Poppies (Papaver sp.) are resilient, tolerant plants. Their bright, crepe-like flowers nod cheerfully in rocky areas that repel other plants, and poppies reseed happily in gardens with poor soils. This tough nature comes with a price, however. Poppies produce thick taproots that enable them to survive in many conditions, but this taproot also prevents easy transplanting; whenever possible, wait for the poppy to produce seed and simply reseed your plant in another area. If you must move a poppy plant, follow a few guidelines to reduce stress on the poppy and increase your chances of a successful transplant.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Move young or dormant poppies for increased success.
Select young poppies whenever possible, especially when moving annual varieties such as Shirley or corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas). If you are transplanting seedlings, wait until the sprouts have two sets of true leaves. Water well to soften the soil.
Dig a new planting hole for the poppies in a sunny, well-drained area. If you move multiple plants, space the holes 1 foot apart.
Garden trowels are often too small to safely move the root balls of mature poppies.
Clear the area around the poppy. Use the shovel to cut a wide area around the plant, encompassing as much of the root system as possible. Lift the poppy, and stop if there are still roots binding the plant to the ground. Dig deeper if necessary.
Set the poppy immediately into the prepared planting hole, and adjust the hole depth to ensure the poppy’s soil level is even or just above the soil level of the new location. Press the soil lightly, and eliminate any air pockets. Water well, and mulch the newly transplanted poppy.
Transplant poppies on cloudy days, or wait until later in the afternoon. This reduces heat stress on the newly moved plants.
Always space poppies based on their mature size. Crowded poppies may appear attractive in bloom, but crowded poppies also attract pests and disease.