Fast becoming a poplar addition to many perennial gardens, the Hens and Chicks Poppy (Papaver Somniferum) is a beautiful, albeit unusual, plant. In the spring, it features a single flower featuring stunning petals ranging in color from pink to dark red to purple with golden highlights in the center.
Hens and Chicks Poppy plants produce a single seed head (encased at the base with smaller heads). When the flowers are spent and dried the head can produce dozens of seeds, which is an added bonus for seed-saving gardeners. This plant prefers full sun in temperate climates and part sun in warmer regions. They thrive in a good mixture of average to sandy soil with average watering.
The Hens and Chicks Poppy does not tolerate transplanting. For this reason, it’s best to start seeds outdoors after the last frost to produce healthy plants. Their seeds need to be stratified 4 weeks prior to sowing. On a non-windy day, clear the planting area of vegetation, turn the soil then rake it until smooth. Sow the seeds generously on top of the soil but do not cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Generally pat the seeds into the soil and mist the area gently daily until the seeds germinate (typically 7 to 21 days).
Once the seedlings reach 3-6 inches, they will need to be thinned to a spacing of about 6 inches (these poppies are better planted in masses as a border plant). The plants will reach a height of 24-36 inches and will attract many beneficial and pollinating insects and birds such as bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
It seems like only a few years ago, red was the primary color for these. White was rare.