Native California Poppies

By Teo Spengler | June 11, 2022
Image by deancolmer
by Teo Spengler
June 11, 2022

Native plants are the best plants for any property owner who wants healthy flowers, shrubs and trees. With plants native to the region, you don’t have to worry about hardiness zones or humidity requirements. The plants were there before you were.

California is rich in biodiversity and picking a favorite is a difficult assignment. Under pressure, I still have to vote for the state flower, the California poppy, delicate and beautiful but a tough survivor.

California’s Amazing Biodiversity

One of the great attractions of California is the vast range of habitats and ecosystems-from the Rocky Mountains to Death Valley, rolling hills to coastal plains. And with this natural splendor comes amazing biodiversity: the state has more native plant species than any other state.

California is home to coastal redwoods and giant sequoias, oak forests and deserts with Joshua trees and mesquite. Who doesn’t love the California lilac bushes that light up with indigo flowers all summer, or the wild berries, the vines, the grasses of the coastal dunes? The variety is a great gift but makes it difficult to pick a favorite.

California Poppies

The state picked the poppy as the official California flower, and this is one of my very favorite native plants. The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) appears in great sweeps of orange petals during the summers, springing up overnight to paint the hillsides.

I love their contrasting nature. The delicate, silky petals in a brilliant shade of orange, with fernlike foliage, each held up by slender stems, give the impression of fragile beauty. But the plants are tough and vigorous, growing not just on hillsides but in vacant lots and along the roadside. They grow best in poor soil without any tending or maintenance and are the very definition of drought tolerant.

Growing California Poppies

These bright, cheerful flowers couldn’t be easier to grow in the right climate and setting. They are completely independent – one of the things I love about poppies – and die if you try too hard to pamper them. They need plenty of sun, some six hours a day of direct rays, and excellent drainage. 

In San Francisco, just tossing a handful of seed into a garden bed in fall produces a blanket of orange poppies the following spring. But easy on the care. They do best with less water, no fertilizer, and no other human intervention. 

Left to their own devices, they bloom and grow all summer long and reseed themselves abundantly. How can you not love a plant that knows how to take care of itself?

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