California (poppy) dreamin’

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is not only the official flower of our great state, it’s also one of the most easily recognized flowers anywhere in the world. Travel through Europe in the spring, and you’re likely to see California poppies blooming alongside European natives. Closer to home, California poppies line country roads and blanket freeway embankments.


California poppies, Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve
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But in our garden, the California poppy has been a rarely seen guest. Sure, we occasionally get a volunteer that arrives on the wind from somewhere else but we’ve never made a real effort ourselves. Until now.

Instead of buying a couple of flimsy seed packages at a nursery or garden center, I decided to go whole hog and order a larger amount. However, I didn’t quite know much to get. Apparently there are approximately 300,000 poppy seeds in a pound. I once gave a ¼ lb. bag of poppy seed as a gift to my in-laws (so about 75,000 seeds) but their property is several acres. Ours is a fifth of an acre and I only want poppies in the front yard where they can get full sun.

In the end, I ordered two packages of 3,600 seeds each: one package is a mix (orange, white and red) and one is ‘Red Chief’, one of my favorite cultivars.


The “real” California poppy


Cultivar ‘White Linen’


Cultivar ‘Red Chief’

When the seeds arrived, I was a bit surprised. I had expected 3,600 seeds per package to look like, well, more.


For a crazy second, I was thinking of a way to count them to make sure I hadn’t been cheated but then I had to laugh. California poppy seeds are tiny, and I’m sure I received the right amount. After all, I really only want about 100 flowering plants!


An hour ago it started to drizzle and I decided that it was the perfect time to sow my poppy seeds. I would have taken photos but there was nothing to show: After I scattered the seeds, they virtually disappeared into the dirt.

In the end, I only scattered about half of the seeds. My wife would like to sow some in the backyard, and I’ll offer the rest to our neighbors. Maybe our street will be the envy of town when it explodes in a cornucopia of poppies come spring.



  1. I love California poppies! I hope yours do well. I need to sow some in my sunny beds, but I'm not sure if now is the right time up here in the rainy cold PNW. I thought I'd wait till late winter.

    1. Down here in Northern California now is the best time. In fact, by the end of December you see lots of poppy seedlings already.

  2. I've been buying seed packets of Ca. poppies for a few years now, but this was the first year I actually got some plants out of them. I'm going to sprinkle the seed everywhere in my yard in late winter and see what happens. Can't wait to see your photos!

    1. According to the package, the germination rate is 81%. The actual survival rate is of course much lower. As I said, I'd be happy if I got 100 blooming plants :-).

  3. I can just imagine if you did try to attempt to count the seeds in each packet...

    It will be a sight to behold come summer next year when you get an explosion of colours once the poppies start blooming, looking forward to seeing the photos :)

    Last spring we scattered some seeds down at the bottom area where are new pond is and found that loads of them also germinated and flowered on pure chalk, now that's a definitely unfussy plant!

  4. California poppies are so bright and cheerful. I've seen it grown with magenta lychnis coronaria creating quite a vibrant effect. (You could see it from space.) Can't wait t see your spring follow-up pictures full of that gorgeous color!


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