Saving Seed for More Poppies!

Thinking ahead to next year. I already know I want more poppies. More of these girly, ruffly pink ones. Normally girly is not my style in manner or dress. But in plants? That’s a completely different story. I love flowers that are delicate and ruffled just like a party dress I’ll never wear. This particular poppy fits the bill perfectly. A volunteer it came up quite a distance from where I had the ‘Thai Silk’ Eschscholzia californica planted last year. In a spot that was rather inconvenient to be honest. But I have such a soft spot for volunteers that I let it grow rather than pull it. (Which is also the reason why I have to step over a pumpkin vine to get to the compost bin.) The amount of pastel blooms it produced this year has been amazing, however, and now that it’s almost finished I realize I will miss it in the garden. So I’m going to save some seeds in hopes that next year’s will be just as pretty.
It’s not always easy when you are new to gardening to determine when seed heads are ripe. Sometimes it’s hard to know what the seed pod even looks like. It can be confusing with a plant like this poppy. The flower is so round and fairly flat when opened. The seed pod, however, in no way resembles the flower. It is long and narrow and pointed.


Once you’ve learned to recognize the seed pod, you then have to recognize when it’s ripe. Seed pod and seed heads are ripe when dry and the seeds easily drop when the pod/head is moved or opened. In the photo at the left you can see the difference between the ripe, unripe and past prime seed pods. Eschscholzia have these cool spring loaded seed pods that burst open when ripe, projecting the seeds a distance from the parent plant. This allows the seeds to cover a larger area and compete less with each other when they come up in spring. It also makes them tricky to harvest. When harvesting the seed pods, pinch or snip the pod above the part where it joins the stem and let the pod drop into your container. Grabbing and pulling on the pod itself can cause it to explode sending seeds everywhere. Once you’ve collected your pods, you need to separate the seed from the pod. Over a large bowl, grab hold of the pod and snap it open in the center. If the pod is ripe, it easily snaps apart like the one in the far right of the photos. Gently scrape out any seeds that don’t drop right into the bowl.

Poppy seeds are tiny round seeds, dark brown to black in color. Place the seeds on a plate or tray and allow them to air dry for few days in room temp location out of direct sunlight. Put them in anĀ  envelope, label and place the envelope inside a mason jar with a few packs of silica gel (the “do not eat” stuff that comes with your shoes) seal jar and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant. Heat and moisture cause seeds to become less viable. Storing them in a mason jar in the fridge keeps them dry and cool.

Remember to harvest seeds only from poppies growing in your own yard or your neighbor’s (with permission of course). Harvesting seed in the wild is bad for the future of the poppy population and may be illegal. It’s best to leave the wildflower show for everyone to enjoy.

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2 comments for “Saving Seed for More Poppies!

  1. sue
    at 7:03 am

    Kat, I pull the entire plant up when it has mostly finished blooming, and place it top down in an open large-size grocery bag, let it stand a week or so in the garage till the pods pop open, give a good shake, remove the plant to the greenwaste pile, and pour the seeds from a corner of the bag into a mason jar. Some will not be ripe enough to be viable, but I figure about 75% are.

    • Kat
      at 9:38 am

      Sue great idea! I’ll have to give that a shot this year. Thanks!

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