Planting poppy seeds

Activity
Red poppy
1-2 hours
Spring Autumn
Easy

Fast-growing annual plants grow from seed to a mass of flowers in a few months, providing a buffet for bees, food for birds, and dense cover for other creatures. Sow a poppyfield and you'll create a lively and colourful feeding ground for wildlife near you. It’s quick, easy and the results can be stunning.

Red poppy

Step-by-step guide

Sowing a poppy seed patch for nature video screenshot
1

Decide where to sow your seeds

You need:

  • Somewhere which gets lots of sun. Ideally, it will be at least a square metre but go for the biggest patch you can
  • If space is limited, use a large plant pot, but be aware that the smaller the area the less likely it is to attract wildlife. So think big!
  • Soil type doesn't matter. It doesn't need to be a poor soil, these seeds will grow happily as long as the sun shines
2

Sow seeds in early spring or autumn

It’s important to remove weeds before doing this. Some people use a weedkiller, but it's more environmentally friendly to cover it with old carpet or plastic sheet for a few weeks to kill anything trying to germinate. Then lightly dig the soil surface over and rake it to create a fine soil seedbed.

3

Sow the seeds evenly across the seedbed surface

There is no need to rake the seeds in - just press them into the surface using your hand if using a pot, or walk across the surface if you've sown them in a bed. This makes sure the seeds are in contact with the surface. Water, and give them the odd bit of extra water in dry spells. Job done!

4

Sit back and watch

There should be flowers from June to September. Be prepared that more poppies will flower from an autumn sowing. At the end of the flowering season, let the plants set seed and die. Dig over the ground in autumn to ensure weeds don't get a hold. Then repeat next year to make sure your flowers are back again next year.

5

What you should see

Bumblebees on the poppies and cornflowers, smaller pollinating insects such as hoverflies on the other flowers. Beetles and birds will forage among the stems.

What you will need

  • A suitable spare patch of earth, or a large pot or planter filled with peat-free compost
  • Mixed annual seeds - look for packs that contain Common (Field) Poppy, Corn Marigold, Corncockle, Cornflower and Corn Chamomile. They are often called 'cornfield annual seed mixes'.