Important Note: This is simply an attempt at providing details on growing poppies outdoors for their opium content. Growing poppies for their opium can be used for medicinal benefits. Many drugs used to reduce pain are created from the opium content found in the opium poppy.
Please refrain from using this information to break any laws that may exist in your country. Learning the art of poppy growing solely to produce your own opium is illegal in some countries where medical practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, and governing bodies may have a monopoly on marketing drugs.
Smoking opium that comes from learning how to grow poppies can actually be a very enjoyable pursuit, when it is practiced with moderation. Many artists and intellectuals have drawn inspiration from the effects of opium ingestion after they have learned how to grow poppies.
In some parts of the world there is no pension system and a person must work until they die. These workers who have no choice but to perform hard physical jobs sometimes learn the techniques of growing opium poppies so that they can smoke opium to ease the pain enough for them to be able to work.
Most of the western countries allow chronic pain sufferers to take pain medication like codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and even morphine. These medications are all synthesized from the opium harvested from growing poppy seeds.
Unless suggested by a doctor, opium or any type of pain medication that is derived from opium should not be taken more often than once every 3-4 days. Addiction can be a problem and tolerance can develop if these rules are not followed. Now if you're ready we can proceed with detailing some steps on growing poppies indoors and in outdoor gardens.
Purchase Poppy Seeds:
First, purchase poppy seeds from reputable quality sources. Papaver somniferum seeds are the only types of species that you want for growing opium poppies. They are legal and available in most countries.
Buy poppy seeds online if you are not able to find a reliable source where you reside. The majority of people that buy Papaver somniferum seeds for poppy growing do so in order to learn how to grow poppies in a garden.
They simply have no intention of harvesting the opium the poppy plants produce. Refrain from mentioning opium or drugs especially when you are purchasing poppy seeds. If you actually need to speak with the seller, refer to opium poppies by their correct botanical name which is Papaver somniferum.
Most poppy seed suppliers ship from areas where opium may be illegal. They will refuse a sale or report your purchase to local police authorities if they believe that the poppy seeds will be used solely to produce opium. Even if it is legal for you to be growing opium poppies, it is not legal everywhere so be smart and avoid potential hassles by using sound discretion.
A few hundred poppy seeds may be contained in a single seed pack. The majority of poppy seed packs are about 1 gram so 1 or 2 will be all you need to get started on growing poppy seeds. 6 to 8 seed packs will be more than sufficient unless you are going to expand your poppy growing onto a larger commercial scale. You can supply your own poppy seeds by harvesting a few dry poppy seed capsules that were not used to make opium.
Poppy seeds you grow yourself can be used to provide the following years crop of opium poppies. One single healthy poppy seed capsule can generate hundreds of seeds for poppy growing. Papaver somniferum seeds will remain useable for approximately 2-5 years when they are stored in cool, dark, and dry conditions.
There are many different varieties of Papaver somniferum. The main differences are things such as optimal growing conditions, harvest time, capsule size, and the appearance of the flowers.
'Giganteum' or 'Hen And Chickens' or 'Persian' poppy seeds are decent varieties of Papaver somniferum seed to grow for opium production. Please keep in mind that any variety of Papaver somniferum seed that can sprout a root and grow can be used for growing poppies.
Just buy Papaver somniferum poppy seeds and try your hand in growing poppies in your own time. If you are successful, you can begin to experiment with different species of Papaver somniferum to see which technique of growing poppy plants works best in the growing conditions available.
When dealing with numerous different varieties of Papaver somniferum at the same time, it is recommended that you keep each variety in a separate growing area. This way you can determine which species produces the most quality opium.
Once you are able to determine what variety of Papaver somniferum is best for the available growing conditions, you can focus and cultivate it alone to grow the next years opium seed crop.
'Hen and chickens' seed is named because the plant produces a larger main pod surrounded by numerous smaller pods. Thus it looks like a mother hen surrounded by her baby chicks.
Growing Poppy Seeds (Planting):
Growing opium Poppies in a cool climate is much better than in hot weather. They grow best in loose, well drained soil but don't grow so well in dense soil.
If during the night there is a drop in temperature of about 20 degrees F or more it is actually much better than a steady temperature throughout the day and night. This night time temperature drop is most important during the first 8 weeks of the plants life when growing poppies. The pH balance of the soil needs to be somewhere in the neutral range of about 7 for effective poppy growing.
Germination is the beginning of the life cycle for the plant. The poppy seed is planted into the soil and then supplied with water. If the growing conditions are good and the poppy seeds are of good quality they should have no problem in germinating and growing poppies.
To germinate properly, the seeds need to be spaced apart about 5 inches by dropping them in the intended locations. Afterwards you need to cover them with about a half inch of loose soil. During the process of germination, the aforementioned night-time temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees F and day-time temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees F are the most ideal conditions for growing poppy seeds.
Once they are planted, gently mist the poppy seeds at least once a day and keep them moist but not soaking wet. The soil needs to be kept moist until the plant germinates and produces a main root and sprout some leaves.
