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Products > Romneya coulteri
Romneya coulteri - Matilija Poppy
Image of Romneya coulteri
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Papaveraceae (Poppies)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) This beautiful California native plant is an herbaceous semi-deciduous subshrub that spreads from underground runners, growing to 4-6 feet tall and spreading to 8 feet or more with glaucus gray foliage pinnately divided into 3-5 lobes. The large (seven inches across) poppy flowers have white crinkled petals with a yellow center and are delicately fragrant with a peak bloom period during the spring and summer.

Plant in sun or partial sun in a well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant and hardy to near 0F. Initially difficult to establish but once happy it will run underground to form dense stands whose bare stems are best cut back to 3 to 4 inches above the ground in late fall to early winter.

Ironically people either complain that it is too difficult to get established initially or too difficult to eradicate once it has. Use care with the delicate roots when planting and consider a root barrier if containment is wanted. It can be grown for a few years and even flower in a container but is certainly a more dramatic plant when grown out in the open such as can be seen in the large patch along the road coming up to our nursery. The flowers are attractive to bees, birds and butterflies and the tall stems can be cut and used in flowers arrangements, but the flowers are relatively short lived in the vase - best cut in the bud stage and allowed to open but don't expect more than a couple days before yellow pollen and petals begin to drop. Some say that searing the cut stem with a flame can prolong the vase life.

Matilija Poppy is native to Southern California from Santa Barbara County south into Baja California where it grows in dry canyons within the chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities below 4,000 feet. The genus was named in 1845 by the Irish botanist William Henry Harvey for the Irish astronomer Thomas Romney Robinson, a friend of Thomas Coulter, who first discovered the plant. Coulter was an Irish physician and botanist who explored Mexico, Arizona and California in the early 19th century and the specific epithet honors him. Other common names include Romneya, Coulter's Matilija Poppy, Californian Tree Poppy and Fried Egg Flower. The common name Matilija Poppy comes from an area in Ventura County, Matilija Canyon, where this plant is abundant that was named for Chief Matilija of the Chumash Indian Tribe. The Chumash Indians used the sap of this plant to make a drink and for medicinal purposes. Romneya coulteri has the largest flowers of any plant native to California and was nominated as the State Flower in 1890, but lost to another member of its own family, the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica>/i>). 

This information about Romneya coulteri displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.