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Series: Pulchinella™, Spring Fever™ 


1. Soil and pH Needs

Poppies prefer a well-drained, humus-rich soil, and will bloom most heavily with full sun and regular watering. Heavy clay soils will retard root growth and starve the plant of oxygen, which can lead to root diseases. Soil should be amended with fully composted organic matter prior to planting and in the case of clay soils the addition of sand equal to at least 25% of the soil volume will aid in aeration. If adding organic matter, be aware that organic matter that has not been fully composted will tie up nitrogen and sulfur leading to nutrient deficiencies and poor growth.  Soil pH should be 5.8 - 6.4 for optimum growth; and should be tested prior to planting but after adding any amendments. This can be done quite easily with a portable pH tester. Mix one part soil with two parts distilled water, stir well and wait thirty minutes, then follow the instructions for using the pH meter. If pH is too low, the addition of lime is warranted. However, the rate will vary depending on how much you need to raise the pH and the type of soil you are dealing with. Clay soils or those with a lot of organic material have a high buffer capacity and require more lime than sandy soils, which have a low buffering capacity. A good soil testing lab can determine the lime requirement index (LRI) of your particular soil and can recommend types and rates of lime to use. The frequency of watering will depend on the type of soil, weather conditions and the amount of mulch. Mulch will not only reduce soil water evaporation but will also reduce splashing of water onto the lower leaves, moderate soil temperatures and reduce weed competition. 


 2. Fertility

Poppies are low to moderate feeders in the landscape, providing high fertility levels can cause them to appear lush and leafy and may delay flowering. An application of a balanced controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 with a 3-4 month formulation applied to the bed at planting will keep the plants well fed, depending on the amount of irrigation required and the average daily temperature. In areas of high irrigation and high temperatures it may be better to use a formulation with a slower release rate since higher temperatures will cause the fertilizer to be released quickly. Fertilizers that are not CRF are not recommended since the fertilizer will be leached out of the root zone long before the crop needs the nutrients. Poppies are also prone to both magnesium and iron deficiencies, both of which appear as interveinal chlorosis. To overcome these deficiencies, it may be necessary to drench with magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) or iron chelate.


3. Disease

There are a number of disease organisms known to attack poppies, including botrytis, downy mildew, and Pythium root rot. Early signs of these diseases can be detected with routine crop monitoring. To prevent the occurrence of these diseases, it is best to manage the environment by providing the proper plant spacing and adequate air movement, controlling the humidity, and providing proper irrigation practices. Botrytis can be identified as tan spots will develop on the leaf surface, it will also infect the flowers. Established plants will show rotting in the crown. Downy mildew causes pale spots on both sides of the leaves. The spots are covered by white or grayish mold. The stems are distorted and the blossoms fail to develop. As the stem bases are infected the plant collapses. Pythium root rot occurs when soil moisture levels are excessively high and fungal spores present in the soil, come in contact with the susceptible plant. The base of stems discolors and shrinks, and leaves further up the stem wilt and die. Leaves near the base are affected first. The roots will turn black and rot or break. The best preventative is to use drip irrigation. At the very least, direct water from the hose onto the soil or mulch, and not on the plants themselves.

Downy mildew on the foliage



Botrytis symptoms on foliage


4. Insects

Aphids, leafminers, spider mites and thrips commonly feed on poppies. Of these insects, aphids are the most problematic. Thrips cause damage to the plants by piercing or sucking out the cells on the leaf surface. This causes silvery-grey spots on the foliage. At high infection levels leaves may wither. Thrips are also a primary vector for virus transmission. Aphid nymphs and adults feed on the plant sap by piercing the tissue. This slows growth and can cause leaf curling. Aphids also excrete honeydew. The honeydew will lead to sooty mold formation which will reduce growth and production. Spider mites feed on the underside of the leaves. This feeding causes yellow spots to form which results in decreased plant growth and production. Leaf miner damage is caused by the larvae mining below the leaf surface after the female has laid her eggs. The leaf tissue dries and turns brown. Remember healthy, vigorous plants are less susceptible to pest damage than unhealthy plants.  


Aphid infestation


Foliar thrips damage


Yellowing of leaf caused by spider mite damage


Signs of leaf miner damage


5. Tips for Success 

  • Poppies bloom profusely under cool growing conditions.
  • Do not like soggy soil for extended periods of time.
  • Prefer full sun of at least 6 hours for best flowering.
  • Remove weeds from the plantings that compete with the poppies for moisture, nutrients and light.

Information provided by Syngenta Flowers