The Magic of Meconopsis

In a country known for cool, damp summers and relatively mild winters, we are the envy of our southern neighbours for our ability to grow the stunning blue Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia.

The Himalayan blue poppy, although only in bloom for around four weeks, distinguishes itself as a true, blue flower, something relatively uncommon in cultivation, and it is this magical colour to which we are drawn.

Well suited to the Scottish climate, and in particular to woodland areas, the Himalayan blue poppy bears spectacular, bowl-shaped blue flowers with bright yellow centres in early summer. It makes a dramatic statement when grown en masse.


Blue poppies have the reputation of being difficult to grow, with a list of requirements needed to make them happy, but give them humus-rich, leafy, moist, but well drained acidic soil that does not get waterlogged, in partial shade out of hot afternoon sun, and protection from strong winds, and they will thrive.

In common with other poppies, Himalayan poppies will self-seed freely if they are happy in their situation so be sure to get the growing conditions right from the start to keep a succession of plants growing and flowering over many years.


If you are keen to sow meconopsis from seed next year, collect seed from plants this summer and store the seed over winter in cool, dry conditions. 

February is a good time to sow the seed and once sown, keep seedlings moist and well lit to encourage germination.

As pot-grown seedlings develop the first pair of true leaves, prick them out to pot on carefully into slightly bigger pots.

Once planted out, slugs and snails can be a problem as the leaves emerge in early spring so stay vigilant.


Himalayan poppies grow to a height of 90-120cm (3-4ft) so will need staking and it is best to do this early on.

Deadhead flower heads after the last petals have dropped to prevent energy being wasted on setting seeds if you want the plant to return stronger next year.

Cut back plants to ground level in autumn and mulch with compost, leaf mould, or bark chippings in autumn or spring.

There are around 80 different species to choose from in this genus and given the right conditions, most are short-lived, hardy perennials, forming a clump of hairy foliage that dies back in autumn, so once established in your garden, they should grow and flower every year.

If you would love to grow the blue Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia, in your garden, like all plants, it is not a dark art but a simple understanding of what they like and need to thrive, and know that by growing in Scotland, you are already off to a flying start!

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