Back in May, I wrote my first post about determining if a plant was a weed or wildflower. You might have been out in your yard and come across a plant that strikes you as pretty, but you don’t remember planting it. The thought may cross your mind, “Is this a weed or a wildflower?” In other words, “Should I be nurturing this plant or killing it?”
The plant I’d like to highlight this month has prickly leaves like a thistle and stiff branches. It holds stunning, enormous white blossoms through the heat of midsummer. I notice it often in neglected gravel yards, along roadsides and dotting naturalized areas. The leaves look so vicious it makes me think it has to be a weed, but the flowers seem too beautiful to be growing from a problem plant.
And the answer is…WILDFLOWER. This is prickly poppy (Argemone polyanthemos). What a neat plant. Native to most of the central states, it has a lifespan ranging from just one growing season (annual) to a couple of years (perennial). Because its leaves are so sharp, deer and rabbits don’t bother eating it.
Second, it blooms for a long time. In Colorado Springs, it seems to bloom continuously from June through August when other plants are wilting in the heat.
Third, once it’s established, it thrives without much supplemental irrigation. So, lots of beautiful flowers in midsummer with little water? That’s my kind of plant.
How do you add it to yard? I’m not quite sure. I’d love to hear any success stories from readers. I’ve tried transplanting potted plants with very little success. Most of the transplants died after the first growing season.
Although I haven’t tried growing it from seed myself, several sources say it germinates fairly easily. If you have space in an area with rock mulch where seeds are likely to germinate, it might be worth spreading some seeds and seeing what happens.
If you’re lucky enough to have plants grow, you might be able to keep a population going by letting the plants produce seed each year. Don’t remove the seed pods before they open. A neighboring house in my area seems to have had good success with this approach.
Just make sure you sow the seed away from sidewalks, pathways, and patios. The leaves are not friendly. Rather than being “warm and fuzzy,” they truly are “cold and prickly.” Well, prickly at least.
If you succeed in getting prickly poppy to grace your landscape, I guarantee the results will delight you every summer. This is one native plant that deserves to be including in more Colorado landscapes.