From My Garden to Yours
Red Iceland Poppy Yellow Iceland Poppy
Iceland Poppies - Papaver nudicaule

I don’t know of another poppy that likes cool weather as much as the Iceland Poppy. In mild climates, it’s a perfect chilly weather poppy and for cooler climates, it can be one of the early bloomers of spring. However, the name is deceiving; this poppy is not from Iceland! It’s native to subpolar regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and the mountains of Central Asia.

Iceland Poppies are gorgeous as a cut flower and I love to see them in bouquets. But when they look so beautiful in your yard and attract so many bees, it may be hard to cut them. At least it is for me.

Planting

Iceland poppies are the only annual poppy (Papaver) in my yard that I don’t grow from seed. Every fall, I plant a flat of six-packs to scatter around the garden. I recommend buying these smaller plants because I’ve found that larger plants don’t do as well. It’s best to transplant Iceland Poppies while they are as small as possible.

Planting them is little tricky because in my zone (9b), fall can be pretty hot and these poppies love, love cool weather. I wait until the weather is at least in the low 90s and even then, I have to protect them with shade while they are getting established or they will literally just burn up and become one with the soil.

Although it is a short-lived perennial, in my yard it’s definitely an annual. In warmer zones (like 9 and higher), the Iceland Poppy is ideally planted in the fall. It starts blooming fairly quickly in autumn and into the spring. However, it temporarily stops blooming when temperatures dip below freezing at night. There can be a little die back with the foliage initially and then it comes back full force. As soon as the weather gets hot (in May or June), the plants burns up in my yard.

In cooler zones (1-8), Iceland Poppies are best planted in the spring and will bloom all summer. In these zones, they are perennials.

Seeding & Germination

I’ve heard from other gardeners that Iceland Poppies reseed well. But that has not been my experience. In many years of growing them, I have gotten exactly one volunteer. And since I’m not trying to get seeds, I am draconian in deadheading each and every blossom to extend the blooming.

The optimum temperature for Iceland Poppy germination is 70F. The seeds don’t like to be covered, but do like darkness for germination. They are finicky about the right conditions for germination and that might be why a lot of gardeners like me buy plants instead of relying on seeding. If you have a method that works for you, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section at the bottom of this post.

Container Gardening

For those of you gardening on patios or terraces, Iceland Poppies are fantastic in containers. In warm weather (like 80F or higher), just give them partial sun. In cooler weather, they love the full sun.

Must haves for the Iceland Poppy

  • Fertilizer. I’ve definitely seen a big difference when they are planted in richer soil (created with sheet mulching).
  • Deadheading. To prolong blooming, be sure to cut down the spent blossoms.

Color Variations

White Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
White
Pink Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Pink
Peach Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Peach
Orange Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Orange
Red Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Red
Yellow Orange Variegated Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Yellow-Orange Variegated
Yellow Iceland Poppy - Papaver nudicaule
Yellow
Details
Latin Name
Papaver nudicaule
USDA Zone
1-10
Bloom Season
Depends on zone
Type
Perennial
Reseeds
Yes

13 Thoughts

  1. Rene on May 5, 2019

    Thank you! I have some of these growing now…
    I love Poppies..

  2. Nicki on May 27, 2020

    I agree with the point regarding difficulty germinating the seeds. I Have only been able to get one or two plants this way despite a lot of effort, purchasing biodegradable cells to avoid the need to transplant etc.

    This year I purchased small plug plants and they all successfully transplanted are doing really well 😊

  3. gardening-for-purple on June 2, 2020

    Thanks for the comment Nicki! I’ve yet to meet anyone who is really successful in germinating Iceland Poppy seeds. But I want to meet that person to learn their secrets. 🙂

  4. Karin on June 14, 2020

    I am *that* person who successfully started Icelandic poppy seeds this spring! I started them in late March in my unheated, Zone 4 greenhouse. I started them in small 6-packs, then moved them into 6-packs with larger cells and was able to separate out plants where more than one had germinated in a cell. At that point I fertilized them with Osmacote.

    They stayed in the greenhouse for all of April and they grew really well and didn’t seem to mind the days when the greenhouse got pretty warm. I planted them outside in May and they’re blooming now. I’m pretty stoked that it all worked out!

  5. Amy on July 6, 2020

    We have an area in our yard that we just removed a large area of lilacs last year, and now I have lots of weeds coming up to content with but I saw these plants that I was sure we’re not weeds. All of a sudden they started to bloom and I sent a pic to my Mother I have a whole bunch of Icelandic Poppies growing in this area and I have no idea how they got there. We have only lived here two years and haven’t planted anything there.

  6. Ninjadoc on July 6, 2020

    What’s eating them? I live in coastal Connecticut and some thing in my area finds these puppies as delicious as I do beautiful, gobbling off the flower buds as soon as they are ready to open. Any ideas what that might be? I tried peppermint spray and castor oil to no avail

  7. John English on July 7, 2020

    I have planted iceland poppies from seed into newspaper pots that I made myself. I will plunge the pot with the seedlings into the soil and will not disturb the roots at all. This will be the second planting this year. The first seem to be damaged by something. The leaves all seem to be eaten . The stems are still there just about. They have not flowered yet and am wondering what has attacked them. I have beer traps down but there doesn’t seem to be much snail activity. If someone can help with this it would be great. Thanks.

  8. gardening-for-purple on July 9, 2020

    Wow, wow, wow! I am impressed! If you started them in an unheated zone 4 greenhouse, that means they germinate at a pretty low temperature. Which means it wouldn’t really be workable for my garden because we just don’t have the right weather for that timing. Thanks for sharing your success, Karin! 🙂

  9. gardening-for-purple on July 9, 2020

    Amy, you sure got lucky! It would be my dream to have a bunch of Iceland Poppy volunteers! I hope you get even more. 🙂

  10. gardening-for-purple on July 9, 2020

    Ninjadoc, that’s a good question. We get plenty of snails and slugs, but they don’t care for poppies. If you have deer or rabbits, they might be enjoying the pods.

  11. gardening-for-purple on July 9, 2020

    John, unless snails/slugs have different preferences in your area, I don’t think that’s the problem. In my garden, snails/slugs ignore poppies while they mow down lots of other flowers. Have you tried going out at night with a flashlight to see if you can find anything on them? That could help to determine whether it’s a bug or other critter. 🙂

  12. Regan Duffee on March 2, 2021

    I have a 75% germination rate with them. I don’t cover them with soil under a grow light. They germinated after two days with a plastic cover and a heat mat keeping their little greenhouse at 70 degrees. But I think the key is light

    • gardening-for-purple on March 2, 2021

      Lucky you – I’m jealous!

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