6ef83b92151fdcb43ea0887ed6989c91

As most gardeners know, the California Poppy is the official state flower of California. 

Brvanderhoff.jpgut, if there were a silver medalist in this category, the runner-up for this honor would likely be the Matilija Poppy (Romneya).

Matilija (say “ma-TILL-a-ha) Poppies grow native in only a few select locations from Ventura to San Diego, including Orange County, so perhaps this plant might be better known as The “Southern” California State Flower”.

Many gardeners will recognize the Matilija Poppy’s striking flowers, especially at this time of the year. They are hard to miss, often eight to ten inches across, the largest flower of any of California’s over 4,000 native plant species.

About this time of year tall stems rise upward from a mass of beautiful steely blue-grey foliage. Atop each stem, often as high as six or eight feet, are incredibly beautiful, pure white, crepe-paper-like petals surrounding a crown of glistening golden stamens. The appearance is reminiscent of a huge fried egg – sunny side up of course. As you lean in for a closer look, the blossoms exude a heady aroma of fresh apricots. The flowers are a magnet for honeybees and native pollinators. 

matilija.jpgBut before you head out to plant one in your garden, fair warning should be given. First, a Matilija Poppy can be a very difficult plant to get started in a garden environment. Second, if it does take hold, it will spread aggressively by underground stems and will reappear several feet from where it was originally planted. Beware, and don’t even try to imprison it, as it always finds a way to escape even your best efforts.

In the right location Matilija Poppy is a beauty.

In the wrong location Matilija Poppy is a beast. If you do have the right location for a Matilija Poppy, perhaps a large, unwatered hillside or an enclosed parkway, there are a few things you should know about getting this plant started.  

The first mistake is to plant Matilija Poppies now, in the spring, while they are blooming. Like most California native plants, fall planting is far more successful. Do not be discouraged if the plants in the nursery look a bit scruffy and bedraggled in October or November; that’s how they should look, they’ve just been through a hot, bone dry summer. But don’t worry, they are about ready to plump up and begin growing again. Fall is the time to plant a Matilija Poppy. 

When removing the plant from its container, handle it gingerly. Do not disturb the roots or allow the soil to collapse. Be careful to position the plant in an area that has loose gravely or sandy soil; soil that water will travel through quickly. Do not use any planting mixes around the root ball, but some course sand or decomposed granite may be helpful if the soil is heavy or poorly drained.

For the first few months water your young plant just barely enough to keep it alive; rainfall will do most of the work for you. During the first summer your irrigations must also straddle a fine line; too much water and root rot will overwhelm the plant, to little and the adolescent plant will dehydrate and perish. Again, water only if absolutely necessary.  

Once your Matilija Poppy gains a foothold, it will be very carefree. Large, established plants can tolerate some summer water, but don’t require it. Fertilizer is unnecessary as well, since a Matilija Poppy will need no extra encouragement to grow aggressively. In fall or early winter, after the flowers have passed and the foliage has declined, the entire plant should be cut back. Simply trim all of the tall flowered shoots down to as little as three or four inches above the soil. Shortly thereafter, new, lush foliage will emerge below these cuts, with blooms to follow.

If you love Matilija Poppies, but don’t have the space for one in your garden or the proper conditions for growing it, this is a good time to see them in their natural, native glory. A May drive along Santiago Canyon Road, in the hills of eastern Orange County, will reward you with several nice views of Matilija’s in full bloom. As you travel the road, especially between Cook’s Corner and Irvine Lake, look to the west, a few yards from the road. The huge saucer-sized flowers will be hard to miss.

Questions from Readers May 23.

Question:
 
I struggle with gardenias. Someone suggested I try a grafted one. What is that and is there really any difference?
 
Thomas, Newport Beach
 
Answer:
Gardenias can be a bit persnickety; very particular about things like soil pH, iron, drainage, water and even daytime versus nighttime temperatures. Grafted gardenias solve several of these issues. The details of the grafting process are insignificant. What’s important is that grafted gardenias are far easier to grow. A grafted gardenia is less troubled by alkaline soils, handles clay better, and even pulls iron out of our soil more effectively than a plant grown on its own root. Given the choice, I would only plant a grafted gardenia.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar and his profile can be seen on the Mulch.

Save


Plant Care Reminders

Amaryllis Monthly Plant Care
Bulbs, Corms and Rhizomes Julie Bawden-Davis

Hippeastrum spp. (Amaryllis) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Trees Kate Copsey

Pruning and Care of Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles are one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the south.

Plant Care Reminders - Herbs - Sunset…

13015 Mr. Mitch
Dill
Do you live In coastal southern California? Do you grow any of these Herbs?

Camellia (Camellia spp) - Monthly Plant…

8994 Julie Bawden-Davis
Camellia Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Basketboy Tomato
Container Gardening Chris Eirschele

Tomato Plant Varieties for Container Growing

Each year more and more varieties of tomato plants appear, enabling container gardeners to grow tomatoes in their own garden.
Canna Leaf Roller

Canna Leaf Rollers & Other Common Bugs

Summer has arrived in the south and the bright colors of the Cannas are everywhere.

The Childhood Lessons of a Garden

9336
Gardening Lessons with Children
When I was just a small boy, any idle time was usually spent outdoors. When school was…

Potted Plant Secrets, From the Ground Up

44681
Potted Plants
Growing plants in containers has never been more popular. It couldn’t be easier, right?

Steve Goto - Southwest

12741
Steve Goto
Region: Southwest

Plant Recommendations

Black Elderberry
Plant Recommendations Taylor Murphy

Perennials with Black Color - Southern California

Taylor Murphy's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Perennials with Black Color for Southern California.
Albizia julibrissin
Plant Recommendations Linsey Evans

Trees - South East England

Linsey Evans' Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Trees for South East England.

Succulents with Red or Orange-Red…

17966 Debra Lee Baldwin
Echeveria pulvinata
Debra Lee Baldwin's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Succulents with Red or Orange-Red…

Succulents and Cacti - Arizona

20431 Julie and Steve Plath
Agave parryi
Steve Plath's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Succulents and Cacti for Arizona.

California Native Desert Garden Plants…

14552 Greg Rubin
Desert Mallow - Sphaeralcea ambigua
Greg Rubin's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite California Native Desert Garden Plants.

Featured Plant Care

Default Image

Grevillea - Mountain (Grevillea alpina) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Planting Potatoes

Potato Mini Tuber Growing Guide

in Edibles
At Renee's Garden, I offer only the varieties that are very special for home gardeners,…
Oranges Monthly Plant Care

Oranges - Sweet (Citrus sinensis ) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Agapanthus Monthly Plant Care Calendar

Agapanthus africanus (Lily of the Nile) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Leaf Curl - Information Hub

Peach leaf curl is a common problem found on leaves of Peaches and Nectarines (and their…
Avocado Information Hub

Avocado - Growing and Plant Care Information Hub

in Edibles
We're bringing relevant information about Avocados (Persea americana) to one fantastic…

Popular Articles

Using the Mulch for Home Gardeners

Home Gardener: Using All The Great Features on the Mulch

You Can Use The Great Features on the Mulch For Free!
Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)

Upcoming Events

View All Events

Who's Online

We have 2087 guests and no members online