Blue Heaven

“The Himalayan Blue Poppy is at the top of every plant lover’s list.”   Vita Sackville West.

The heavenly blue Himalayan poppy may be considered a superstar of the plant world. Collected from the mountainous Himalayas it has captured the attention of all who encounter it. It was first discovered in 1922 by the mountaineer George Leigh Mallory and a group of British explorers in the East Rongbuk Valley in Tibet. Then later collected by famous plant hunters like Frank Kingdom Ward,  Ernest Henry Wilson and others. Including blue there are a variety of colours within the genus of Meconopsis such as red, yellow, white and purple.   The name is derived from the Greek word mekon (poppy) and opsis (like) meaning poppy like.

This rare coloured plant has been described as temperamental and has proved challenging to grow by even the most highly skilled. In many cases people have viewed the plant as unattainable as it is a crowning achievement if you can successfully grow this plant in your garden.  It will refuse to grow in hot climates with warm summers and low rainfall.   In the Himalayas summers are wet and winters cold and dry. If you live in the North of England or Scotland where summers can be short and at times drizzly the poppy will thrive in these climatic conditions which are reminiscent of its home.

When growing from seed use fresh and properly stored seed. Place in a cool room or fridge for a few months to mimic a winter in the Himalayas to help trigger germination. It is best to sow the seed in Dec-Feb. Surface sow and only very lightly cover. They can then be left outside or in a greenhouse but remember to water from the base. Germination can take two weeks to several months. If you have a greenhouse with a heated bench the optimum temperature is ideally 150C. The key fact to remember if to never allow the surface to dry out. Once germination has occurred delicately prick out the small seedlings into individual pots and grow on. They like a nutrient rich soil and when mulching take extra care not to cover the crowns of the plants. If a hot summer occurs use overhead irrigation to ensure survival. Meconopsis thrive in dappled sunlight. Too much sun and they will get scorched leaves. This plant is challenging to master but with patience and the right climate you too can raise these tantalizing plants.

 

For more advice on which species to grow and further information:

The Meconopsis Group’s advice for first time growers

Blue Himalayan Poppies at Longwood Gardens

 

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Published by

Kirsty Wilson

Horticulture is my inspiration! I am the Herbaceous Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Photographer, Award winning Garden Designer and Beechgrove Garden television presenter. I want to inspire people to grow plants, connect with nature and have a positive impact on the world.

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