HOW TO GROW THE HIMALAYAN BLUE POPPY - Meconopsis betonicifolia - FROM SEED



The Himalayan Blue Poppy - Meconopsis betonicifolia is one of those plants that captures the imagination, but will usually let you down once you start trying to grow it yourself. The problem with the Himalayan Blue Poppy is that most people try and raise it under normal garden conditions making no allowances to adjust its local environment so that it mimics its native conditions.

The same is true when it come to growing it from seed. Originating from the lush, mountainous regions of south-eastern Tibet, this almost magical plant requires a cool, sheltered position in order to perform. However, the trick with this particular plant is to prepare its seed prior to sowing.

The best time of year to start propagation is from early Feb to the end of March, however many growers will prefer to start in the autumn. So long as you can provide cool bright conditions during germination and somewhere to grow on that isn't subject to extremes of temperature then it is actually possible to germinate Meconopsis seeds at any time of year.

Strange as it may seem, the seeds need to first be ‘sown’ onto damp kitchen (paper) towel. Use a good quality towel as it needs to be properly soaked first and then wrung out without destroying it before placing the seeds on it evenly. Carefully role up the damp towel and place it inside a plastic bag sealing the end, then put the whole thing into the salad compartment of a fridge for four weeks in order to break the seeds dormancy.

Image credit - http://www.srgc.org.uk/
After this cold treatment period, prepare a seed or plug tray using a good quality ericaceous seed compost. If this is unavailable make up your own seed compost mix using equal parts of horticultural grit/perlite: John Innes Seed compost: and Ericaceous compost. Once done, thoroughly water and allow to drain.

Remove the seed from the paper towel and gently press it into the surface of wet seed compost, but unlike most other seeds – do not cover with an additional layer of compost or grit. Meconopsis seed require light to initiate germination but do not place the tray in direct sun light as bright conditions are more than enough. Place the tray into a cool room with temperatures of no more than 18 degrees Celsius. Maintaining a level of constant dampness is very important and at no point should your growing medium dry out.

You may wish to cover your tray with a sheet of clear plastic to help maintain humidity but this must be removed at the first signs of germination to prevent the incidence of fungal rots. When it comes to watering, water the tray either from the base or by gently misting from the top, but remember; DON'T LET THE COMPOST DRY OUT!


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Germination should occur between 2 and 4 weeks and as soon as the plants develop their second set of ‘true’ leavers they will be ready for transplanting - even though they may be no more than ½ inch across.

Holding the plants by a single leaf, gently tease the seedlings apart causing as little disturbance to the root system as possible. Plant the seedlings into individual pots containing a good quality ericaceous compost. You may wish to mix in some horticultural grit or perlite at this time to help improve the drainage.

Meconopsis plants are strong feeders and even at this stage they can begin feeding with a half dose of general liquid fertiliser. If conditions are suitable the young seedlings can now be transferred outside but make sure that they are protected from heavy rain, direct sunlight and slugs.

Once they get to about about 6 inches in height they can be planted outside into their permanent positions, but remember, throughout this entire growth period – DO NOT LET THEM DRY OUT!

The soil should be dug over deeply adding plenty of humus rich and ericaceous (lime-free) compost. As mentioned before, Meconopsis also have high nutrient requirements so it’s worth mixing in some well-rotted farm manure as well as periodically feeding with a dose of balanced fertilizer as the plant becomes established.

Try and avoid any competition from tree roots, and the area should be partially shaded – preferably from deciduous plants - so as to protect the plants from mid-day summer heat, but also allowing plenty of winter light.

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9 comments:

melva said...

This poppy grows very well in Ketchikan, Alaska where it rains over 13ft./ yr. and temps rarely go over 65F. Is this condition a necessity. I am now in upstate NY and want to grow this poppy again. I have a nice creek going through my farm that has damp soil around it.

Clay Merrithew said...

I live on the east coast of Canada where winter time temperatures dip to -30C. I received a package of Meconopsis betonicifolia at Christmas. From the internet I learned that it was a "hard to start" perennial. As with other plants of this ilk, I put it outside for the winter on the east side of my house. Yesterday I checked and I have twenty or more seedlings in my pots. I have a half hectare property which has many of the attributes you claim are good for it. Acidic sandy soil, shade and an area near the ocean which receives plentiful rain. I will post in the fall to let you know how it all works.

Petra Mudie said...

Clay,

Did your seedling survive? I live in Halifax, E. canada and I planted my seeds indoors under a gro-lite. 20 germinated and produced first leaves, but most have now died...just 4 left!

Any suggestions as to how to do better?

Steve Leptick said...

I live in Vancouver Canada. After 6 years working to find a place in our garden that would allow the blue poppy to thrive, I finally got a single bloom last year. This year the plants came back strong. We have one plant already at three feet as of mid May, however, the first bloom came out snow white, no blue at all. I cannot find anything across the internet referring to this. Any feedback on what has happened would be appreciated.

Elly Langlois said...

I have been lucky I guess, I live in Burnaby BC and have a north facing patio, and my plant had flowers last summer and already again this May 2014...I guess it likes the no so direct sunlight with lots of coolness in the winter...
Good luck to you all.

Phil Pollard said...

I live in the UK and bought a packet on the internet. After leaving the seeds in the freezer for 2 days I sprinkle sowed them in a shady flower bed, some pots and in a few crack beds i've created in my patio. They've all come up and are thriving.It was a bit of an experiment, and I'm pleased they've done well. I'm an amateur gardener with only the experience of watching my mum when I was a kid. So give them a go! They're beautiful plants!

Phil Pollard said...

I live in the UK and bought a packet on the internet. After leaving the seeds in the freezer for 2 days I sprinkle sowed them in a shady flower bed, some pots and in a few crack beds i've created in my patio. They've all come up and are thriving.It was a bit of an experiment, and I'm pleased they've done well. I'm an amateur gardener with only the experience of watching my mum when I was a kid. So give them a go! They're beautiful plants!

bootsy said...

I just got my seeds in the mail today. Holy moly! No wonder you don't see this flower on every street corner! What a hassle to grow! Anyway, the seed co. I bought them from suggested acidic soil (pine needles, if you got 'em) to surround the plant to make it bluer. So maybe that's why yours are white? Who knows?

Andrew Lau said...

I live in Malaysia and I have some blue poppy seeds because I brought it back from Germany while I was traveling , I want to try to grow them but It seems almost impossible to success due to the weather is hot in my country and the temperature is usually around 24c -30c . I just followed the instruction above put it in the freezer for 4 weeks and today is first day :/