Papaver somniferum | Breadseed Poppy ‘Hens & Chicks’
Poppies are a large family of flowering plants that include annuals, biennials, perennials, and even semi-shrubs and small evergreen trees. They are found all over the globe, and in a wide range of environments, but predominantly in the northern hemisphere. Botanists have divided poppies into almost 800 different species, grouped into 42 genera. And those are just the wild species! Plant breeders have been working with poppies for thousands of years now, and the variety out there today is nearly endless. They are prized for their delicate, silken petals that glow in the suns rays. They don’t last long which makes them that much more beautiful to see. They are also highly regarded for the copious amount of seeds produced by each seed pod, making sure to reseed itself and come back the following year.
Papaver somniferum, the Breadseed Poppy, also known as lettuce leaf poppy and opium poppy, is a type of poppy variety that’s used for culinary and baking purposes. Papaver somiferum means “sleep-bringing” in Latin.
Hens & Chicks is a uniquely special, ancient poppy variety with large, pink blooms with purple-violet centers. But it’s when the petals fall off that the real surprise is revealed- one central seed pod is surrounded by clusters of mini-pods! The resemblance to a hen being surrounded by a flock of her chicks is what gives this variety its name. Begins blooming early to mid summer which is when the flowers will attract a variety of beneficial insects, such as butterflies, bumblebees, ladybugs, and even hummingbirds.
For best germination percentages it is recommended to sow outdoors in the autumn if you’re in zones 8-10, or sow late-winter through early spring in colder zones. When seeding in autumn, the poppies will overwinter at seedling size and then grow rapidly when weather warms up in the spring. Where summer nights remain cool, multiple spring sowings can be made for blooms deeper into summer. Ideally with poppies you want them to germinate and grow during cool, moist weather and flower and set seed during hot, dry weather. One can choose to mix seed with fine sand to scatter thinly over prepared soil to avoid overcrowding. Breadseed poppys resent transplanting, so be careful if starting indoors.
Highly coveted by florists who use the unusual seed heads in arrangements.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3-4 ft
Mature width: 12-18 inches
Hardiness zones: All