Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plant of the Week: Matilija Poppy

Here she is, the Queen of the garden!  Besides having a Latin name that is easier to pronounce than her common one, Romneya coulteri reigns up to ten or twelve feet above her subjects.  Her sumptuous flowers span an unthinkable 8 inches across at times and the crepe-like petals create a soft dream across the landscape.  Never mind that she can be invasive in sandy, over-watered soils....  she's the Queen, she's conquering more territory! 

It's flowers like this that make me imagine I'm a little Bumble Bee, shimmying my way through those tentacles of sunshiney pollen.  As for the orgins of the name Matilija, I can't verify the myriad of Native American myths and legends found through the magic Google, but what seems to remain constant is that its orgins lie in the Chumash tribe.

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soil:  Infrequently watered clay seems best to keep her from pillaging other parts of the garden
Plant:  In Autumn, Winter or early Spring before she flowers.  Propagation can be challenging at best (click here for an adventurous lesson in that)
Buy it:  Hmmm, all my usual suspects don't show it in stock.  Bay Natives might have it and East Bay Wilds does have it.  Yay!  Bloom time and planting time don't usually go together, so perhaps try to wait until September or so if you can!
Good for:  Slopes, cottage gardens, wild and unkempt gardens, making your neighbors totally jealous, stopping traffic, bee gardens, mixing with Agaves or Yucca whipplei for a contemporary pairing, the forgotten sunny corner in the yard.


  1. Our neighbor has one blooming right now along the driveway. They really are quite impressive. I know I've seen it at Native Revival Nursery here, although I haven't yet ventured so far as buying one...

  2. Mmm. A beautiful plant for people with acreage. I've seen this plant spread, and spread, and spread. Great in public parks. Nevin from Suncrest says in his book that people always want this plant and the bush poppy, and that they're both really too big for a suburban garden.

  3. Sigh... I know, Town Mouse, but I just can't help myself! She's just so gorgeous that I had to include her with the spreading caveat.
    Hi Clare! I need to check out Native Revival sometime- I bought some Dudleyas from them when they were at Town Mouse's garden on the tour. I also saw a few for sale at the Super Long's (now CVS) on Pleasant Valley and Broadway in Oakland.

  4. Great minds think alike. Just yesterday I took some photos of a stand of Matilija Poppies near Stanford. Your post is wonderful to read and highly informative as well.

  5. Lovely description of Her Highness. We have a clump of them and they don't spread here. Never or rarely watered. Poor soil. A neighbor of mine has some out on a big hillside - also never irrigated - and they seem to stay about the same. I guess they are spoiled by the good life in a watered garden. I love them too - you just have to whack em back each year.

  6. Dutchbaby, I'd love to get your take on keeping them as cut flowers. Have you ever tried it?

    CM- good to hear the Queen can be happy with a controlled kingdom! I remember they covered the hillside of Joaquin Miller Park before they redid the fountain and it was so captivating having these 6' tall clouds framing a view of the bay!

  7. My sister brought me two plants from Sloat Nursery in Marin right after I lamented to her that I had never seen Matelija poppies for sale. The only ones I have ever seen have been on public property, so I haven't had a chance to try them as cut flowers. I have never seen them at the Flower Mart, which may indicate the writing on the wall, but as soon as I get blooms, I will try them as cut flowers. Check with me next year.