Questions on: Poppy

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I have a question that may be unpopular. My flower garden is overrun with poppies. Last year the poppies just about choked everything else out. We are planning to redo the flower garden, but don't know how to get rid of the poppies. They grow like weeds! I pulled off as many heads as I could catch last spring in an attempt to minimize the seed droppings, but they're back again. Can you offer any advice? Would covering them with landscaping material be enough to prevent them from returning next year or should we till something into the soil? (e-mail reference)

A: If they are sprouting now, a light tilling will do the trick. Tilling should get rid of more than 90 percent of the poppies. The rest you can catch with normal garden vigilance. If you don't want to till the soil, then spray the poppies with a dose of Roundup as they emerge. That also will give you control.


Q: I have a client who is requesting information on poppy seeds that her grandmother grew. The plants were grown in Wisconsin and the seeds were edible. Does anything come to mind about this type of plant? (e-mail reference)

A: Grandmother was growing opium poppy, which is used for edible purposes. Some still exist on old farmsteads. It is kept secret because it is considered an illegal plant. The growing of this poppy for food purposes is carefully controlled.


Q. I would like to know where I can find poppy seed for planting. I like to cook with the seeds and would like to grow it myself, but I don't know how. (Lake Ander, S.D.)

A. The poppy seed used in cooking is grown under license only--as it is the opium poppy. Others can be grown for cut flowers, wild flower plantings etc. I simply scratch the soil surface and scatter the seed doing so in late September or early October. You should have a nice showing of poppies next spring.


Q. I need some information on poppy seeds. My neighbor gave me some small spring plantings from her poppy. When they grew and produced their seed pods I kept them but have not been able to find any information if they can be used in baking muffins, cake etc. Other neighbors would like the seeds, too to start their own bed to supply their baking needs. (New Salem, N.D.)

A. Something must appear on TV, over the radio or in the newspapers once a year about poppy seeds, as that is about the only occurrence of my getting questions on the subject.

The only poppy seed that can be used in baking is the opium poppy, which of course, is illegal to grow without a permit or license. All other poppy seeds are considered to be toxic.

Feel free to give them to friends for ornamental purposes only! Not to use in baking.


Q. Enclosed are some needles from my spruce tree that are turning brown. I have sprayed for mites, but I'm not sure if I used the right spray. I was given some Kelthane, but I don't know how to use it. Also, is the other enclosed sample a weed or a flower, and will Poast kill Kentucky bluegrass? Is it OK to transplant in the fall, and when is the best time to sow poppy seeds? (Winner, S.D.)

A. Some mite damage was noted on the sample needles you sent. The best, most effective material to use is a hard spray of plain water once or twice a week. Folks in the business to sell miticides don't like hearing that, but it is true!

A weed—member of the buckwheat family—get rid of it before it goes to seed. Poast is a grass herbicide; therefore it will kill Kentucky bluegrass. The oil concentrate can be obtained from your local elevator or pesticide supplier.

Transplanting of trees and shrubs can take place up until the soil freezes. The earlier the better. Perennial flowers are transplanted after they have been blackened by frost. Best to do it early too.

You can dormant sow poppy seeds in October, around the 10th through the 15th, or early in the spring as soon as soil can be worked.


Q. You were right on with your answer to the reader in Lisbon who wondered why her poppy seeds wouldn't grow: they were probably kept at too high a temperature. But it might be helpful for her and other readers to know just what temperatures are "too high" for some types of seeds, including Iceland poppies.

Room temperature, for one! In fact, many seeds won't sprout unless they have been through the cold cycle of winter. They have to freeze first. Some can be planted very early in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, but others won't grow unless they have spent the winter outdoors.

Maybe it would work for the Lisbon reader to gather seeds, leave them in a container in an unheated area over winter, and plant them as soon as the soil can be worked. It might be better yet to plant the seeds in the fall where they are to grow, so they will get all the benefits of freezing, thawing, moisture, etc. If the volunteer plants will grow, this certainly ought to do it.

Thanks for a great columnI really enjoy it. (Valley City, N.D.)

A. Thank you for the endorsement on my advice! It is good to know that someone out there is tracking me closely. I never shy away from extra input based on knowledge and experience.


Q. When I lived at East Grand Forks I had both the double red and pink poppy. I would gather seed and plant them next year, but they wouldn't grow. The ones that dropped would grow. What didn't I do right? (Lisbon, N.D.)

A. They most likely dried or were stored where the temperatures got too high.

Thanks for writing.


Q: Can I put a weed preventer (like Preen) on now in my flower bed? I have poppies that seed back every year. Will this prevent them from coming back?  Also, how do you get rid of moles? I haven't had much luck trying to trap them. (Winner, S.D.)

A: You can apply Preen after the first of April and it shouldn't hurt the poppies. As for mole control, get rid of their food (grubs) and they will move on.


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