Grow Your Own Super Bloom!

There's an air of anticipation; conditions are looking favorable for parts of California and southwestern United States to be bedazzled with a super bloom this year. Have you ever experienced this? It's high on my wish list – several good photographer friends have taken stunning images of this phenomena which turns the hillsides to a vibrant carpet of wildflowers. I'm especially interested in seeing the extravagant display of orange, native California poppies. Why those poppies especially? Well, I'm looking outside at rain-laden skies and bare branches – again. Yes, I have broadleaf evergreens, a wide variety of conifers plus interesting bark and berries, but I crave bold bright COLOR! My two large, orange containers make me smile even though I haven't been terribly creative with their winter plantings this year, but their color reminds me how much I enjoy my annual display of orange California poppies. I inherited a few when we purchased this home in 2009 which I later transplanted to another part of the garden. Here they have continued to thrive in the lightly dappled shade of birch trees with zero effort on my part. I never water them, nor do I thin them. I let them self seed, pulling out any that are in unsuitable spots when I have time. When they are past their best and starting to look rather weedy (and lots of seed pods have opened) I just yank them out by the fistful, throw on an inch of mulch to tidy things up and call it good. They always self seed sufficiently to give an encore the following year. Critter issues? These are deer and rabbit-resistant, or at least if a few get taste-tested I'd never know as they grow in such abundance. It may not quite qualify as a Super Bloom but it's the best I can do in Washington state right now! I have to admit that my growing technique is somewhat unorthodox so here are the "proper" directions:

How to Grow California Poppies

  • Best grown from seed directly sown into the garden in very early spring or late fall (if you have mild winters)
  • Find a nice, open sunny spot and rake the soil until it is loose
  • Scatter seeds lightly and thinly then cover with 1/4" soil (or just rake lightly again)
  • Water in gently with a very fine setting
  • Thin to 6" apart when seedlings are well established

Key Facts

  • 12-15 inches tall
  • Bloom time will vary with climate but June is typical for England and the Pacific Northwest
  • Best in full sun but also tolerates very light shade
  • An annual- but allow to self seed and you will have a display every year.
  • Sow during the rainy season and you may not have to water at all.

How-To Video from Renee's Garden

Design Ideas

These poppies need to be planted in large blocks to be effective.


I like to plant them beneath tall deciduous trees as loose fillers.

I especially like the color echo between my orange container and the poppy blooms.

If you have a large, sunny border that is still maturing you might consider seeding in groups of poppies as temporary fillers in between other perennials or shrubs or simply to add an early splash of color.

Lovely use of California poppies at RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire

All the plants in the border above need full sun, low water and average soil so mingle happily together.


A mini-meadow of California poppies at Breezy Knees Garden, Yorkshire captivated our tour guests last year

With or without the addition of grasses, this large border of bright orange California poppies creates a gauzy meadow effect which is enchanting.

Other Varieties to Try

Orange not quite your color? Try these: Tropical Sunset is a unique blend from Renee's Garden in glowing sunset colors – it will still make a bold statement but offers greater variety. Dancing Ballerinas, also from Renee's Garden features frilly flowers in sherbet colors  which are generally softer in tone. Dusky Rose is a pastel pink (Renee's Garden) Tequila Sunrise is a bold red and cream mix (Renee's Garden) Botanical Interests (another top notch company) offers the native California poppies as well as some pretty blends including Mission Bells. Your hardest decision may be choosing which ones to grow!


Photo credit:

Did you know that I am leading garden tours to see the super bloom (of a different sort) at the Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court Flower Show, and South Africa? All 3 tours are down to the last handful of spots (or less) but we still have room for YOU!

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I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.

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