To say it straight away: feather poppy is not suitable for all gardens, because this perennial needs space. Not only enough space to show off well, but also to be able to spread out. If she is not granted this space, she can quickly overgrow all her neighbors. Unfortunately, it has somewhat discredited its ability to spread quickly. That is why Macleaya cordata is rarely offered in garden centers or nurseries. Completely wrong, because the feather poppy, which is probably one of the largest perennials, has a lot to offer, even if it is one of the poisonous plants.


  • botanischer Name: Macleaya cordata
  • belongs to the poppy family
  • Growth height: up to 2 meters
  • Leaves: relatively large, heart-shaped, slightly lobed
  • Underside of leaf slightly felty hairy
  • Flowers: colored in shades of white, pink and red
  • Flowering period: from June to September
  • perennial, upright growing plant
  • foliage perennial
  • poisonous

species and occurrence

The feather poppy (Macleaya cordata) originally comes from China and Japan, where it blooms in large numbers on sunny meadows throughout the summer. The leaves of the bushy, perennial plant are also very decorative. They are palm-sized when young, larger when older, lobed, mostly heart-shaped, and bluish-green to olive-green in color.

  • Flamingo: pink flowers
  • Kelway Coral Plume: coral red flowers
  • Coral Feather: Dull pink flowers


Because of its quite stately growth height of about two meters and the decorative flowers, the feather poppy is often used as a decorative solitary plant in border beds. In favorable locations, it reaches a height within a few weeks that also makes it interesting as a privacy plant. Macleaya cordata is considered not very demanding, but prefers a loamy and deep soil. But any normal garden soil that is humus-rich and rich in nutrients also offers sufficiently good growth conditions for the feather poppy. The giant perennial develops the most lush flowers in a very sunny location. But it also thrives well in light partial shade. Too dark places in the garden lead to squat growth and poor development of flowers.

  • Light requirements: full sun to light semi-shade
  • Soil: well drained and loose
  • prefers humus-rich, nutrient-rich soil
  • like a little wetter
  • very adaptable
Tip: feather poppy is a solitary perennial on its own, but it is also extremely good as a background plant for mallow, hollyhocks or torch lilies.


The best planting time for the large perennial is April or September. Since the feather poppy is very vigorous and tends to proliferate, a correspondingly large distance from neighboring plants is recommended. If you want to curb the growth of the perennial from the start, you can plant it in a slightly larger pot and let it sink into the ground. This limits the spread of the fast-growing rhizomes. In these cases, however, annual repotting is necessary so that the feather poppy always has enough fresh soil and nutrients available. If the poppies are to be planted directly in the garden soil, the garden soil is dug up well in advance. Heavy soils can be made more permeable with sand or grit. In addition, a start fertilizing with compost is recommended.

  • Time: spring planting recommended (end of April)
  • Mix heavy soils with sand
  • if necessary, create a drainage of gravel or grit
  • improve lean soils with mature compost
  • Planting distance: at least 1 meter, better 1.5 meters
  • install a rhizome barrier to curb growth
  • alternatively place the plant in a large pot in the ground
  • before planting, place the root ball in a bucket of water for a few minutes
  • After planting, fill up the planting hole with humus-rich soil
  • tread lightly on earth
  • water well
Note: After sprouting in spring, the feather poppy is a little sensitive to frost. Mulch or straw will protect him from frostbite until mid-May. If frost damage occurs, the perennial recovers surprisingly quickly.

tub planting

Due to its decorative leaves and bushy growth, the feather poppy is also well suited as a container plant for balconies and terraces. However, since the plant grows quite quickly, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Minimum depth of the planter: 60 cm
  • Feather poppy is a taproot and needs sufficient space
  • choose sheltered south or west side
  • also suitable for sunny house entrances
  • needs nutrient-rich, loose soil


Feather poppy contains a slightly orange, milky juice in its stems and leaves. Stains from this milky sap are not easy to remove from skin and clothing. All parts of the plant contain alkaloids such as sanguinarine and chelerythine, which distinguish the feather poppy as a poisonous plant. Where small children play, the perennial poses a certain danger. Sensitive people may also experience irritation or reddening on skin contact.


