Drug Plants: The Poppy Plant Q and A Page

Q: Poppies are overgrowing in my flower garden, taking over all the other plants I had growing there. We are planning a garden renovation. Before we move forward, we need to know how to remove all traces of the poppies from the soil. They grow so energetically! I removed all the flower heads before they could go to seed last spring to keep the poppies from self-sowing, but they still managed to reseed themselves. What should we do to remove the poppies? Would covering the growing area with landscape fabric be effective for killing them, or would it be better to put a chemical in the soil?

A: Till the soil lightly if you see new poppy growth in the planting area. Simple tilling should remove the majority of the poppy plants. Pull up any poppy plants that survive tilling to remove them. Alternatively, you could also spray poppies with a weed killer containing glyphosate to kill them.

Q: Do you have any idea what type of poppy plants would have been grown in Wisconsin many years ago with edible seeds?

A: These plants were likely opium poppies, and their seeds were edible. Some opium poppies still grow; however, they are not common because the plants are illegal. Since opium is the source of many drugs, growing opium poppies for food is restricted and controlled by authorities. In the United States, opium is listed as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Q: I want to grow poppies with edible seeds so I can cook with them. Where can I find these poppies to plant them?

A: Poppies with edible seeds are opium poppies. These poppies can only be grown with a license because they are opium poppies. Other types of poppies grow readily in wildflower gardens and in cutting gardens. To grow other types of poppies, simply scatter the seeds over the soil in the autumn and poppies will emerge the next spring.

Q: I recently received some poppy plants from a neighbor. After putting them into my yard, they produced seed pods, which I kept. I can’t find any information about baking with them, though. I have friends who would like to try growing these poppies for the seeds, too.

A: Lots of people wonder about edible poppy seeds. The only poppy plants with edible seeds are opium poppies. Due to their use in drug-creation, opium poppies can only be grown with a license or permit. The seeds of all other poppy plants are poisonous. You can use seeds from other poppy plants in flower arranging and other decor, but they are not edible.

Q: I am sending some pine needles from a spruce tree in my yard that is turning brown. I suspect mites, and I have sprayed accordingly. I may not have chosen the right type of spray, though. I am considering using a Kelthane spray, but I am not sure about application instructions. I have also placed a small sample from another plant growing in my yard. Is this a weed? Can I transplant plants in the autumn? What is the best time to plant poppy seeds?

A: We discovered mite damage in the pine needles you sent. To control mites, simply apply a hard spray of water to plants and trees one or two times each week.

The other sample you enclosed is a weed. We recommend removing it from your yard before it self-sows.

Transplant trees and shrubs any time during the growing season or up to the point where the soil freezes in the late autumn or early winter. Generally, it’s better to transplant earlier rather than later in the growing season. Move perennial flowers after the first frost occurs.

Scatter poppy seeds lightly over the soil in mid-autumn. Alternatively, you can also plant them early in the spring immediately after tilling the soil.

Q: Would you confirm information about poppy seed storage? My understanding is that storing poppy seeds at high temperatures can prevent them from germinating. What about freezing poppy seeds before germination?

A: Freezing poppy seeds is necessary for germination. You can accomplish this by gathering the seeds in the autumn and storing them over the winter in an unheated garage. You could also sow the seeds in late winter so they will be in the soil during the last few weeks of freezing temperatures.

Q: I used to have double red and pink poppies in my garden. Every autumn, I would gather the seed pods and plant them the next spring. The poppies I planted did not grow. The poppies I allowed to self-sow always grew without problems. What was I doing wrong when I tried to plant them myself?

A: It’s likely that you stored the poppy seeds in a location that was too warm. Poppy seeds need to freeze first to enable them to germinate.

Q: Will applying a weed preventing chemical in my soil prevent poppies from germinating? Do you have any advice for removing moles from my garden?

A: Apply the weed preventing chemical after early April, and it should not affect poppy growth. The moles in your garden are probably feeding on grubs in the soil. Focus on eradicating the grubs and the moles will leave.

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