Eschscholzia x californica: Californian Poppy

california poppy

Image by Bad Alley via Flickr

For those who like bright vivid colours this is definitely an annual that should not be overlooked. Though its flowers are not long-lasting, they are produced continuously so that the window-box makes a colourful display the whole summer long.

The approximately 130 species of the genus Eschscholzia grow wild in both North and South America. The most important of all is E. californica, which has bright yellow flowers with a reddish orange blotch. Selection and crossing with other similar but generally smaller species yielded the present-day varieties that are usually grown in a mixture of colours. Their flowers are white, pale or dark yellow, orange or bright to purplish red, often with a darker blotch. They are relatively large, 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in) across, and have an unusual silky sheen that underlines the purity of the colour. The leaves are very decorative, finely divided and coloured grey green. The plants make an attractive display even when not in flower, especially if spaced close together. They are about 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) high.

Eschscholzia requires ample sun to develop fully. It does not tolerate soggy soil, thus being a very good plant for the sunny windows and balconies of modern blocks of flats. The compost should be free-draining — a mixture of leaf mould, compost and sand. Californian poppy has no special food requirements. Seeds should be sown directly in the window-box in early spring, for the plants, which have a taproot, do not tolerate transplanting. The seeds should be sown fairly thickly and the seedlings thinned to a spacing of about 15 cm (6 in).

For those who like the unusual and also appreciate smaller flowers, other species from the same genus are recommended, for example Eschscholzia tenuifolia, only about 15 cm (6 in) high with pale yellow flowers only about 2 to 3 cm (¾ to 1 in) across. These smaller species are very good for small earthenware bowls where they make a lovely bright carpet. Whereas E. californica is generally grown by itself, the small species make attractive arrangements grown together with other plants, such as Lobelia fulgens.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 comment

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