Feather poppies can be planted in a suitable location with almost no maintenance. Only regular watering is the basic requirement for lush growth. In the vegetation phase, the large perennial needs plenty of water and should therefore be watered regularly. The soil is allowed to dry out a little before the next watering. The perennial survives short periods of drought without any problems. However, waterlogging must be avoided at all costs.

plants Usually it is sufficient if the plant is mulched with mature compost in the spring. Alternatively, a slow-release fertilizer such as horn meal or horn shavings can be worked into the soil around the plant. Additional fertilization in June is only advisable in very poor soils, so that the feather poppy can continue to develop well and form flowers.

Pot plants
If you plant your feather poppies in high-quality pot plant substrate, you don’t need any additional fertilizer in the first year. Otherwise, the perennial can be fertilized with commercial green plant fertilizer every two weeks or alternatively in spring with a long-term fertilizer such as horn shavings or fertilizer sticks.


Macleaya cordata can be propagated both vegetatively and generatively. Both ways are very easy on the plant and have a high success rate. The division has the advantages that an exact copy of the mother plant is created and the young plant develops faster. If you have different varieties of feather poppy in your garden, you may experience one or two surprises when you grow them from seeds you have harvested yourself when crosses are produced from the individual species.

Propagating by root suckers

Feather poppies spread via underground runners (rhizomes), which is why it sometimes tends to overgrow entire beds. However, these rhizomes can also be used to propagate the vigorous large perennials. To do this, you can dig up the rootstock on a frost-free day in autumn or winter and cut off the side shoots with a clean knife. It’s even easier if you cut off any runners that are already growing out of the ground elsewhere with a spade and plant them in a new spot. The rhizomes are not particularly deep in the ground, but rather emerge from the mother plant at a depth of about 10 to 20 centimeters.


It makes sense to divide an older feather poppy from the fourth year. As a result, the plant visibly rejuvenates and grows and blooms again. When bed space is limited and the perennial is slowly becoming invasive and overgrowing other neighbors, it’s time for a root trim. Here you get two or more independent plants.

  • Time: early spring, before new growth
  • cloudy, frost-free day
  • Wear gloves to protect against poisonous plant juices
  • dig up the entire root ball
  • pull roots apart
  • cut into different pieces
  • each piece should have well defined roots and eyes
  • now spurs can also be separated
  • replant individual pieces
Note: When planting the root pieces or the runners, it is best to always work a little mature compost and sand into the garden soil. Then you don’t have to fertilize in the near future.

Propagation by seeds

Another way to propagate feather poppies is to sow the seeds that form on the fertilized inflorescences in autumn. Once planted in the garden, feather poppies are hard to get rid of. It multiplies both by runners in the ground and by self-seeding. These mature seeds can be harvested and are best pre-cultivated in a warm room.

  • When: January to March
  • Saattiefe: 0.5 cm
  • Substrate: moist cactus soil or potting soil
  • no special preparation necessary
  • set up warm (18 to 22 degrees)
  • bright, but without direct sunlight
  • Cover seeds with fine sand or substrate
  • Germination time: irregularly within 3 to 6 weeks
  • Cultivation in the mini greenhouse
  • alternatively protect against evaporation with a pane of glass or a freezer bag
  • air occasionally
  • remove cover after germination
  • prick out as soon as the first leaves form (after the cotyledons).
  • can be placed early in the cold frame or greenhouse
  • Plant outdoors from mid-May


The feather poppy is very hardy in the temperate latitudes. After flowering, the shrub is cut back to 10 cm above ground level. However, this should only be done when the plant is already beginning to wither. A cover to protect against frost is only necessary for plants that were planted recently (in the fall). All other, well established specimens do not require any additional measures. Anyone who forgot to cut off the withered shoots in autumn must do so by February at the latest, i.e. before the perennial sprouts again.

diseases and pests

The greatest danger for the fast-growing feather poppy are certainly slugs in the garden, which can eat it down to the ground almost overnight. The pests like to feast on the young shoots. Although the perennial will sprout again after defoliation, it usually remains quite unsightly and sparse all year round. It is best to take appropriate measures against the voracious garden dwellers in early spring.

Feather poppy is a very easy-care large perennial that is well suited as a solitary plant but also as a privacy screen for fences or walls. The plant reaches impressive growth heights of over two meters in just a few weeks and also adorns the garden throughout the summer with its fine panicles of flowers. If you are afraid of uncontrolled spread, simply plant them in a bucket or prevent the roots from growing with a rhizome barrier.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *