The Plant Native

California Poppy

Highlights

You know and already love this plant. California Poppies look like they were happily drawn by a four-year-old with a new box of crayons. Drought-tolerant, in bloom for months, and happily returns year after year. It comes as no surprise that it’s the state flower of California. And the best news? Gardeners from California to New Hampshire can happy plant this flower! Scroll on for planting tips.

Full Sun
1-2′ tall
Flowers in the spring
Eschscholzia californica
Yep. This is one of the iconic flowers responsible for the west's 'Superblooms.' This is the Antelope Valley in California in the spring.

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Table of Contents

There are a few varieties of California Poppies

As you can imagine for an area as large as North America, there are several types of California Poppies that naturally occur. Each of these types looks the same, but hidden within their genes is the ability to thrive in different climates and areas. Here are some varieties of California Poppy to consider:

  • Coastal California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica var. maritime). These California Poppies love to grow along the Pacific coastline.
  • Mexican California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana). These grow from California to Texas, and south throughout Mexico.
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)—this is the non-sub-species variety. And we’ve got good news about it!

Good news: One California Poppy variety is native from California to New Hampshire

Don’t let the name fool you! One of the best pieces of native plant news we can give gardeners is that there is a California Poppy native to 75% of the United States. Hooray for all of us lucky gardeners! 

The native range of California Poppies is surprisingly HUGE! Map from USDA Plants Database

Where is California Poppy native?

The name is deceiving—this flower is native to most of North America, from as far-flung places as Washington to Massachusetts.

What are the benefits of planting California Poppies?

There are so many benefits to planting native flowers like this one. California Poppy benefits include:

  • Easy-to-grow: Fast-growing, tolerant of sandy soils
  • Drought-tolerant: as you can imagine from its native range, this plant can tolerate lots of sun and heat
  • Self-seeding: plant once and watch it create companions over the years
  • Prefers full sun but will also grow in part shade.
  • Best in poor soils: sandy, well-draining areas are its favorite
The shortness of California Poppies makes them perfect border choices

California Poppies will open and close based on light

These flowers do a lovely dance as light levels change. When night falls (or on cloudy days), they gently pack their petals until the sunlight returns. This behavior is called responding phototropically in plant nerd circles.

What are good pairings for California Poppies?

There are SO MANY amazing native plants that pair beautifully with California Poppies. Some inspiration for pairings include:

big-leaf-lupine-native-gardening

Bigleaf Lupine

black-eyed-susans-native-flower-garden

Black-Eyed Susan

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Broadleaf Stonecrop

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California Poppy

monarch-butterfly-on-a-common-milkweed-plant

Milkweed

And that sums up our love letter to California Poppies! There are several species that offer lots of bright orange resiliency for western gardens. California Poppies will easily self-sow and expand their footprint as the years go by. Their cheery appearance is paired with excellent drought resiliency—a must for western gardens as we navigate climate change. Plant them today and watch them flourish over the years. Happy planting!

UPDATED —
04/11/2024
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