Papaver rhoeas
Common Name: corn poppy 
Type: Annual
Family: Papaveraceae
Native Range: Temperate Old World
Zone: 3 to 10
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Red (sometimes purple or white)
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Flower: Showy

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best in cool summer climates. Appreciates some light afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Performs well in average garden soils as long as drainage is good. Intolerant of drought. Also intolerant of overly moist soils, particularly if poorly drained. This is a vigorously self-seeding annual which easily remains in the garden from year to year.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Papaver rhoeas is known by a variety of common names including Flanders poppy, corn poppy, field poppy or common poppy. It is an annual poppy that typically grows to 9-18” tall. It is native to Europe and Asia, but has been introduced with subsequent naturalization occurring in a number of locations in the western, central and eastern parts of the continental U.S. This poppy features scarlet red, 4-6 petaled flowers (each to 2” across) on long peduncles, with each flower petal having a distinctive black blotch at the base. Flowers bloom from late spring to mid-summer (June to August) on bristly-hairy stems clad with hairy, coarsely-toothed leaves (to 6” long) which are irregularly pinnate but rarely entire. Bright red is the usual flower color, but sometimes purple and occasionally white flowers appear. Fruit is a black-seeded poppy-type capsule which explodes when ripe to distribute its seed.

This poppy is the common field poppy of Europe. It became a symbol for the blood spilled in World War I where it grew easily in the ravaged landscapes of the battlefields of Belgium notably including Flanders. Soldiers returning from World War I often had vivid memories of the wild red poppies growing in otherwise war-torn European landscapes. Subsequent to the end of World War I, this poppy became a symbol, not only for the blood spilled in the War, but also for the sacrifices of lives in the war along with the continued hope that their death had not been in vain.

Since 1921, millions of crepe paper red poppies have been distributed nationwide in exchange for financial contributions which support deceased, disabled and hospitalized veterans. Today, millions of these crepe paper poppies are distributed throughout the U.S. on Memorial Day (honoring vets who died in war) and on Veterans Day (honoring living vets who served in the military).

Colonel John McCrae, Canadian surgeon with Canada’s First Brigade Artillery, wrote in 1915 one of the most famous poems of World War I called “In Flanders Fields”, in which he mourned the “row on row” of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders battlefields, the first stanza being:

In Flanders the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.


Genus name from Latin means poppy.

Specific epithet comes from a Latin name for red in obvious reference to flower color.

This poppy is considered to be an agricultural weed in Europe, hence the common names of corn poppy and field poppy.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Wet, poorly-drained soils can cause significant problems such as root rot, particularly in winter. Botrytis and powdery mildew may also occur.

Garden Uses

Best in clumps or small groups in border fronts and rock gardens.