Sunday, July 7, 2013

Growing Meconopsis Plants

how to grow meconopsis blue poppies in your garden
You are not alone ... many of us have done the exact same thing and we've all been slightly perplexed and disappointed after growing meconopsis poppies.  We've planted our little poppy plant in the garden, watered it... and maybe even talked to it.  I know some people who freely admit to talking to plants...no kidding and they are so serious about it.   Even Prince Charles has jested light-heartedly that he doesn't just talk to them - he instructs them... but after all he's blue blooded!

Roll on another 12 months and the  poppy grows and flowers delightfully. We take lots of photographs.  We hear oohs and ahhs from everyone who visits the garden as we can grow these poppies and get them to flower.   Then the next year arrives and they're gone!  Disappeared for ever and all we have left are those few snapshots to remind us of their former beauty.


#1  What went wrong? 


Don't digress . . . by the time you've read this blog post you'll discover what you did wrong and how they grow the poppies so successfully at Branklyn Garden in Perth.

#  2  What Are Monocarpic Meconopsis?


Many of the meconopsis are not perennial but rather monocarpic (a short lived perennial setting seed just once in its life time) and have a life cycle of around 2 + years. These plants produce a basal rosette of leaves over several years and then once they have flowered they set seed and the plants die away. 


  • So if you've bought a meconopsis and thought that you'd killed it maybe it wasn't  one of the perennial poppies after all!

Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort) Branklyn Garden Perthshire
Blue and yellow Meconopsis growing amongst Astilbe and Astrantia at Branklyn Garden
Many of the meconopsis plants at Branklyn are monocarpic  like these Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort) below:
Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort) Branklyn Garden Perthshire
The stamens are large golden bosses with large stigmas in the centre of each flower
 They grow a beautiful rosette of leaves for up to 4 years. 
yellow Meconopsis poppies Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort)
Laden with poppy flowers
Then they grow a very tall stem around 2 metres tall laden with poppies in shades of yellow, pink, red and white.
Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort)
Pink Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort)
Once these plants have finished flowering they will set seed and die.
White Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort)
White Meconopsis napaulensis (ofhort)

#3  So what conditions do the meconopsis all thrive in?

A new meconopsis flower opening with deep violet coloured petals
A new flower opening with deep violet coloured petals 

As I mentioned in my last post 'Have you ever wanted to stroll in the deep blue yonder?' the success with growing Meconopsis is very much down to the climate and the monocarpic ones require just the same conditions as the perennial poppies.

  • They flower in late May into mid/late June (depending on the cultivar) on stems that are between 3 - 5 feet tall.
  • They need a moist humus rich soil that can be either in dappled shade or in an open spot in the garden. 
Meconopsis blue poppy


  • Don't plant them directly under a tree as they detest competing with tree roots and don't grow so well and will probably die. 
  • At Branklyn Garden there are deciduous trees and shrubs in the vicinity of the poppies but there's enough space between them so that the roots don't have to compete for moisture. 
    Blue Poppies in amongst the trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants
    Blue Poppies in amongst the trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants
  • This also creates a 'mini shelter' break during windy weather for the plants as the flowering stems are tall. The bigger shrubs also cast a shadow over the rosettes of leaves in the summer time to prevent the plants from getting scorched in the hot sun.
white meconopsis
  • If you've a really dry spell of weather during the summer months you'll need to keep them well watered as they don't have deep roots and the combination of  prolonged heat and a dry atmosphere will kill them. 
  • It's best to mulch the plants to prepare for dry summer weather as well as add goodness to the soil but make sure that you don't smother the crown of the plant with the mulch. You can have too much of a good thing!
white meconopsis
  • You also need to be careful when you're hoeing around the plants especially in spring when the new shoots are appearing as the plants produce off sets quite near the parent plant. You can propagate new plants from these shoots once they are a few inches high and just plant them in good soil and keep them well watered.   Many of the meconopsis are evergreen but some die away over the Autumn and the new buds are just below the soil level.
  • Years ago in one of my previous gardens I used to grow the poppy successfully from seed and managed to keep them growing for a few years at a time.  I would snip away the flowering stems on the 1 year old plants and let them put all their energy into producing a good strong healthy crown of leaves for a much better flowering period in the subsequent summer. 
  • Not so sure if a little verbal encouragement would work ... but you just never know!
Meconopsis horridula | Prickly blue poppy
Meconopsis horridula | Prickly blue poppy

#4  Who doesn't like a nice comfy bed and lots of food?

  • As I discovered a few years ago they don't like wet soil or clay and they detested growing in the Leavesnbloom garden. At Branklyn Garden the soil is so soft, crumbly and friable to quite a depth.  That's the type of soil that you need to create in your own garden for growing these plants to about a depth of 6 or 7 inches. You can buy bags of organic manure to dig into your existing soil or use your own compost or leaf mould. You'll also need to add blood, fish and bone meal to the soil as they are very hungry feeders and will have exhausted all the nutrients by year 3 in their growth cycle.

While doing a workshop recently with a group of young school children one of them told me that they were making a 'nice comfy bed' for their plant when they were working with the compost.  I quite liked that analogy for any plant and it's a good way to remember the soil conditions that the meconopsis poppies like.


Blue poppies at Branklyn Garden
Blue poppies at Branklyn Garden in June 2013

Oh before I finish remember that  we're in one of those fabulous, rare hot dry spells here in the UK. So at the moment if you are growing these plants they'll be needing extra moisture just like the rest of us only theirs is just H2O.  No doubt after Andy winning the Wimbledon Final today there'll be much stronger liquid refreshments on offer here in Scotland tonight.



Thanks for stopping by today and I would love to hear from you in the comment section especially if anyone reading this would like to admit to talking to their plants.  

Interested in this topic?  You might enjoy the first article in this series about Meconopsis showcasing the wonderful display of blue poppies at  Branklyn Garden called:
Please feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section.  Either I'll get back to you with an answer or find someone who can!  

All photos taken at Branklyn Garden, National Trust for Scotland on 25th June 2013.  All rights reserved leavesnbloom fine art & photography  
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10 comments:

  1. A very helpful post Rosie, especially for gardeners like us who find it tricky to grow Meconopsis.

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  2. I actually imagine my plants talking to me after a good sprinkle, whispering "thank you, thank you..." Our town is on a mandatory water conservation effort and we are limited with the water we can use from our irrigation system. I water the containers by hand each morning or they would not survive the extreme heat we have been experiencing. We actually received rain last night and I can hear a whole chorus of "thank you, thank yous this morning!

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  3. Really interesting, Rosie. I used to grow poppies at the old house, but I can't seem to get even the common ones started here a the new place. Perhaps I will try again.

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  4. Rosie:

    These are lovely photographs, and your prose is always informative and instructive.

    I believe the depth of the soil enrichment has a greater impact than the depth of the conversation, regarding the health of the plant.

    Richard

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  5. @Carolyn ♥ oh Carolyn I'm sure it was such a concern when the wedding was so close. Your garden looks so beautiful and I would never guess you were under such restrictions.

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  6. @ann That's a shame Ann. Try a packet of seeds and sow them very early in the season and see if they germinate for you Ann.

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  7. @Richard Havenga I'd say so too - that's the type of soil I can only dream of Rich!

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  8. So that's why my poppies didn't come back. And no nice comfy bed in the conditions here. I am inspired to try again, though, Rosie. Your garden looks amazing! P. x

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  9. @Pam's English Garden Oh Pam I so wish this was my garden. The more I visit Branklyn the more I want to start my garden from scratch again! Hope next time your poppies get that comfy bed :) and thanks for visiting :)

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Rosie

 

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