Harvesting Poppy Seeds (papaveraceae)

You may remember my beautifully blooming red poppies back in March. The seed pods have now dried and it is time to collect the seeds.

I harvest the seeds for two reasons. The biggest reason is control. Poppies re-seed very, very easily and I already have many blooming. Each seed pod contains several hundred seeds (maybe even 1000’s – I am just guessing here) basically what I am saying is A LOT seeds in each pod. I really don’t want that many seeds scattered, so I collect the seed pods.

The second reason to collect seeds is to be able to share them with other people. My mom taught me to collect and save seeds when I was quite young. I continue collecting and saving seeds today. I am constantly starting plants from seeds. Sure, you can go buy many plants, but I like the price tag on collected and saved seeds (usually free) and I like the thrill of doing it myself.

With my “accidental” poppy patch this spring, I knew I would have more seeds then I knew what to do with so I started harvesting the smaller pods before they dried and the seeds scattered.

Pod not dry yet

If you want to collect and save seeds, you need to wait until the seed pod is dry and the top area has opened up.

Harvesting dried poppy seed pod

These pods (above) are dry and ready to harvest. You can see some in the background of the photo that are still green.

Poppy seeds

Be careful not to spill them…. They are FULL of seeds. I carry a bucket with me and cut one at a time to put in bucket. Once I have harvested as many as I want, I will shake each head to get all the seeds out and remove the pods. You can keep the pods for dried flower arrangements or crafts, or just toss them in the compost. I have a vase of dried poppy pods in our living room. I love the shape and the feel of them.

I will leave the seeds in the bucket for a few weeks and continue to move them around to make sure they are completely dry before I put them in an envelope and bring them in the house. If they are not completely dry they could start to get moldy.

Even keeping a close eye on the pods as they dry and getting out there to cut them daily, there is no way to avoid some of those seeds scattering naturally. Next year I am more interested in growing edible poppy seeds that these ornamental poppies (although they sure are beautiful.) I will have to plant the edible ones in a different garden so I can identify them. They are a different color, but I won’t know they when they all spout and I need to thin them before they have flowered and I can see their color.

Do you collect seeds?

Sincerely, Emily

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29 Responses to Harvesting Poppy Seeds (papaveraceae)

  1. victoria says:

    How cool is that? Bummer those orange beauties aren’t giving you edible seeds. Will the flower be a different color? I saved a a lot of seeds last summer, namely marigold, bell pepper and butternut squash. I was swimming in them – so I gave tons as Xmas gifts!

    • Hi Victoria – I ordered two edible types from Baker creek. One is the Hungarian Breadseed Poppy (http://rareseeds.com/hungarian-blue-breadseed-poppy.html) which will white to pale lavender. I can’t seem to find the link to the other one called Heirloom Pepperbox Poppy which will be a color range of “rich purple, vivid red and pale lilac” With the last one have a red color in them, I will plant them in a separate area so they aren’t confused. What a great idea to give seeds at Xmas. I have so many seeds I share them a lot and take them to a local plant/seed swap in May. I love saving vegetable seeds to use again the next year.

  2. Nancy Davis says:

    Hi Emily, Is that the poppy that when the foliage dies it looks ugly? I had those back when we lived in Michigan. Flowers were pretty tho. I have not save seeds a whole lot. Mostly flowers when I do but want to start on a veggie or two this year. Nancy at Cozy Thyme Cottage

    • Hi Nancy, you can see in the background of one of those photos the dry foliage (sort of, a bit blurry). When they dry they have a bare stalk with vary papery crumbly dry leaves. Not real attractive, but once I cut the seed heads off they are easy to pull out. I get a tough one every now and then, but mostly they pull out easily. You can always pull them out right after the flowers are spent, long before they dry out. I just left the tallest and biggest ones dry out to collect more seeds. Oh, once you start saving veggie seeds you will love it, just like flowers. It is so fun to plant seeds from your own harvest the year before. I get a kick out of it. It is nice to to go to the store to buy more seeds. Right now I am patiently waiting for my kale and lettuce seeds to dry so I can harvest them and make room to plant more veggies.

  3. I do save seeds! I am reseeding chives, basil, tomatoes, cilantro and beans from saved seeds this year.

    • That is great! Our chive just keep coming back and I keep the flowers and seed heads trimmed or I would have more chives than I knew what to do with (not necessarily a bad things!) Most of my tomato plants are from saved seeds and all my zipper peas are from saved seeds. Cilantro and basil too. I get a kick out of the feeling of using the seeds I saved. Yours look to be growing well!

  4. Pingback: Sunday Photos: Red | Sincerely, Emily

  5. shelley says:

    After the pods are dried and you remove the wanted seeds, do you cut the plant back or down or does it regrow next year?

    • Hi Shelley – The poppy is an annual that will reseed itself. Once the pods are dry, the seeds will scatter naturally or you can harvest and scatter them yourself. Then the plant is done and you can pull it up, it will not regrow the following spring. In South Texas we scatter our poppy and larkspur seeds in the fall along with any other wildflower seeds we want to germinate in the spring. Are you thinking of growing some poppies?

  6. shelley says:

    I actually was thinking of harvesting the seeds for my spice cabinet!?? When I bought it from a certified nursery in the San Francisco Bay Area they informed me that it would bring butterflies to the garden and at the end of the season I would be able to harvest the seeds as it is a “bread seed” type plant in the poppy family??!! I wanted those lovely LARGE flowers and hopefully some spices in the end! Thanks for the response! And BTW…. “Don’t Mess with Texas!!”

