Iceland Poppy – Papaver nudicaule

A native of northern sub-arctic regions, the Iceland Poppy is one of the hardiest of all flowering herbaceous plants. This undemanding little plant actually grows and flowers best in poor compost. If you plant it in a fertile, nourishing compost it will certainly grow more vigorously, but it will not flower well. The compost should also be kept fairly dry.

The feathery leaves form a rosette at the base of the flower stem. Both the leaves and stems are hairy. The lovely single flowers, which nod at the end of their long stems, are normally white or yellow and have a faint fragrance.

The four delicate petals, with a texture rather like tissue paper, surround a cluster of stamens. The characteristic poppy ova later develops into the seed capsule.

The Iceland Poppy grows to a height of 30-45cm (12-18in). The leafless flower stems carry blooms about 6cm (2½in) long.Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule

Colours and varieties

The Iceland Poppy comes in a variety of forms, and in mixed colours including bright orange and red. Popover nudicaule ‘Champagne Bubbles’ is a large-flowering F1 hybrid that includes pastel shades of pink and salmon.

Display ideas

Plant the Iceland Poppy in large tubs on the balcony or patio, or in the cracks between patio stones or bricks. The flowers are ideal for cutting and using in floral arrangements. Pick them when they are still in bud and the colour is just beginning to show. If you quickly scald the cut ends of the stems in boiling water, the flowers will last much longer.

Growing from seed

It is best to grow Iceland Poppies as annuals. You can sow the seeds from last season’s plants, although if they are F1 hybrids it is best to use freshly packaged seed. Harvest the seeds from the ripe capsules when they turn dark brown by opening the small ‘windows’ at the top.

Sow the seeds in March, April or September in pots of seed compost. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the compost and then cover them with a thin layer of sand.

Plunge the pots into the compost of the tub or container in which the plants are to grow, so the top of the pot is level with the compost in the container. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 2-3 per pot.

Outdoors, you can also simply scatter the seed where you want the poppies to grow. Cover them lightly.

Seeds from last season’s plants may not repeat their colours faithfully.

Pests And Diseases

White-grey fungus on stems, flower buds and the undersides of leaves is poppy blight.

Treatment: Spray the plants with a suitable fungicide.

The plants die if the compost is very wet. Prevention: Make certain that the pots or containers have good drainage and that the compost is well-drained.


Extremely easy, as long as the compost is kept on the dry side. Remove any withered or discoloured leaves to discourage disease. To prolong the flowering period, remove old flower stems before they produce seed pods.

  • Potting: Repotting is unnecessary. The plant thrives in poor, even chalky compost that is well-drained.
  • In spring and summer, water only when the weather is very dry. Water sparingly in winter, as necessary.
  • Feeding: Feed once or twice in the summer, at the most. If plants are grown in fertile compost, feeding will not be necessary.


  • Light: Iceland Poppy will thrive in full sun or in partial shade.
  • Temperature: Tolerates most temperatures and weather conditions, including cold, wind and rain.

Buying Tips

  • Buy seed for sowing in October, March or April. Bedding plants are sometimes available for planting out in spring.
  • Buy seed that has been packaged for use in the current year.
  • Although Iceland Poppy is really a perennial it is best treated as a biennial or annual.

The Iceland Poppy gives a wonderful display of flowers from May until October. Planted in large masses in tubs, it makes a very attractive addition to a sunny patio or balcony.

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