Django admin integration

Off course, it’s possible to register individual polymorphic models in the Django admin interface. However, to use these models in a single cohesive interface, some extra base classes are available.

The polymorphic admin interface works in a simple way:

  • The add screen gains an additional step where the desired child model is selected.
  • The edit screen displays the admin interface of the child model.
  • The list screen still displays all objects of the base class.

The polymorphic admin is implemented via a parent admin that forwards the edit and delete views to the ModelAdmin of the derived child model. The list page is still implemented by the parent model admin.

Both the parent model and child model need to have a ModelAdmin class. Only the ModelAdmin class of the parent/base model has to be registered in the Django admin site.

The parent model

The parent model needs to inherit PolymorphicParentModelAdmin, and implement the following:

  • base_model should be set
  • child_models or get_child_models() should return a list with (Model, ModelAdmin) tuple.

The exact implementation can depend on the way your module is structured. For simple inheritance situations, child_models is the best solution. For large applications, get_child_models() can be used to query a plugin registration system.

By default, the non_polymorphic() method will be called on the queryset, so only the Parent model will be provided to the list template. This is to avoid the performance hit of retrieving child models.

This can be controlled by setting the polymorphic_list property on the parent admin. Setting it to True will provide child models to the list template.

Note: If you are using non-integer primary keys in your model, you have to edit pk_regex, for example pk_regex = '([\w-]+)' if you use UUIDs. Otherwise you cannot change model entries.

The child models

The admin interface of the derived models should inherit from PolymorphicChildModelAdmin. Again, base_model should be set in this class as well. This class implements the following features:

  • It corrects the breadcrumbs in the admin pages.
  • It extends the template lookup paths, to look for both the parent model and child model in the admin/app/model/change_form.html path.
  • It allows to set base_form so the derived class will automatically include other fields in the form.
  • It allows to set base_fieldsets so the derived class will automatically display any extra fields.

The standard ModelAdmin attributes form and fieldsets should rather be avoided at the base class, because it will hide any additional fields which are defined in the derived model. Instead, use the base_form and base_fieldsets instead. The PolymorphicChildModelAdmin will automatically detect the additional fields that the child model has, display those in a separate fieldset.

Polymorphic Inlines

To add a polymorphic child model as an Inline for another model, add a field to the inline’s readonly_fields list formed by the lowercased name of the polymorphic parent model with the string “_ptr” appended to it. Otherwise, trying to save that model in the admin will raise an AttributeError with the message “can’t set attribute”.


The models are taken from Advanced features.

from django.contrib import admin
from polymorphic.admin import PolymorphicParentModelAdmin, PolymorphicChildModelAdmin
from .models import ModelA, ModelB, ModelC, StandardModel

class ModelAChildAdmin(PolymorphicChildModelAdmin):
    """ Base admin class for all child models """
    base_model = ModelA

    # By using these `base_...` attributes instead of the regular ModelAdmin `form` and `fieldsets`,
    # the additional fields of the child models are automatically added to the admin form.
    base_form = ...
    base_fieldsets = (

class ModelBAdmin(ModelAChildAdmin):
    base_model = ModelB
    # define custom features here

class ModelCAdmin(ModelBAdmin):
    base_model = ModelC
    # define custom features here

class ModelAParentAdmin(PolymorphicParentModelAdmin):
    """ The parent model admin """
    base_model = ModelA
    child_models = (
        (ModelB, ModelBAdmin),
        (ModelC, ModelCAdmin),

class ModelBInline(admin.StackedInline):
    model = ModelB
    fk_name = 'modelb'
    readonly_fields = ['modela_ptr']

class StandardModelAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    inlines = [ModelBInline]

# Only the parent needs to be registered:, ModelAParentAdmin), StandardModelAdmin)