Sometimes we become so used to seeing fancy hybrid flowers that we forget to look in our own backyards for the showiest of them all. One stunner that grows in the Southern California chaparral despite poor soil and hot, dry summers is the Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri). Despite growing in harsh conditions, this is a big plant that shows off in a big way.
Oddly fussy about where it grows, the Matilija Poppy can refuse what looks like a perfectly comfortable home and become downright invasive in a space it decides is more to its liking. Where happy it can create a formidable thicket sending runners underground to surface far and wide.
The leaves are an attractive, light blue-green and spread out from long, tall stems. In early spring the Romneya blooms with breath-taking, huge crepe-paper textured white flowers opening out to show off deep yellow globular centers. These flowers can be four to six inches in diameter and smother the plant with enormous glowing white and yellow blooms.
A native California plant, the Matilija Poppy can compete with any fancy hybrid plant as an eye-catcher. If you live in an environment with lean, well-drained soil, hot dry summers, and winter temperatures that do not offer hard freezes, the Romneya may be a perfect choice to fill an area that needs a big, bold planting. Give it full sun and excellent drainage – and plenty of space to grow.
You can propagate the Matilija Poppy from cuttings, seed or most easily from rooted underground offshoots. Whether you dig you plant or buy it in a pot, Romneya coulteri is likely to be sensitive to root disturbance and can refuse to grow if traumatized, so disturb the roots as little as possible when planting.
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