Growing Iceland Poppies – A Favorite Cut Flower

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My newest obsession, and maybe yours, is Iceland poppies. Their delicate petals, reminiscent of crepe paper flowers, are – well, I have no words for how wonderful these flowers are in a vase. They are GORGEOUS and my new favorite for spring, so much so that we’re dedicating a large swath of our garden next spring to just these flowers, now that I figured out how to grow them in our region (6B US) successfully. They can be a wee bit tricky!

In our post below, we will give you everything you need to know about how to grow and care for Iceland poppies right in your backyard.

Yellow and red Iceland poppy on a white background.

Choosing Iceland Poppies for Your Spring Gardens

Iceland poppies (AKA arctic poppy, Icelandic poppy), scientifically known as Papaver nudicaule, are charming and delicate flowering plants known for their vibrant and colorful blossoms. Here’s a description of Iceland poppies:

  1. Appearance: Iceland poppies are typically small, herbaceous perennial plants that grow to about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters). They have slender, erect stems that hold up their blossoms.
  2. Flowers: The most striking feature of Iceland poppies is their flowers. These poppies produce large, bowl-shaped blooms measuring 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) in diameter. The petals are papery and translucent, which gives them a delicate appearance. Iceland poppies come in various vibrant colors, including white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. They often have a central black or dark purplish spot at the base of the petals.
  3. Foliage: The foliage of Iceland poppies is typically blue-green and forms a basal rosette at the base of the plant. The leaves are lobed and finely dissected.
  4. Toxicity: Like many poppy species, Iceland poppies contain alkaloids and can be toxic if ingested. Therefore, they should be planted away from areas where pets or small children play.
A single bright red iceland poppy against a bright white background.

Growing and Caring for Icelandic Poppies

Here are the best practices for growing and caring for Iceland poppies:

Blooming Season: 

Iceland poppies are known for their long blooming season, typically from late spring to early summer. In some regions with milder climates, they may continue to bloom into early autumn.

Ideal Conditions for Thriving Poppy Plants

If you want to grow healthy, robust Iceland poppies, providing them with the right conditions is essential. 

Iceland poppies thrive and grow best in cool, temperate climates and are best suited for gardens in regions with mild summers. They prefer full sun but can still thrive in partial shade. Iceland poppies are relatively easy to grow from seeds or nursery plants and are often used in flower beds, borders, and containers.

These lovely flowers thrive in well-draining soil that receives ample sunlight.

The Importance of Regular Watering

Watering is a crucial aspect of caring for Iceland poppies. These plants require regular watering to keep their roots hydrated and promote healthy growth. Watering them deeply once or twice a week is recommended, depending on the weather conditions. During hot summer, when rainfall may be scarce, monitoring soil moisture levels closely and adjusting your watering schedule is essential.

Close up of Icelandic poppies (papaver nudicaule) in bloom.

Retaining Moisture and Controlling Weeds With Mulch

Mulching around your Iceland poppies serves multiple purposes—it helps retain moisture in the soil and can prevent weed growth. Applying a layer of organic mulch, such as weed-free straw or wood chips, around the base of the plants can significantly benefit their overall health and appearance. Mulch acts as insulation, protecting the roots from extreme temperatures during both summer and winter seasons.

By suppressing weed growth, mulching reduces competition for nutrients and water resources, allowing your Iceland poppies to flourish without competing with unwanted plants that could hinder their growth.

Deadheading for Continuous Blooming

One effective technique to encourage continuous blooming in Iceland poppies is deadheading—the removal of spent flowers before they can go to seed. Snipping off wilted blooms regularly prevents energy in flowering plants from being directed toward seed production and instead redirects it toward new flower formation.

Deadheading keeps your garden neat and stimulates the plant to produce more blooms. This process encourages the poppies to continue flowering throughout the growing season, giving you a more extended display of their beautiful and colorful petals.

Yellow, white and orange iceland poppies in full bloom in a field.

Tips for Successful Cultivation of Iceland Poppies

One of the critical steps for cultivation is properly sowing the seeds. Unlike many other flower seeds, Iceland poppy seeds should be planted on the soil surface without covering them. Sowing them on the surface allows them to receive adequate light for germination. This technique is because these tiny seeds require light to trigger their germination process.

By carefully scattering the seeds across the soil surface, you allow them to establish themselves and develop into healthy plants. Avoid burying the tiny seeds too deep in the soil, as it may hinder their ability to sprout and grow. Instead, gently press them into the ground or use a light dusting of fine compost or vermiculite to keep them in place.

