Iceland Poppies!

January 29, 2010

Iceland Poppies

My Favorite Things…

LeslieFinical Halleck - originally published in Neil Sperry's Gardens E-Newsletter

Icelandpoppy_yellowsmAs a horticulturist, and someonewho is greatly passionate about plants, I’m often asked what my “favorite”plant or flower is. Usually, I just laugh. How could I pick just one? But thislittle corner of mine here in the e-newsletter is titled “My Favorite Things”so I do try to whittle down to the best of the best for you when I can. If youbacked me into a corner and asked me “what is your favorite cool-season annual,or else…” I would be compelled to answer Iceland Poppy, or Papavernudicaule.

What is not to love about thisboreal beauty? On sunny days, light shines through the brightly colored,paper-thin petals creating a brilliant display in the garden. The flowers areeven sweetly scented. Every part of the poppy plant from the silvery foliage tothe unique furry flower buds, offers a bounty of interest. They are the perfectcompanion for other cool-season plantings such as parsley, kale, pansies andviolas. In their natural state, Papaver nudicaule is usually found inshades of white and yellow.  The recessive colors of orange, pink and redare brought out through selection and all colors are generally offered as a mixin the garden center.

Iceland poppies aretechnically a perennial, but only behave as such in the Northern most parts ofthe United States and into Canada. In our climate, Iceland Poppies should betreated as a cool season annual, or biennial if you will. In Texas, it’s bestto plant Iceland Poppies in the fall, along with your pansies and violas. Thisallows them to put on a larger root system and thus a bigger spring show ofblooms. Plants will bloom in the fall and until the first hard frost. Often,they will continue putting on blooms through the winter. Hard frosts will nipthe blooms, but won’t hurt the plants. In spring, you’ll be rewarded with aburst of blooms in late February or early March, to accompany your tulips anddaffodils. Plants will continue to flower until temperatures heat up in mid- tolate-May.

Iceland Poppies don’t like the heat and willdie off with the onset of summer. They are generally very easy to grow and don't require extra care. The one thing they don't appreciate is wet feet. Make sure your soil drains well and you don't provide too much extra irrigation in the winter months. Mulching plants with about 1-inch of expanded shale can help cut down on excess moisture around the root zone.

You can plant Iceland poppies right now and then again in October through November. I hope you enjoy these beauties in your garden as much as I do in mine!

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