Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica California Poppy

Sun loving and drought tolerant, these hardy plants will thrive in neglected conditions and the poorest of soils. The bright cup-shaped flowers bloom in attractive shades of orange yellow red and white. The blooms are short lived but continue to blossom over a long period. Ideal for brightening up gravel gardens and coastal displays or as an infill at the front of beds and borders.

Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy family)
Botanical Name: Eschscholzia californica
Common Names: California poppy, Golden cup, Cup of gold, California sunlight, foothill poppy, tufted poppy.

Foliage: Deciduous, finely divided, blue-green feathery leaves.

Flowers: long-stalked, poppy-like, red, orange, copper, yellow, carmine or ivory white flowers (depending on variety). Followed by long seed-pods. Single, semi-double and double forms are available.

Flowering Period: Summer - June to September.

Soil: Free draining loam or sandy soil, any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun, in a south or west facing aspect. Drought-tolerant.

Habit: vigorous bushy, spreading, annual.

Type: Mainly grown as hardy annuals in the UK.

Origin: USA and Mexico.

Hardiness: Hardy in coastal and milder areas (down to -5°C). Usually dies after flowering at the end of the season.

Planting and Growing Eschscholzia californica

This tough, drought-tolerant annual, thrives in poor well-drained soil, but needs full sun for the flowers to open. Dislikes rich soils and shady conditions. Easily grown from seed, outdoors, where they are to flower. Needs very little care and attention and does not require staking or support. To provide a dramatic effect sow in large drifts in a bright sunny position.

The single, open flowered, varieties are a magnet for bees, hover flies and other beneficial insects.

Ideal for rock and gravel gardens, at the front of the border or down a gentle slope. Suitable for town, city, wild or informal gardens. Ideal for exposed or coastal regions.

Very easy plants to grow, so are an ideal choice for beginners.

Taking Care of Eschscholzia californica

Easily raised from seed and will often self-seed freely into gravel and other free draining soils.


Cut back after flowering.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free.

Propagating Eschscholzia californica

Sow seeds in a sunny spot, in April or September, where they are to flower. Protect autumn sowings from frost. To extend the season make succession sowings from mid-spring onwards. Dislikes being transplanted, so ideally must be sown thinly where it is to flower. Following germination thin seedlings to 4-8in (10 to 20cm) apart.

Popular Varieties of Eschscholzia californica Grown in the UK

There is a good selection of hybrids available, based on the two main garden species: E. californica (1ft) and E. caespitosa (dwarf); in various shades, with single, semi-double and double forms:

E. californica hybrids (hardy annuals) with single, semidouble and double flowers, in shades of golden yellow, orange, copper and ivory. Height to 1ft (30cm), spread 8in (20cm). Some good forms include:

'Ballerina' has semi-double or double flowers in orange, pink and yellow.

'Ballerina Mix' has fluted semi-double or double flowers in a range of pastel colours.

'Butter Bush' has buttery yellow, single to semi-double flowers.

'Monarch Art Shades' a semi-double, in a mix of colours with frilled petals.

'Monarch Mixed' is a dainty mix of semi-double and single blooms in cerise, carmine, red, orange and yellow.

'Orange King' has tall translucent orange flowers.

'Red Chief' is an excellent single red variety - one of the best reds available.

'Sun Shades' is a good single variety, with bright fiery orange and yellow blooms.

'Summer Sorbet' has unusual frilly rose-pink flowers with creamy white centres.

E. caespitosa (hardy annual) bright yellow flowers from June to October. Low growing, good for edging and rock gardens. Height 5-6in (125-150mm). Some good forms include:

'Sundew' with scented, single lemon-yellow flowers.

'Miniature Primrose' with smaller yellow flowers.