Icelandic poppy seeds are as small as dust, so be careful watering. Heavy watering can displace the seeds and wash them away.

Sow seeds indoors to get a head start In Colder Regions.

They say that poppies do not like being transplanted – I can tell you that is untrue. I have transplanted countless Iceland poppies without an issue, and many professional growers start indoors in seed cells before starting beds. So, try it if you are in a colder zone like I am. I promise you won’t be disappointed. It is a much more reliable way to get Iceland poppies than sowing them out in late summer or attempting to grow them by spreading seeds.

Although Iceland poppies enjoy cooler regions, they also require warmer temperatures and a stratification period before germinating. To mimic the stratification, I freeze my seeds for three weeks before sowing, which works like a charm.

Indoor Seed Starting Tips

To ensure successful cultivation and harvest of Iceland poppies, it’s best to start the seeds inside about 10-12 weeks before the last frost date in your region. This will give them a head start and allow them to establish strong roots before being transplanted outdoors.

When starting the seeds indoors, use seed trays or trays filled with well-draining potting soil. Sow the seeds on the soil’s surface and lightly press them down, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as excessive moisture can lead to fungal diseases.

Seeds need warm temperatures to germinate, so a heating mat is a good idea. Once the plants have two true leaves, you can move them off the mat. Grow them in a warm location until they are at least 1 inch tall (should take two months), and then place them out in the garden.

Newly planted Iceland poppies will bloom in just six weeks after planting. I like to plant out in early spring and protect if we get an odd late frost so I have the earliest blooms possible.

In warmer climates, seeds can be sown in summer for a winter bloom.

Close up of a red Iceland poppy with yellow centre.

Transplant seedlings outdoors after hardening them off

Once your Iceland poppy seedlings have grown to a suitable size and show several sets of true leaves, it’s time to prepare them for transplanting outdoors and hardening them off gradually before moving them directly from indoor conditions to their permanent outdoor location.

Hardening off involves gradually exposing the seedlings to outdoor conditions for one to two weeks. Start by placing the seedlings outside in a sheltered spot for just a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure time and intensity of sunlight. This process helps acclimate the plants to wind, temperature fluctuations, and direct sunlight.

After hardening off your Iceland poppy seedlings, choose a sunny location in your garden with well-draining soil. Dig holes slightly larger than each plant’s root ball and gently place them into the holes. Backfill with soil and firm it around the base of each plant.

Space plants about 12 inches apart for proper air circulation

Proper spacing is crucial for healthy, robust growth and disease prevention in Iceland poppies. These delicate flowers require adequate air circulation around their foliage to prevent issues like powdery mildew or other fungal diseases.

When planting your Iceland poppies, space them about 12 inches apart. Twelve-inch spacing allows enough room for the plants to grow and allows air to flow freely between them. Adequate air circulation helps prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to fungal problems.

Fully bloomed delicate white iceland poppies in full bloom against dark green foliage.

Apply a balanced fertilizer Throughout the growing season.

Providing your Iceland poppies with proper nutrition throughout the growing season is essential to promote vigorous growth and abundant blooms. A balanced fertilizer will help supply essential nutrients that may be lacking in your soil.

Choose a slow-release granular fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These three macronutrients are vital for overall plant health and development. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates based on your garden or container size.

Apply the fertilizer evenly around the base of each plant, taking care not to let it touch the foliage directly. Water thoroughly after fertilizing to ensure the nutrients penetrate the soil where the roots can absorb them.

Protect young plants from strong winds and heavy rain.

One of the most important things to remember is protecting young plants from the elements. Strong winds and heavy rain can easily damage these delicate flowers, so providing them with some shelter is crucial.

To shield your young Iceland poppy plants from gusty winds, consider planting them in a location that offers natural protection, such as near a fence or wall. Shielding will create a barrier against the wind and help prevent damage to their fragile stems and petals.

In addition to wind, heavy rain can also threaten these beautiful blooms. Excessive moisture can cause the flowers to become waterlogged and increase the risk of diseases like root rot. To protect your Iceland poppies from heavy rainfall, you can use various techniques:

  1. Mulching: Apply a layer of thick organic mulch around the base of the plants to help regulate soil moisture levels. Mulching will prevent excessive water accumulation around the roots.
  2. Covering: Consider covering your Iceland poppies with a breathable fabric or plastic sheeting if you anticipate heavy rainfall or storms. This temporary protection will shield them from excess water while allowing air circulation.

These precautions will ensure your young Iceland poppy plants have a better chance of thriving despite adverse weather conditions.

