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What is an Iceland Poppy and How to Care for It?

Absolutely beautiful pink and orange Iceland poppy flowers with paper thin leaves

Papaver Nudicaule

Man oh man. There is nothing I find more beautiful than a poppy flower, and it is always so nice to discover an entire new species that I had never heard of before!

Papaver nudicaule is known as the Iceland poppy, arctic poppy, or the Icelandic poppy to non horticulturists. Naudicaule is a latin word that translates to “bare stems”. (Sometimes they really aren’t that creative with latin terminology.)

The Iceland poppy is a member of the papaveraceae botanical family, and they provide wonderfully showy blossoms that are long lasting — sometimes all the way from late spring through the summer!

Growing an Iceland poppy patch is a great way to add some lovely foliage and wonderfully beautiful (but also delicate) flower blossoms to your green space. Keep reading to learn all about this marvellous flowering plant, how to go about planting, Iceland poppy care, and some other fun facts!

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Iceland Poppies Look Like?

Stunning bright orange poppy flowers in full bloom

Flowers

The Iceland poppy flower has that classic poppy shape, where each flower is comprised of 4, delicate petals that are papery thin. Their growth pattern gives it a bowl like appearance that is centred around several yellow, fuzzy stamens.

There are many different Iceland poppy cultivars, and flowers can come in a number of colors, including white, yellow, orange, salmon, rose, pink, or cream.

Depending on the cultivar and the growing region, Iceland poppy flowers will usually open their flower bud in the early spring or late spring and can last all the way until early summer or late summer.

Leaves

Iceland poppy leaves will grow in a basal rosette. Each leaf is a feathery shape and can be anywhere from 1-6 inches in length. Their leaves are a very charing blue/green color and provide a lovely contrast to the brightly colored flowers.

Growth Habit

Starting under the soil, Iceland poppies grow from long and deep taproots. These taproots very much dislike any type of disturbance and will often perish if they are ever transplanted.

From here will grow a basal rosette of blueish green leaves and a single flower stem that can grow to be up to 12 inches in height, though plant height will vary depending on the growing range. The flower stem is usually covered in fine hairs and has a general curve to it. A single flower will blossom from each individual stem.

These poppies will exist is either a short lived perennial plant or as a biennial plant. This means that as a perennial, they will blossom for several seasons before they perish, but as a biennial, they will usually experience only 2 blooming periods before they perish.

Reproduction

Once an Iceland poppy flower is fertilized, it will produce many tiny seeds. Poppies are known for having exceedingly tiny flower seeds which can make harvesting wildflower seed rather difficult.

Where is the Iceland Poppy a Native Plant?

Various colors of iceland poppy flowers growing in front of stunning mountain range

Throughout our giant list of flowering plants, there are really not all that many plants that prefer colder regions to hot ones, but this is certainly the case with the Icelandic poppy (as you may have guessed from its name).

These plants are native to the sub-polar regions of several places, like Asia, North America, and the more temperate regions in China and the rest of central Asia. Outside of their natural growing range, they can exist in USDA zone 2 through 7.

When growing wild, they can found growing in places that are cold and sunny, like in large meadows, along rocky slopes, in pastures and sometimes landfills too!

How do you Grow an Iceland Poppy Plant?

Sprout of Iceland poppy flowers in a sunny and dry site with gorgeous flowers

Growing an Iceland poppy plant is by no means tricky to do. The biggest hurdle for most gardeners is simply living in a region that the poppy can tolerate! Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

Pick a Spot

This is the most important part of planting: picking the perfect spot for your new garden specimen. Like we mentioned before, Iceland poppies really do not like to be moved (because of their sensitive roots) so no transplanting! The spot that you pick will be its forever home, so choose wisely!

Pick a spot on your property that receives full sun and has some well drained soil. If you absolutely must start your plants indoors, simply use biodegradable pots that will simply disintegrate in the earth after a while.

Sow Seed

Now it is time for sowing seed! It is best to plant in the fall to let the seeds germinate through the winter. Simply sprinkle the tine Iceland poppy seeds across the soil.

Make sure you don’t cover the seeds! Iceland poppy seeds require both sun exposure and a certain level of warmth in order to achieve successful germination.

Maintenance

When they are first being established, this is the only time that an Iceland poppy plant should be receiving plenty of water. In this stage, soil should be kept moist.

Seedlings should start to develop in the early spring. It is wise to label your sprouting Iceland poppy patch as their seedlings can resemble weeds and you don’t want to accidentally pluck them away!

What are the Growing Conditions of Iceland Poppies?

Lovely iceland poppy patches growing in summer in dry soil

Soil Type

Iceland poppies prefer to exist in soils that are light in texture but also rich in nutrients. If you’re worried about the nutrient level of your soil, simply incorporate some compost into the mix!

Another important aspect for the soil type is that it is very well drained, as poorly drained soil can result in all sorts of issues. If you’re worried about the drainage of your soil, incorporate some sand!

Sun Exposure

Iceland poppies are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day! They can tolerate some very partial shade, but they won’t be completely happy about it.

Water Level

Like we mentioned before, it is important for soil to be moist when seedlings are first getting established, but an established Iceland poppy plant is pretty drought tolerant!

They don’t require much in terms of watering, but when they do need to be watered, there are somethings to keep in mind:

It is always better to over water than to under water an Icelandic poppy plant. Soil that is too moist can result in blight, fungal issues, root rot and leaf rot.

