Pruning Poppies

No matter if the Poppy is a perennial type or annual type, it will require the same type of pruning techniques. Deadheading is the technique of removing spent flowers so that the plant will continue to put energy into flowering. Plants that are not deadheaded will stop forming flower buds and start ripening seeds and preparing for dormancy.

Deadheading annual types of Poppies will reduce the amount of self-seeding the plants will do. Annual Poppies can be prolific seed setters. Their pods typically drop the miniscule seeds near the plants, but seeds can also be carried large distances by the wind. Any self-seeded annual plants that germinate the next year are easily pulled from where you do not want them.


When to Prune Poppies

Deadheading is done as soon as the flowers start to fade. Waiting too long will risk seed formation, which the annual types do quickly. Since most varieties bloom early in the growing season, deadheading will only happen during the spring and early summer. Make sure to cut the flower stem back to the base of the plant to make the overall shape tidy and compact. Bare flower stems will not regenerate flowers and will eventually wither and die.

Perennial varieties will benefit greatly from regular deadheading. The Oriental and Icelandic Poppies are not as prolific at seed forming like the annual varieties. They multiply from underground root growth. Deadheading will encourage more foliage growth and may keep perennial Poppies actively growing for another flush of blooms in the late summer or fall.


Why Prune Poppies

Pruning, or deadheading, Poppies serves to encourage more flowers for longer in the season and to restrict seed formation. Removing the spent flower material also improves air circulation, deterring diseases such as mildews and fungus. Cutting back the older plant material also helps plants to regulate water usage, diverting resources from fading foliage. Cleaning up Poppies as they go dormant during the summer helps to make room for later-blooming perennials.

How to Prune Poppies

Step 1 - Deadhead 

When flowers die back and start to lose their petals, cut the flower stem all the way to the basal leaves or main stem of the plant. Cutting back the whole flower stem keeps the plant looking its best while it produces more flower buds. 

Step 2 - Remove spent foliage and stems 

Clean up the dead and dying stems and foliage as the Poppies prepare for dormancy; this helps to keep pests and disease from spreading or affecting other plants nearby. This also makes room for later-blooming perennials.

Step 3 - Final clean-up of all dead Poppy stems after it is dormant in the late summer

Mulch or mark the area where perennial Poppies are located so that they are not disturbed by fall clean up-or planting of other plants.

Poppy Pruning Tips

  • Regular deadheading of both annual and perennial Poppies will promote longer flowering 
  • Regular deadheading of annual Poppies will help to restrict self-seeding
  • Cutting back dead stems and foliage is part of good garden sanitation, reducing pest and disease problems
  • Marking where perennial Poppies are located helps to keep them from being accidentally dug up in the early spring

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Author Robbin Small - Published 7-26-2022