds. Poppy seeds need some light to germinate. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Lightly mist the soil daily with any water spray bottle and cover the pots with plastic to increase the humidity. As long as the soil temperature is kept around 60 degrees the seeds will usually germinate in 3-20 days. Remove the plastic dome as soon as the seeds germinate. The biodegradable pots can then be transplanted directly into its desired location without disturbing any of the plants' roots.
As we grow closer to the summer months, temperatures are beginning to rise which is why germinating poppy flower seeds can become a little more challenging. We recommend that you try starting 'some' of your poppy flower seeds indoors within biodegradable pots or trays on a 12/12 photoperiod under a fluorescent light. (Place the fluorescent light 6-12 inches above the tray of seedlings)
In order to keep the top layer of soil from drying out you may place the biodegradable pots in the sink or in a couple inches of water until moisture appears on top of the soil. You may also use any water spray bottle. Once the seedlings reach 2-4 inches in height indoors, you may then transplant or rather 'place' the biodegradable pots directly into their permanent location. (Without disturbing any of the roots) You may also choose to gradually introduce the young seedlings into the outdoor environment over the course of 1 week. (Slowly increasing the amount of sun exposure they receive each day)
Please remember the young seedlings (cannot tolerate much of a drought or dry spell due to the lack of a well-established root system and) will most likely require a more frequent watering/feeding cycle under the Sun. As soon as the seedlings have successfully adapted themselves to their outdoor location you may begin thinning them. Select the healthiest and strongest seedlings per pot or every 8-12 inches apart.
Growing The vegetative growth or "lettuce stage" of the poppy plant lasts for the first 4-8 weeks. Poppies grown in a cooler climate is much better than a hot climate. A neutral ph balance of 7 is most effective for growing poppies. A drop in temperature of about 20 degrees or more at night is ideal. The night time drop in temperature is most important during the first eight weeks of the poppy plants life.
Poppy plants will bloom from the month of march to august and they prefer sunny spots (with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day) with rich well-draining soil. If you plan to grow in containers please be sure to use a pottting mix and not garden or topsoil. Garden and Topsoil can become heavy and sluggish when wet (Which can lead to root rot of your plants). Choose containers with drainage holes so that the soil will not become waterlogged.
As the plant establishes its root system, the growing ideal temperatures remain the same as the germination temperatures. Supply the plants with 8 to 14 hours of sunlight per day (12 hours per day is ideal). During the first two weeks some of the young seedlings may flop over and appear to be dying. This is a common and normal growth response seen in many different species of poppies. You may if you like offer support or stake the young seedlings to help keep them growing straight for the first weeks.
For the individuals who are gardening indoors or in a greenhouse you may use an oscillating fan to help strengthen the seedlings. Be sure to place the oscillating fan on a low setting and at least a few feet away from the young seedlings. In addition, enriching the gardening area with CO2 (carbon dioxide) can help strengthen the poppies, accelerate the growth rate as well as encourage them to produce a higher number of flowering pods. (Note: CO2 should only be released during the light cycle)
Begin thinning the seedlings when they are 2 to 4 inches tall. Select the healthiest and strongest seedlings and cut down the surrounding seedlings to allow 8 to 12 inches between each plant or one seedling per container. (Note: pulling or uprooting the seedlings may disturb and harm the neighboring plant and its roots) If the plants are crowded there will be a decreased number and size of flower heads harvested.
A general purpose nutrient feeding will work fine for poppy plants. However, poppies can thrive on water alone. Providing adequate space for the plants will increase air circulation as well as help prevent any attacks from pests such as aphids. Poppies are rarely troubled by pests. If necessary, simply wash the pests off with a light to medium pressure spray or you may eliminate pests just by hand. In extreme circumstances apply an insecticidal soap to the branches and to both the upper and undersides of the leaves.
As the poppy plant matures and enters the flowering period they will require longer days of 15 to 18 hours. Indoors, poppies may be introduced to the flowering stage once they have spent approximately 6 weeks in the vegetative stage. During the flowering stage, day time temperatures of 68-75 degrees and cool nights of 35-55 degrees are best. Most poppies will flower between 55 and 60 days. Blooms last for two days up to two full weeks. Deadhead spent blooms to promote more flowers.
Once the poppy flowers (petals) have fallen off, the flowering heads will begin to swell & become a blue-gray color. The flowering heads will be mature & ready to harvest two weeks after the flowers or petals have fallen. In order to use the heads as an addition to your dried floral arrangements you will need to cut the flower heads including the stems from the plant. You may simply tie or use a rubber band to group the flower heads & stems together. However, if you do choose to dry them together be sure that they do not make contact or brush up with one another.
Suspend the flower heads and stems upside down within a well-ventilated space. It is not imperative that you dry them in a cool, dark location as these conditions will only increase your chances of mold growth. A longer drying period will also increase your chances of mold growth. Do not be afraid to provide your drying location with moderate light and warmer temperatures as these conditions will decrease your chances of mold growth. In additon, you may consider investing in a dehumidifier to help lower your risks of any mold growth.
For creating colorful and stunning flower/petal arrangements, it is best to cut compact buds/flowers in the early morning and sear the cut end of the stem with a match or a flame before placing it in cold water.
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