Meconopsis Blue Poppies

posted in: Gardening | 10
Not sure how to grow meconopsis blue poppies? You are not alone. Many of us have. Read on to discover how to grow them successfully in Perthshire, Scotland.
Most of us have 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. Furthermore we hear oohs and ahhs from everyone who visits the garden. They are dead impressed that 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  What conditions do the meconopsis blue poppies 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. 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 poppies
Meconopsis blue poppy
  • Don’t plant them directly under a tree. 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. However there’s enough space between them so that the roots don’t have to compete for moisture.
    Meconopsis blue Poppies in amongst the trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants
    Meconopsis blue poppies in among 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. Consequently it prevents 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. 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. 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 meconopsis blue poppies
    Meconopsis horridula | Prickly blue poppy

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

    • 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. Add blood, fish and bone meal to the soil as they are very hungry feeders. The’ll 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.

    Meconopisis blue poppies at Branklyn Garden in June 2013
    Meconopisis blue poppies at Branklyn Garden in June 2013




    Follow Rosie Nixon:

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    Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

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    10 Responses

    1. Mark and Gaz

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

    2. Carolyn ♥

      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!

    3. ann

      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.

    4. Richard Havenga


      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.


    5. Rosie Nixon

      @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.

    6. Rosie Nixon

      @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.

    7. Pam's English Garden

      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

    8. Rosie Nixon

      @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 🙂