Plant, Develop, and Look after Iceland Poppies

There’s such a feeling of magic that happens in the garden when Iceland poppies are nearby. Their papery and delicate petals and long, sturdy stems look whimsical blowing in the wind and lend themselves well to many different styles of gardens. 

As I write to you now, fellow gardener, a mason jar full of dried poppy seed pods is in my view, sitting on display. They’re captivating even outside the garden once their blooming time has passed. 

Keep reading if you’re ready to learn how to plant, grow, and care for these stunning flowers. 


Botanical Name 

Papaver nudicaule

Plant Type 

Perennial, often grown as annual or biennial 

Special Characteristics

Papery petals, leafless stems, edible seeds

Native Area 

Sub-arctic Asia and North America


Full sun to partial shade

Watering Requirements 

At least once a week

Soil Type 

Fertile, well-draining


Low pest pressure, watch for aphids and squirrels

Bloom Time

Late spring to early to late summer 

Nudicaule Blend Iceland Poppy Seeds

Nudicaule Blend Iceland Poppy Seeds

What Is It?

Close-up of blooming Poppies in a sunny garden. The flowers boast delicate, papery petals in a variety of colors such as white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. These cup-shaped blooms sit atop slender, erect stems, creating an elegant and airy appearance.Iceland poppies offer an early-blooming display in vibrant colors.

This type of poppy is an early-blooming hardy flower often grown in mass for a show-stopping effect. Colors range from delicate neutrals to bold and bright.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘Icelandic poppies.’ Although they can survive winters in some regions, they are most commonly grown as annuals or biennials due to their short life span. 


Top view of a red Papaver flower in a sunny garden. The Papaver flower exhibits a distinctive and enchanting appearance. Its large, bowl-shaped bloom features delicate, crinkled petals in bright orange-red color. The flower has a prominent central disk filled with contrasting bright yellow stamens.The crepe-papery blooms in various colors sit atop 12-20” stems with lobed leaves.

The delicate flowers stand atop a tall, leaf-free, fuzzy stem. Their petals are crinkly and slightly transparent, featuring a gold stamen. Blooms are about four inches across and saucer-shaped. Color options are shades of white, yellow, orange, salmon, pink, and red. 

Stems are 12-20” tall and sometimes grow slightly curved, adding to their charm. A green rosette forms at the base of the bluish-green flower bud. The lobed leaves remain at the base of the plant and are finely dissected. 


The poppy flower is sometimes worn as a symbol of remembrance for a loved one who has died or to embody peace. Sleep is another aspect associated with the poppy, and this largely has to do with derivatives that can be made with the pods and seeds.

Native Area

Close-up of Poppy blooms moving in the breeze in the garden. This perennial plant showcases elegant, cup-shaped flowers with translucent petals that span a spectrum of colors, including white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. The blooms sit atop slender, wiry stems that gracefully elevate them above the foliage.Despite their name, these poppies are native to Central Asia, Europe, and North America.

Strangely enough, Iceland poppies did not originate in Iceland but rather from the mountains of Central Asia and subarctic Asia, Europe, and North America. They are cultivated today worldwide but thrive where winters are cold and summers are mild. 

How to Grow

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance flower that doesn’t lack in the beauty department, try Iceland poppies. Let’s discuss the ins and outs of growing these papery flowers.


Close-up shot of a blooming Orange Poppy (Papaver nudicaule) in a sunny garden. Its distinctive cup-shaped flowers exhibit translucent orange petals with a contrasting bright yellow disk in the center with prominent stamens. These charming flowers stand atop slender and wiry stems, adding an elegant and airy element to the plant's appearance. The blue-green leaves of the Orange Iceland Poppy are finely dissected, providing a delicate backdrop to the vivid blossoms.Plant in a sunny location for optimal growth and let plants self-seed for next year’s blooms.

Iceland poppies require lots of sunshine, so sow seeds or transplant them to a spot that receives full sun to partial shade for best results. If you want to allow plants to self-seed, dropped seeds will not germinate in overly shady areas as they need light to do so. 


Close-up of Iceland Poppy flowers blooming with waterdrops in a sunny garden. The flowers are large, cup-shaped, with translucent papery pink petals. In the center of the flower there is a bright yellow disk with prominent stamens.Irrigate established poppies moderately at the base to avoid drooping.

If you start your poppies in cell trays, bottom watering is recommended so the tiny seeds are not displaced during overhead watering. If you can’t bottom water, misting overhead is the next best option. 

Iceland poppies don’t require a lot of irrigating once they’re established, but they’ll yield more blooms if they aren’t left to dry out. Water at the base to avoid splashing the delicate petals. The weight of any water left on the top part of the plant may cause drooping and bending of the stem. 

When newly germinated or transplanted, keep the soil moist. Use the finger test to determine if you’re watering enough by sticking two fingers into the soil up to your knuckle. A small amount of soil should be stuck to your fingers when you pull them out. If nothing sticks, it’s time to water. One to two times a week should suffice, and more is needed during dry spells. 


Close-up of a blooming Papaver nudicaule 'Garden Gnome' in a garden. The Papaver nudicaule 'Garden Gnome' is a charming and compact variety of Iceland Poppy. This cultivar is characterized by its petite size and delightful blooms. The cup-shaped flowers showcase translucent petals in bright red. The plant produces finely dissected, blue-green leaves.Provide well-draining, fertile, and moist soil.

A medium that is fertile, well-draining, and moist is preferred. Iceland poppies don’t mind cool spring soils and struggle when conditions become dry and hot. The soil pH should be between 6.0-7.0


Close-up of a gardener's hand holding a handful of wood shavings to use as mulch. Wood shavings are thin, elongated pieces of wood. They have a fibrous and fine texture, characterized by a pale color, reflecting the wood species from which they are derived.Provide wood chips or organic straw to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and provide nutrients.

