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Cutting back a poppy now?

Posted by coloradobird 5 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 21, 08 at 22:27

Hello y'all. I posted this at the perennial forum, but nobody's responding. Now I know there are a bunch of knowledgeable gardeners here at the Rocky Mountain forum, so I thought I'd ask here, as I need to decide what to do.

So here's the question:

I have an Oriental poppy that's too big for the spot it's planted in. I am wondering what would happen if I cut it back now? (There are no buds yet.) Would it leaf out and just bloom a little later? Or would I be doing it in? I'm concerned because the leaves are so tender and succulent---not like cutting back a woody plant, but this thing blocks everything behind it. I don't want to kill it and moving it would probably do that.



Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

I'd leave it alone, if you can. What's behind it that needs the light now?

I have a bunch of these things, and they're lovely. They'll bloom in early June, and then die off, which is pretty ugly, and thats when they can be cut way back, if you need to. Otherwise, they just sort of fade off, and other stuff takes over the bed. I have asters, fall salvia, mums, and some other stuff.

I never do much of anything to them. If I want more plants, I snap off the dried head and scatter the seeds in the fall.

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

Hi CB,

I wouldnt cut it all the way back right now either, but I used to have one (at my last house) that was in too much shade and was ALWAYS flopping all over the place. I just kept pulling the biggest, floppiest leaves off of the outside of the plant to keep it looking as good as possible (sometimes I had most of the leaves pulled off!), and it never seemed to interfere with the blooming, so I think you can probably neaten it up enough to make it look ok until after it blooms, and then you can chop it offwhich I used to do too, and, unlike bulbs, I dont think it makes any difference at all in the blooming the following year. If its too big and you decide to dig and divide it or move it, I recommend doing it either right after its done blooming when you cut it back, or else wait till fall when itll probably start actively growing again for a while. If you do it in the middle of summer when its dormant, itll be harder to do.

Happy poppy time,

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

Dear David and Skybird,

Thank you for your replies! (I knew I could count on the RM gardeners!).

It's not that anything needs the light, but that this plant is at the front of the border and is too big for that spot. But it blooms so beautifully that I don't want to kill it. It even flowered twice last summer!

Skybird, have you had luck moving a poppy? I've heard they don't take kindly to it, so I've let this one stay where it is because it's so beautiful in bloom.

Thanks again!

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

Poppies can be tough to move, because they have a deep taproot. That root is often just one singular growth, which also makes it hard to divide them. I have moved one successfully before, and I think the key is to dig very deeply to avoid cutting off that taproot.

A quick google search found this page that had this advice:
"Every few years it is possible to divide the broadening clump. Whether just to transplant or to divide, oriental poppies should be moved only at the start of autumn when the leaves first begin to regrow after their summer rest."

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?


Thanks a lot. I'll wait till fall and then decide what to do with it. It's getting huge! But it's so darn pretty I would hate to kill it trying to move it.

RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

Hi CB,

Ive been meaning to get back here to post this!

I agree with moving them in late summer or fall when theyre starting to grow again, but if youre worried about possibly losing your poppy when you move it, heres a way you can be assured of still having one just in case the big one dies. Youd be starting with a tiny plant, but tiny plants grow up!

When you dig it up, snip off one of the largest diameter roots you can findthe bigger, the better (side root, not tap root). Be sure you know which is the "top" of the root, and which is the "bottom ." Fill some small (about 2") pots with moist new (store bought) potting mix (NOT Hyponex). Cut the root into pieces about an inch longor a little bit longer. You MUST remember which is the top! Make a small hole in the center of the soil in each pot with a pencil or something, and push one piece of root into the hole in each potWITH THE TOP UP. It wont work if theyre upside down! Push the piece of root in until its just even with the top of the soil. Push the soil around it and bottom water till the soil is saturated. Keep the pots in a room temperature place, out of direct sun. Leave the soil dry almost the whole way (at least 75%), and then bottom water again to resaturate. The drying between each watering is very important! It may take a couple months, but eventually youll see little plantlets forming from the root. Grow them on in the potwatering the same wayuntil the soil is clearly full of roots, and then plant them out. Presto! More plants!

When you do move yours, itll probably go dormant immediately again. Be very careful not to overwater it after transplanting it. Water it in very well when you replant it, and then it may very possibly not need anymore water at all until spring. Oriental poppies are xeric, and it doesnt take very much water to rot the roots. Too little water wont really damage them at all.

Assuming yours comes thru the move just fine, when the new ones start youll have some to give away. Propagating them from root cuttings is one way to get more of exactly the same color if you have a color you really likeespecially if its an unusual colorsince they wont come true from seed.

I hope being able to start a few new ones will give you more confidence when you move yours, since youll have a Plan B!


RE: Cutting back a poppy now?

I am attempting to save a poppy that was dug up just prior to blooming. I placed the plant in a pot hoping to re-transplant this fall. The tap root is not very long and the plant is very distressed. Can I cut the plant back including the buds? I am hoping to save it, but right now it appears to be a lossing battle. Any suggestions is very appreciated.

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