Plant of the month: Romneya coulteri

The Romneya coulteri brings a much needed refreshing and light feeling to your summer garden. Commonly known as the matilija poppy, this California native grows in dry canyons within the chaparral areas of southern California.  Its large showy flowers are lightly fragrant with airy, crinkled petals and a bright yellow center. As the common name reveals, this plant belongs to the poppy family and was once nominated as the state flower, but lost to its popular orange relative, the California poppy

This perennial shrub can grow up to eight feet tall and spread endlessly wide.  It thrives in light sandy soils with good drainage. The matilija poppy’s life cycle is one of extremes; it can be difficult to establish, but once it is rooted it is an aggressive grower and some find it difficult to eradicate. It spreads by rhizomes, or rootstocks, that can give rise to new shoots. It does better planted directly into the ground rather than in pots, and should not be planted in small areas.  The blooms can be cut and used in flower arrangements, but they are relatively short lived.  A fun fact about the matilija poppy: it has the largest flowers of any species native to California – as big as seven inches!

During the first year of planting, be sure to give it a good watering once a week, through its first summer. Like most California native plants, once established it will survive with natural rainfall and does not require additional irrigation – perfect for a water-wise garden.

For tips on growing plants that are disease and pathogen free, see guidance here and here.

For more information on the matilija poppy click here. 




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