The California poppy, Eschscholzia californica [es-SHOLT-zee-uh] [kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh] is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the Papaveraceae family.
It was the first named species of the Eschscholzia genus named by Adelbert von Chamisso for botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz after an expedition to the Pacific and California aboard a Russian ship circa 1810.
It’s native to the United States and Mexico.
Since 1903 the wildflower became the official state flower of California. April 6 is California Poppy Day.
This flower has extended into Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and northwest Baja California.
This southern California native plant was valued by Native Americans who used the golden state flower as a food source and for the oil extracted from the plant.
California’s nickname as “the golden state” is a reference to the gold rush era and has less to do with the states golden brown hillsides as often stated.
Some other common names you may hear include:
- Golden Poppy
- California Sunlight
- Copa de Oro (Spanish for Cup Of Gold)
California Poppy Care
Size and Growth
This plant grows to be 4” – 12” inches in height.
When it blooms, the flower petals grow 2” – 6” inches long with equal width.
The plant grows fruits 3” – 9” inches long.
Flowering and Fragrance
California Poppy blooms in spring and early summer.
It has fern-like blue-green leaves with 4 rounded petals that grow in pale yellow to bright orange in the wild.
The petals close whenever there’s cold and windy weather but reopen in favorable conditions.
At the end of the flowering cycle, the beautiful petals fall and reveal a seed pod.
When the seed pod ripens it will pop open and release small black seeds resembling poppy seeds used in foods
Light and Temperature
If you want to enjoy this plant, it’s best to grow it in full sun. The more light it gets – the better.
California Poppy does best at temperatures between 55° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C – 27° C).
However, it’s hardy down to temperatures as low as 15° degrees Fahrenheit (-9° C) and as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
Watering and Feeding
California Poppy is a drought tolerant plant and does better in drier conditions.
This plant does not require much water, avoid overwatering.
Let the soil dry between waterings to avoid leaving the plant standing in soggy soil.
Your plant will not need to feeding unless it’s showing signs of nutritional deficiencies.
If you notice yellowed leaves or stunted growth, use a balanced fertilizer.
Do not overfeed.
Too much fertilizer results in excessive leaf growth which gets in the way of flowering.
Soil and Transplanting
California Poppy likes well-draining, rich soils such as clay and loam but it will still survive in poorer soil.
The ideal pH range for this plant’s soil is 6.5 to 7.5.
To add some extra nutrition to your soil, you can use organic compost as an addition to the soil.
It will help the plant bloom better.
If you’re using a poor-quality ground, you may need to water your plant more to ensure optimum health.
California Poppy does not transplant well.
It does not like root disturbance and the best way to propagate it’s to use seeds.
Grooming and Maintenance
To prolong the flowering season of your plant, remove the older flowers.
If your poppies become too dense, trim them so there are at least 4″ – 8” inches of distance between the plants.
More on Poppies:
How to Propagate California Poppy
California Poppy propagates best through seeds.
- Scatter poppy seeds about 2” – 3” inches apart from each other on the soil in early spring.
- Unless there’s heavy wind or rainfall, do not cover the seeds.
- Keep the soil just lightly moist by misting it with water, this helps speed up the germination process.
If you’re using poor or coarse soil, you may need additional watering.
Propagation is best done between 60° – 70° degrees Fahrenheit (16° C – 21° C).
California Poppy Pest or Disease Problems
California Poppy is typically pest-free.
However, it’s susceptible to aphids, thrips, and some diseases caused by overwatering and too much moisture, such as gray mold and powdery mildew.
Suggested Uses for California Poppy
Apart from being a beautiful ornamental addition to your landscape, California Poppy was also used in several herbal remedies, cosmetics, and for cooking.
This plant also provides food for insects and pollinators.