    • Hi Shelley, I had tons of bees on my poppies when they were blooming this spring. I don’t remember the butterflies being on them though. How exciting that you know what type of poppies you have and that they are bread poppies and the seed is edible. I do not know about mine, that is why I bought two culinary varieties to grow next spring. I will scatter the seeds this fall in a different garden so they are separate and I can keep the straight.

  7. Heather says:

    Can you tell me please what would happen if I were to break off semi-dry seed pods from poppies that have bloomed and spread them over another garden or keep them in an open container to dry? Would they dry that way or would they not be able to grow because they were harvested too soon? I need to revamp the entire area they have grown in as it is overgrown with perennials and I don’t want to loose them as they came from someone special. Some of the seed heads are brown but most are only green. I am on holidays this week and want to get a lot of that work done in the next few days…not wait until they are ripe on their stems!

    • Hi Heather, thanks for your comment and questions. I have been away from the computer for a few weeks and I know my reply comes after you have left on holidays. I can really only give you information from what I know and have tired. I let my poppy pods dry completely before harvesting the seeds. In the past, when collecting any type of seed that isn’t completely dry I have run into 2 memorable issues. One is that the seeds haven’t completely matured and developed and then haven’t germinated when I try to plant them when I harvested pods or seeds prematurely and secondly, mold. When harvesting seed pods or flower heads when they are not completely dried, mold can be an issue. I watch my poppy pods very closely because I not only want to collect the seeds to use and share, but I really don’t want them reseeding all over the place. I imagine you could use inclusion bags or a little netting over the pods while waiting for them to dry. The netting would allow airflow and also allow the pods to dry naturally. I have also learned that some poppies are perennial and will come up again next year and therefore you could plant them in another area. Mine are not perennial.

  8. Vicki says:

    This year, I tried cutting the pods before they were dry, and placed them in a paper sack to dry. I did this because I was hoping to avoid spreading so many seeds around. Do you think they will dry out in the bag and still be fertile?
    In the past I have pulled the poppies and placed them in the compost. Now, I have poppies growing all over my garden. Obviously, they overwinter here in my zone 6 garden. I wouldn’t call them a thug, YET, but I do want to control them.
    I haver never tried the seeds I have in a recipe- and not sure I want to. Do you know if the common poppy seeds taste bad?

  9. Hi Vicki. The comment above from Heather asked some of the same questions. Check it out for my answer about my experience in harvesting poppy seed pods. In terms of culinary poppy seeds, I can not tell you if your poppy (or even the one I am growing) has edible seeds. My understanding is that the breadseed poppies have edible seeds, but past that I have no idea. I have tried to accurately identify my poppy without success and therefore I am hesitant to eat the seeds. Check out this other post from December where I talk about the seeds I purchased fro Renee’s garden to grow for culinary purposes.


  10. Heather says:

    Thanks, Emily! Your reply makes total sense. I will be watching next year! My poppies are the sort that seed all over…pretty while they last but dreadfully ugly once they begin to die off. I need them to be covered by something that will hide the leaves and so therefore, need them controlled. I appreciate your advice!

  11. Hi Emily, I have always loved poppy flowers and the seeds for cooking. Will Poppies grow in Florida? It rarely gets cool at night once it gets into the summer heat. Thanks, Mindy

    • Hi Mindy. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, you can grow poppies in FL. Our summers are way too hot (like ours) for poppies in the summer like people living in the Midwest. I scatter my seeds in Oct/Nov. If we haven’t had much rain I will start watering that area in Jan. My poppy patch started blooming in the first few days of March this year. I had two areas and the one that got more sun was much more vigorous, tall and colorful. The second area started getting more sun as it moved further north, they were just shaded longer. I was amazed t the difference in the difference in the two poppy patches. I would recommend you scatter your seeds the same time I do (Oct/Nov) and look for your poppies to bloom in late Feb or early March. Remember, they will self seed themselves year after year if you let them, so if you want to control them on some level you will need to cut the seeds pods off before they are dry and open up to release their 1000’s of seeds. Some poppies are perennial, mine are not so I pull them all up when they are dead and gone. Hope that helps. Enjoy.

  12. millie kohler says:

    Can you please tell me the name of this red poppy as i have
    a photo of it and have no idea of its name

    • Hi Millie. I am sorry that I have no idea what the name of this poppy is. I do not know if it is ornamental or edible, all I know is that it is beautiful! I got the seeds from a neighbor/friend and she did not know either. Good luck.

  13. Natalie says:

    Thank you for your advice. I saw some of the most beautiful pink poppies almost like a peony growing wild yesterday at the back of an industrial area. I can’t wait to snaffle some of the seeds for my garden x

  14. Stephanie says:

    This has been really helpful to me thank you. I have just purchased a house with many beautiful poppies which I was unsure how to harvest. So thank you very much !

  15. coronawong says:

    Hi Emily, I would like to find out if you can share some of your poppy seeds….it’s very hard to find in my area and the few seeds that I bought from store seeds are not germinating…

    • coronawong – where do you live?

      • coronawong – I meant to add more – Some of my poppies I just let self-seed. Others that come up where I don’t want them, I am careful to cut off the seed pods to discourage them coming up in that area. In my area (South Texas), if I were starting fresh and trying to grow poppies, I would sow the seeds by just scattering them in the area I want them to grow in the late fall – like Oct or Nov, then they come up in the spring. I don’t know what area you live in, and I don’t think I would know what the proper way is for your area – an internet search would reveal some of that I imagine.

      • coronawong says:

        I live in North Carolina, zone 7b. I think it’s growable here, just scarce to source seeds.

  16. Plattejohns says:

    I live in northern michigan. A friend is giving me some seeds this year. Should I reseed these in the fall? Also my soul is very sandy will this be a problem?

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