Shirley poppies are my favorite ephemeral flower. Here are some things you can do to condition them so you can use them for cut flowers.

Shirley Poppies

I grow Shirley poppies for my personal pleasure, and do not consider them a cash crop. The prospect of seeing new colorations and shapes gets me out of bed in late June through July when they bloom. The big fluffy ones steal my heart, and I have tried many ways to try to enable their use in bouquets.

judge a poppy by its stamens

The best time to cut Shirley Poppies is early in the morning before the sun hits them and before the bees come ’round. Ideally, the petals are about to break out of the pod, but if you miss that stage, it’s ok. Next best is as this one is here ~ just opened, and the bees have not yet burrowed around in the stamens .

Shirley Poppy

You can tell everything you need to know about the poppy from the stamens. As the bloom just begins to open, the stamens are defined, sort of flat, and big. Newborn looking.

Shirley Poppy Fairest Flowers Farm

Soon they begin to fluff, the bees scurry around in them and do what they do ~ move the pollen around and remove some. Within a few hours, the stamens become thinner.

Stamens and pollen

finer details

Brown filaments

Shirley Poppies have close relatives with varying colors of stamens and filaments. Some annual poppy varieties (breadseed, somniferum) have white, golden, and green stamens, and the filaments may be white, brown, or black.

Shirley Poppy Fairest Flowers Farm

By the end of the day, they may discolor and shrivel in the sun.

Black filaments

Below is a fringed laciniatum poppy, and it is from seed from my mom who started me on these happy little things many years ago.

fringed Shirley Poppies

Conditioning

So. Cut early. Handle them gently because the critical thing is to keep the sap which will start to gather at the end of the stems. You’ll notice different colors of sap for different colors of blooms. Placing the handful of Shirley Poppies in a shallow bowl with the stems tipped slightly upward (as you’ll see in video below) is a good idea, because then the sap doesn’t drip off. I was sad to discover it stains cement floors.

Stems with sap

There are lots of conditioning tricks people use, but the one method that works for me is by singeing the sap with the gentle flame from a cigarette lighter. The goal is for the heat to draw out the sap and and harden it a bit to make a sort of crusted seal. Heat with the flame close but not touching the sap just until the bubbling stops. Browning the stem doesn’t really help. I do not know the chemistry. And yes, i do them one by one. If the sap doesn’t bubble, it’s probably a fail.

July 1, 2020

Generally, annual Shirley Poppies last 3 days using this method. I find that the more petals they have, the longer they last. The single reds plain old do not like to be cut and that’s all there is to it. But the ones with lots of petals last longest ~ more than 2 weeks in my cooler. Worth it.

White Shirley Poppies
Shirley Poppy Fairest Flowers Farm
Shirley Poppy Fairest Flowers Farm

Seed sources I have used:

  • One Stop Poppy Shoppe
  • Swallowtail Garden Seeds
  • Chiltern Seeds (sadly, not shipping to USA until covid restrictions lifted)
  • Floret Flower Farm
  • Seedman
  • Summer Hill Seeds
  • Select Seeds

Seeding Shirley Poppies is just about the easiest thing in the world. You can seed in autumn or spring even in USA zone 6. Have the soil prepared to a nice tilth, mix your seeds with a handful of fine sand, and sprinkle them thinly wherever you want them to grow. Nature takes care of the rest.


11 Comments

Terry Turner · January 16, 2021 at 3:44 pm

I live in Virginia and just got a seed order from Chiltern this week. Love your Instagram ❤️

Karen Lapierre · January 16, 2021 at 3:58 pm

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know I just found you and am thrilled. You have by far some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. Every one is drool worthy lol. Noticed you are from Rhode Island. We are neighbors as I’m from Massachusetts. Do you have a farm or can we buy flowers from you. So beautiful. I aspire to grow flowers like yours. Thank You. , Karen

    fairestflowers · January 23, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    thank you, karen, and good luck. yes, you can buy flowers here anytime during the growing season. there’s a flowercart at the end of the driveway; details on my website.

Val · January 21, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Just wanted to say I love your IG, one of my favorites, your photos are so so gorgeous and you have exquisite taste in what you grow. I live on LI way out on the tip across the Sound from you and I have never had much luck with poppies. I was inspired by your photos to try them again and was wondering when do you sow your seeds in the spring? I wonder if I would have better luck starting them inside, but they don’t seem to transplant well.

    fairestflowers · January 23, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    hi val, and thank you! you can mix the seeds with some fine sand, and then sprinkle them directly around the place where you’ve prepared the soil anytime from now until august. the sand makes it easier to see where you’ve tossed them. and even if you sow them late summer, the baby plants don’t seem to mind the winter at all. surprisingly. they want to grow 🙂

      Val · January 23, 2021 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks so much for your reply, they are such a gorgeous flower! I bought several packs of seed so I will experiment and do some early spring and save some to put out late summer to see which way works out the best. I look forward to your photos when spring rolls around.

Anna VanDemark · January 27, 2021 at 1:25 am

Thanks so much for this information! I grew my first poppies this summer. I love them, as they’re so gorgeous. I seared the ends also, but was concerned that they only lasted 2-3 days. I’m glad to know that I’m not doing anything wrong! I will just enjoy their beauty while they last?

Laurie · March 14, 2021 at 12:52 am

I have been following you on IG for the past couple years..absolutely gorgeous flowers and photos! You inspire me to try growing these amazing poppies. Do the grow in full sun or is it best to grow in less sunny location? I’m in 6b/7a.

    fairestflowers · March 22, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you, Laurie. I have grown them in full sun. Probably they will grow fine in part sun, but maybe not as many blooms.

Lyndy · June 4, 2021 at 10:46 am

Hello from Australia! Great tips for making them last, I make fabric dye from them as the petals drop. Last year it was the prettiest mauve.

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