Additionally, try to avoid simply spraying water all over the plants. The heavy water droplets can sometimes damage the very delicate flower petals of the plant.

Macro image of amazingly beautiful orange iceland poppy flower

Temperature

Another thing to keep in mind when considering planting your own Iceland poppy patch, is that they are quite sensitive to temperatures. They do not like to live in places that experience a lot of humidity or very hot summers.

They can only exist in USDA zone 2 through 7, and they will quickly perish if they are submitted to living in an area that has a very hot summer. Though they can tolerate warmer climates, they will perform far better in cooler climates.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing an Iceland poppy plant is simple: simply give them one single feeding of a general purpose fertilizer in the early spring. This should kick start their growing season, and they will be fine on their own until then!

Pruning

Pruning an Iceland poppy plant is also quite a low maintenance activity. They tend to grow in a perfectly manicured and neat habit all on their own, so they only maintenance it needs is deadheading.

Deadheading a spent Iceland poppy flower will often encourage the plant to bloom again, and you are gifted with some more poppy blooms!

Intolerances

So as you can see, though they have a fair but of things they are intolerant to, Iceland poppies are quite low maintenance at the same time. Gardening is about getting your hands dirty anyway!

Just remember that they are intolerant to being over watered, and they are intolerant of high heat and high humidity as well — but who isn’t, really?

How is the Iceland Poppy Plant Used?

Beautiful cut flower bouquet of various colors of iceland poppies

Ornamental Plant

Iceland poppy plants make for absolutely lovely ornamental varieties. They are a great option if you’re looking to include wild pops of color to your spring garden. Flowers are long lasting, foliage is beautiful, and they aren’t too difficult to maintain either.

Additionally, Iceland poppy flowers make for a great cut flower variety! This is because they grow from a single, straight, and sturdy stem, and blossoms can last for many days in a vase!

Wildlife Ecology

Iceland poppy flowers are very important to the local wildlife ecology, as they are a great source of nectar for beneficial insects like bees, moths, and wasps. They also attract birds and butterflies, and can help you create a butterfly garden!

Stunning patch of bright orange poppy flowers in full bloom

FAQs

Are Iceland poppies perennials?

Iceland poppies will exist is either a short lived perennial plant or as a biennial plant. This means that as a perennial, they will blossom for several seasons before they perish, but as a biennial, they will usually experience only 2 blooming periods before they perish.

Is the Iceland poppy deer resistant?

Another great aspect about the Iceland poppy is that it is entirely deer resistant and rabbit resistant!

What do Iceland poppy seedlings look like?

Seedlings should start to develop in the early spring. It is wise to label your sprouting Iceland poppy patch as their seedlings can resemble weeds and you don’t want to accidentally pluck them away!

Can Iceland poppies tolerate frost?

Not only can Iceland poppies tolerate frost, they tend to prefer frost over heat! These plants are native to sub arctic regions and are more than happy to fight through a winter season.

What are the damaging agents of Iceland poppy plants?

Iceland poppy plants will experience most of their damage by over watering. They are very sensitive to water logged and moist soil and this can quickly kill the plant. This is because it results in root rot and fungal infection.

Is papaver nudicaule the same as papaver croceum?

Though many have debated over whether or not papaver nudicaule is the same plant as papaver croceum, I think it’s been decided that they are two different species.

Papaver croceum is known as the ice poppy and it is also a perennial or biennial plant. It can be identified by its basal rosette of leaves, 12-16 inch flower stems and orange flowers. The main difference between the two are that the ice poppy has a hairless stem, whereas the Icelandic poppy has a hairy stem.

How do you germinate an Iceland poppy seed?

Sowing Iceland poppy seeds is rather simple! It is best to sow seed in the fall to let the seeds germinate through the winter. Simply sprinkle the tine Iceland poppy seeds across the soil.

Make sure you don’t cover the seeds! Iceland poppy seeds require both sun exposure and a certain level of warmth in order to achieve successful germination.

Can Iceland poppies live in full shade?

Iceland poppies are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day! They can tolerate some very partial shade, but they won’t be completely happy about it.

How often should an Iceland poppy be watered?

Like we mentioned before, it is important for soil to be moist when seedlings are first getting established, but an established Iceland poppy plant is pretty drought tolerant!

They don’t require much in terms of watering, but when they do need to be watered, there are somethings to keep in mind:

It is always better to over water than to under water an Icelandic poppy plant. Soil that is too moist can result in blight, fungal issues, root rot and leaf rot.

Additionally, try to avoid simply spraying water all over the plants. The heavy water droplets can sometimes damage the very delicate flower petals of the plant.

Are Iceland poppies hardy plants?

Another thing to keep in mind when considering planting your own Iceland poppy patch, is that they are quite sensitive to temperatures. They do not like to live in places that experience a lot of humidity or very hot summers.

They can only exist in USDA zone 2 through 7, and they will quickly perish if they are submitted to living in an area that has a very hot summer. Though they can tolerate warmer climates, they will perform far better in cooler climates.

When do Iceland poppy flowers bloom?

Depending on the cultivar and the growing region, Iceland poppy flowers will usually open their flower bud in the early spring or late spring and can last all the way until early summer or late summer.

What USDA zone can Iceland poppies exist in?

These plants are native to the sub-polar regions of several places, like Asia, North America, and the more temperate regions in China and the rest of central Asia. Outside of their natural growing range, they can exist in USDA zone 2 through 7.