Should I be scared of planting a Matilija poppy?

manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)May 23, 2012

On one side of my back yard, I have a 6' high concrete block wall that runs 40'. On the other side of the concrete block wall is a small alley. The alley side receives full morning sun and then afternoon shade. There's about 12" of sand between the wall and the asphalt of the alley. I'm hoping that a few creeping fig vines will cover up the ugly block wall over time.

Along with the creeping fig vines, I'd like to plant something flowering that gets tall, but not bushy along the wall. I love the tall flowering stems of Matilija poppies. I understand that if they're happy, they can get invasive, spreading by rhizomes.

With that said, I've battled rhizome-spreading plants such as running bamboo (alien rhizomes!) and acanthus (snail buffet!) before and I'd like to get advice about whether I should think long and hard before planting this gorgeous California native or if I should just try it out and not worry about it.

Here's a pic of the block wall:

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you do not water, it does restrict their growth.

However, if there is water available on the other side of the wall, they will show up there.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:08PM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

Yes, there is watering along the fence for the smaller creeping fig vines, as well as water for a lawn on the other side of the fence.

I'm open to suggestions for something else to plant here. I like the creeping fig vine because it lays flat against the wall, but I'm getting stuck as to what can grow tall and flower in that narrow space.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:03PM
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My advice to you is that it is the creeping fig that you should be worried about, not the poppy. Those pretty wall clinging vines with tiny leaves represent the juvenile form of this plant. Once established, the leaves become large, the vines robust and thick, and the vine throws off branches like a tree. There won't be room for anything else in just a few years. I have seen large specimens the heights of trees and with branches many feet long. The roots are also invasive and can damage your wall. Upkeep requires constant pruning. Just my ten cents.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:23PM
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Bob_B(Sunset 14, Ca.)

Matilija poppy is a favorite of mine, but it can be terribly invasive. If you don't want it on the other side of the wall don't plant it. However, it is apparent (lifted pavement) that whatever you plant will suffer root competition from the existing trees . So you need a good competitor as well as one that will take the reflected heat off that wall. The plant need not be tall and narrow if you don't mind it spilling over on top the pavement, which it seems to me might be a plus.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:30PM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

Good points above. I've no idea how old the largest creeping fig vine is on this wall. We just purchased this house and it was already growing. There was another creeping fig vine next to it that was infested with mealies, so I ripped it out. Due to the sandy soil, it came out very easily. I've had to prune it here and there for branches that don't stick to the wall. But otherwise, it's been a slow grower. I haven't noted much change in it these last couple months despite regular watering of the plant, as well as the wall. But I'll keep an eye on it.

I was hoping for something tall to cover up the block wall in the event the creeping figs didn't perform well. As I mentioned, they have been slow growers. The poppy being a native was also a plus. But I might have to go and start thinking of other options. I already have 2 large stands of giant bamboo next to a concrete patio that I'm contending with. (You should see the meteoric holes that needed to be dug to be rid of the young clumps of that same bamboo. And that's a separate post entirely...)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Propaganda Garden Design

I went to a clients house the other day and after seeing a third of her acre property covered with Matilija poppy I would never plant this in my yard. She said that when she had time she was able to keep it in check but then life events kept her busy and out of the yard and it went crazy. She plans on having it removed (with a backhoe probably) and then hoping that she is able to keep the bits that resprout in check.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 9:46PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I wouldn't use it in that spot. You'll end up with it everywhere, and it will just flop over into the alley. I wouldn't plant anything that flowers there- it will just call attention to the block wall. Green is good.

If you want to cover the alley side, have you considered planting Boston Ivy on your side and letting it grow over? That's what I would do. It is deciduous, but only for a brief time, and it is easier to maintain and control. Creeping fig is pretty creepy. It takes a few years to transform into a monster, and it fools you by looking cute for a long time while it spreads its invasive roots into your sewer line. Once it gets that big root system, KABOOM! it goes ugly on you.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:42PM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

I appreciate all the feedback. You've all convinced me not to plant a Matilija poppy there. I'll just continue admiring this plant from afar.

Renee, I had fleetingly considered a Boston ivy for the alley side. I walked by one house that had a beautifully established Boston ivy growing along the east side of the house. I haven't seen it too much in my neighborhood, but I do love how lush the leaves look and how they dangle. Thanks for the tips on creeping fig vine once it gets established. You're the second person who has mentioned it, so I might have to reconsider that vine now.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:05PM
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I had a wall like that on a previous house and the home next door was slightly higher and gave that fishbowl backyard effect to my property. I built a trellis with treated 2x4 posts and 1x2 redwood lattice @ about 15" spacing(pretty cheep with that spacing. It was about 2 feet taller than the wall. I planted bougainvillea after painting the trellis white. I planted a bed of short things like Iris in front. It looked nice.If you do this, leave space behind the trellis to keep the bougainvillea trained tight to the trellis and make raking up debris easy on the back side and maintenance isn't as bad as it could be. As soon as the trellis and small bougainvillea are planted it looks 100% better in my opinion. Might even paint the wall first, but the plants will hide it pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:51PM
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I've been around my chickens too much...pretty cheap is what I meant!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:25PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I have Boston Ivy on my walls, and like it a lot. That's what I would use. I think it would be safer than Creeping Fig. Every three or four years I pull it all off the walls (it comes off easily) and cut it to the ground and it grows back completely and beautifully. Keeps things clean and fresh.

If your area gets cold enough, the foliage turns brilliant red in the fall.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:39PM
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CA Kate

How about a long row of Oleander? Once established they are drought tolerant and need very little care.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 3:34PM
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oohhh Oleanders can be as bad as bamboo to get rid of.yes they are drought tolarent because of a good root system.they also can get rustico sudjested, paint the wall first.then you can look in some magazines for ideas.there is so much you can do with the space with very little work and money.and have a cool beautiful place for summer and a warm one for winter.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:27PM
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Oleanders are also prone to Oleander Leaf Scorch. Kills 'em dead in a couple of years. The disease is a big problem in mild winter areas. I had a gorgeous hedge with big pink camellia-like flowers that I lost to it. It's taken 15 years to grow anything that remotely covers the space.

Matilija poppy likes sandy soil. I should know; it has eaten the side of my garage. Still, if i'm going to have a weed problem, that's the one to have. I've had passersby stop and ask me about 'that gorgeous plant.' :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:20AM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

I just discovered that the median of a road not far from where I live is planted full of Matilija poppies. So I drive by once a week and get to admire it. Of course, I always entertain the thought of sneaking over there at night and digging up a rhizome. ;) But then I think of my battles with rhizomatic plants - agapanthus when I lived in northern California and now giant bamboo in southern California - and I reconsider!

I've talk to my husband about the creeping fig concerns mentioned on this thread, but he doesn't seem to think that it will be a problem in a few years if we keep it pruned back. Should I keep trying to convince him otherwise? Unfortunately, he dislikes ivy of any sort, (even Boston ivy) and he also dislikes cleaning up after bougainvillea.

I've never considered painting the wall, but that's a great suggestion and might take away our need to plant an ivy on it once it's painted.

Thanks again for the comments and suggestions.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:08PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I'd keep the fig then. The ivy is easier to control, but the fig is established already. Have patience- it will cover the wall.

Please don't paint it. The concrete color is nice, as close to natural as you can get, and paint will just oxidize and provide a better canvas for graffiti. If you can't tolerate the wall, stucco with a cap is a better choice. But really, your fig will cover it. No need to spend more money.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 1:25PM
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