Yellow fully bloomed iceland poppy in full bloom against dark green foliage.

Remove any diseased or damaged foliage promptly.

To maintain healthy Iceland poppy plants, it’s crucial to promptly remove any diseased or damaged foliage. Diseased leaves can be a breeding ground and bullseye for harmful pathogens, quickly spreading throughout the entire plant if left unchecked.

Regularly inspect your Iceland poppies for signs of disease, such as discoloration, spots, or wilting leaves. If you notice any affected foliage, follow these steps:

  1. Pruning: Using clean pruning shears, carefully remove the diseased leaves at their base, ensuring they do not damage nearby healthy foliage.
  2. Disposal: Place all removed foliage in a sealed bag before disposing of it properly.
Closeup of white and yellow iceland poppies.

Watch For Pests in and around your Iceland Poppies

While Iceland poppies are generally hardy and relatively pest-resistant, they can still be affected by a few common garden pests. Some of the pests that can impact Iceland poppies include:

  1. Aphids: These tiny, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of the plants, often clustering on the undersides of leaves. They can cause distortion and yellowing of the leaves and transmit plant diseases.
  2. Slugs and Snails: These mollusks are known to feed on the tender leaves and flowers of Iceland poppies, leaving behind ragged holes and slimy trails. To protect your poppies, consider using slug and snail baits or barriers.
  3. Spider Mites: These minuscule arachnids feed on plant cells, leaving stippled, discolored leaves in their wake. Spider mites are more likely to be problematic in hot, dry conditions.
  4. Whiteflies: These tiny, white insects can suck sap from the leaves of Iceland poppies, leading to reduced vigor and growth. They also excrete honeydew, which can attract sooty mold.

To protect your Iceland poppies from these pests, consider regular inspections, proper garden hygiene, and using appropriate pest control methods. Always opt for environmentally friendly and non-toxic solutions whenever possible to maintain the health and beauty of your garden while minimizing harm to beneficial insects and the ecosystem.



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Iceland Poppies – a Variety Showcase

Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) are known for their stunning, delicate flowers and come in various colors and forms. Here is a list of some popular Iceland poppy varieties:

  1. Champagne Bubbles Series includes many colors, from lovely soft pastels to vibrant shades. It’s known for its compact growth habit and abundant, showy blooms. ***we LOVE champagne bubbles, the flowers are so pretty!**
  2. Meadow Pastels: These poppies feature soft, pastel-colored flowers, including shades of pink, lavender, and white. They create a charming and calming garden display.
  3. Flamenco Dancer: This variety is known for its fringed petals and vibrant colors, often in shades of orange, yellow, and red. It adds a touch of exoticness to the garden.
  4. Gartenzwerg: A dwarf variety, Gartenzwerg produces small, bright flowers in various shades. It’s an excellent choice for edging and container gardening.
  5. Wonderland Mix: This mix offers a diverse range of colors, including bright yellows, pinks, and oranges. It’s an excellent choice for creating a cheerful and colorful garden.
  6. Champagne and Roses: As the name suggests, this variety is known for its lovely pink and rose-colored blooms. It adds a touch of elegance to any garden.
  7. Lemon Sherbet: Lemon Sherbet Iceland poppies are known for their pale yellow, almost creamy, petals. They have a soft, soothing appearance in the garden.

Remember that Iceland poppy varieties can vary in availability depending on your location and the specific nurseries and seed suppliers’ offerings.

Where to find Icelandic Poppy Seeds

We like to purchase our seeds from repuatble vendors like Veseys, Bakers Creek and Johnny’s Seeds. Johnny’s seeds is where I can usually find the popular and often hard to find Champagne Bubbles variety of Icelandic Poppies.

White, yellow, and orange Iceland poppies blooming in a field.

Iceland Poppy Cut Flower Tips

An Icelandic poppy is a STUNNING cut flower but has a relatively short vase life compared to other cut flowers. Under the right conditions, Icelandic poppies can last in a vase for approximately 4 to 7 days.

To ensure cut flowers last as long as possible, sear the ends of the cut flowers with an open flame.

Embracing the Beauty of Iceland Poppies

Congratulations! You’ve learned everything you need to know about growing and caring for Iceland Poppies. These vibrant flowers are a true delight, adding a touch of elegance and charm to any garden or landscape. 

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start planting! Feel free to experiment with different varieties and techniques to find what works best for you. Remember, gardening is a journey, and each step brings its rewards. So go ahead, embrace the beauty of Iceland Poppies, and create a breathtaking oasis in your backyard!

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