When you are able to see the first set of leaves you know the plant has germinated properly and the root system has started to establish itself. The opium poppy seeds are vulnerable until the initial sprouts are a few inches tall.
You can begin growing poppy plants in the late fall or even early spring. If planted in the fall, you should allow them adequate time to grow a few inches before the first snowfall begins.
The poppy seeds will lay dormant in the winter and start growing again the following spring season. Some of the poppy plants may die during the cold winter days but enough of them should survive to produce a healthy crop. Snow actually provides good insulation over the long cold winter months.
If all the plants die over the winter, the weather in the area you live in might be too extreme. Start growing opium poppies in the fall and you can also try growing poppies in the beginning of spring.
If you live in an area that has mild to moderate winters, which means the average temperature does fall below 32F, you can wait till mid or late december to begin growing poppy plants. Growing poppies in the fall or winter allows them to continue growing as soon as the weather starts to warm up in spring. This means they will be able to harvest earlier than those started in spring.
If you plant seeds and beging growing poppy seeds in spring, try planting as early as possible. Plant the seeds as soon as the last winter snow recedes. Starting to grow opium poppies at the edge of melting snow is recommended.
Poppies do not transplant very well. If you really need to germinate the plant anywhere else other than where it will be grown, use something like peat cups so you can place the holder directly in the ground without touching the sensitive roots.
As the root system has established itself, the ideal temperature is the same as it was during germination. Soil that is moist but not overly wet or soaked is preferred and 8-14 hours of sunlight per day is recommended. Some of the young plants may flop over and appear like they are dying, but most of them will stand straight up and continue growing continuously for a few days.
This particular stage lasts about 2 weeks or more. As the plants grow, you will have to decide which are the healthiest and make sure they have at least 12 inches of space around them to grow effectively. That means cutting down any other growing poppy plants within 12 inches of a healthy one. This thinning process should take place when the plants are 4-6 inches tall.
If the poppy plants are crowded the harvest will be smaller than it would be if the plants were spaced out evenly and properly. Such crowding conditions will produce a low number of smaller sized flower heads. Under good growing conditions the plant will start a main stem that will branch out into several smaller stems.
Each stem will produce a flower and then a seed pod, or capsule, that can be used to produce opium. Most poppy plants produce 3-5 poppy flower heads. Some growers have even reported an astonishing 7 or more poppy heads. A single flower usually means the plants need more space.
For optimal growth fertilize the poppy seedlings with cow or chicken manure when needed. As the poppy plant grows, more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium may be added. A general purpose 20-10-20 fertilizer is good and can easily be purchased at your local garden store.
As the poppy plant matures it prefers drier soil, longer days, and stronger sunlight than it did during its earlier stages of growth. Just prior to and during flowering, warm daytime temperatures of 68-75 degrees, cool nights of 35-55 degrees, and dry conditions are preferred. After flowering, any rain or moisture will dilute the opium and make it less potent.
Flowering starts about 8-12 weeks after germination. 16 or more hours of sunlight a day is best when flowering. The important thing is that the poppy plant gets lots of sunlight during this critical time. After flowering, petals will fall off the flower in approximately 2 days up to several weeks.
When the petals fall off, the seed capsules will beging to develop. The seed capsule will be ready to harvest about 14-20 days after the petals fall off. Outdoors, the total time from germination to harvest will be about 120-140 days.
Gathering and Harvesting Opium:
After the last petal has dropped, make sure to pay attention to the gray band at the top of the seed capsule where the petals were attached. When the gray band is very dark, almost black, that means the opium is ready to harvest. This will be about 14-20 days after the petals beging to fall off.
To harvest properly you need to make a shallow cut to release opium from the seed capsule. The cut should be less than 1/16 of an inch deep and you need to do it all around the poppy pod. As you do so, you will see little globs of white oozing out.
Leave the wounds to release opium for about 3-6 hours and then collect your opium. By now, the white globs will have turned into yellowish/brownish globs that can be scraped off and collected on a blunt knife or something similar.
After the opium is harvested, the easiest way to consume it is by smoking. A quarter gram or less at a time. Remember, only once every four days to prevent addiction!
Notes On How To Grow Poppies:
Growing opium poppies are fairly easy and it is legal to grow Papaver somniferum flowers in most parts of the world.
If you are taking any kind of prescribed narcotic pain killer, you may not always have the ease of accessing a pharmacy in times of emergency.
Growing poppy seeds as a garden plant can be a rewarding gardening experience. Even if you don't produce any opium, you can have the peace of mind that you will be able to, if the need should arise.
After you learn how to grow poppies and raise your first successful crop you can start experimenting with other more specific things such as when to plant, pH levels, fertilizer and different strains of Papaver somniferum to see which works best in the growing conditions available.
In some areas of the world, knowing that the poppies you grow are solely to produce opium is illegal. If you are arrested, it will be assumed that you were growing them for the opium they produce. If you live in a country like this you should cease from reading this page immediately.
In other countries, once you start to scratch the seed capsules to produce opium, you become party to a conspiracy to manufacture narcotics. This is definitely not very smart, so be extremely careful and double or even triple check local laws before growing Papaver somniferum in your community.