Control weeds and help retain moisture by adding a layer of wood chips or organic straw. This will allow your poppies to get the nutrients they need and keep the soil moist and cool, just the way they like it. 

Temperature and Humidity 

Close-up of flowering Papaver nudicaule plants in a garden against a blurred green background. The blooms are cup-shaped with translucent petals in a bright orange hue. The slender, wiry stems hold the vibrant blossoms above the foliage.Iceland poppies thrive in cold climates below 70° (21°C), making them ideal for winter sowing.

Originating where temperatures are cold, Iceland poppies perform best in cool conditions below 70° (21°C) and are a great option for winter sowing. 

They germinate well in late winter and spring when overwintered. When given a long period for vegetative growth, they offer great vigor and resiliency over seeds sown in the spring or summer. 


Close-up of yellow blooms of Papaver nudicaule in a garden against a blurred background. These cup-shaped flowers boast translucent yellow petals that convey a luminous quality. Held aloft by slender, wiry stems, the blossoms create a striking contrast against the finely dissected, blue-green leaves.Use phosphorus-rich fertilizer to boost flowering, applying slow-release feed seasonally.

Iceland poppies don’t require much fertilizer, but if you notice a lack of flowers and that the plant is creating lots of green growth, add a fertilizer rich in phosphorus to encourage flowering.

You may also use a well-rounded, slow-release granular feed several times a season. Always soil test and base your amendments on what you need. 


Close-up of  Poppy after flowering without petals. The plant retains a graceful and slender silhouette with a wiry stem. The remaining seed pods, elongated and cylindrical, emerge where the petals once adorned the stem.Deadhead to encourage continuous blooming.

Deadheading throughout the growing season will encourage continuous bud formation and blooming. Pinching back is not necessary. However, if you want more decorative seedpods, leave the withered flowers on the stems so they can develop.


Close-up of cut Icelandic Poppy flowers in a glass vase against a gray and white wall. The plant has tall, thin pale green stems at the tops of which there are graceful cupped flowers. The flowers have translucent, papery petals in soft pastel shades of pink, cream and peach.Snip poppies before full bloom, cut stems at an angle, and cauterize for longer vase life.

Pick your poppies when the buds begin to show color but before they have expanded and pollination has occurred. Cut stems as low to the base of the plant as possible at a 45° angle. Some varieties will ooze a milky sap once cut. For a longer vase life, cauterize the ends by burning them and sealing the sap inside. This keeps moisture inside the stem, causing them to stay fresher longer. 

Place them into clean water right away. Peel back the green “wrapper” of the bud to assist with blooming. 

Bloom Time

Beautiful multicolored Poppies in daylight in the garden on a blurred green background. The flowers have cup-shaped, satin petals in colors such as white, red and pink. The petals surround a central yellow disc with prominent stamens.Iceland poppies have a prolonged bloom time from late spring to early fall with deadheading.

These poppies are known for their extended bloom time, especially when summers are mild. They begin to bloom in late spring and can go all the way through early fall, depending on your region and the variety. Deadheading will prolong the bloom time.


Although you can transplant Iceland poppies, they do best when sown directly into the soil due to the deep taproot they establish. 

Growing from Seed

Close-up of Poppy seed pods on a blurred background. These seed pods are slender and elongated structures that develop after the blooming stage. As the pods mature, they gradually release small, round seeds.Sow poppy seeds outdoors or in seed trays for germination within 14 days.

Direct sow seeds as soon as the soil can be worked, around four to six weeks before your last frost date. Some light is required for germination, so just sprinkle seeds in the soil of the prepped bed. Mark the space well in case you receive snow after sowing so you can avoid raking over the area. 

If you are starting seeds indoors, use seed trays with small cells such as a 128. Otherwise, 72 cell trays or 1020 flats will work. Just be sure to space them out appropriately. Sprinkle a little vermiculite over the top of the seeds to retain moisture and let light come through and aid in germination. Keep trays in a cool, dry place with access to light. 

Depending on your region and time of year, seeds should germinate within 14 days in ideal conditions.

Allow to Self-Seed

Ideally, plants are allowed to self-seed in place and cut back after flowering each season, the way nature intended. Then, thin plants to the appropriate spacing in the spring to allow proper circulation and nutrients. 

Winter Sowing

Winter Sowing. Close-up of a row of milk jugs near the wall of a house in the garden. The jugs are filled with soil mixture and sown seeds.Winter sow Iceland poppy seeds for stronger, resilient plants with early blooms.

Iceland poppies love cool weather and are known for their high germination rates in early spring and their ability to thrive in cold weather. Sprinkle seeds out in prepared beds in late fall to overwinter or in early spring once the soil can be worked. Alternatively, sow in peat pots as early as late January or in plastic containers to be left outside but protected with the lid. 

Winter-sown poppies will bloom earlier, and many growers say they’ll be stronger, more resilient, and higher-yielding than those sown in the spring.


Iceland poppies come in a wide range of colors and have many uses in and out of the garden. Here are a few of them to give you a better understanding of this gorgeous plant.


lose-up of a bouquet of multi-colored Iceland poppies in a brown glass vase on a gray background. The flowers are large, cup-shaped with thin, papery, slightly ruffled petals in delicate pastel shades of yellow, orange, pink and red.Adored by florists, poppies are beautiful in arrangements.

Iceland poppies can be used as cut flowers, added to containers or raised beds, planted along borders, or in mass plantings with other pollinator-friendly plants. Lighter shades would lend themselves well to a cottage garden. They’re also adored by florists and bridal bouquet designers for their delicate features, long stems, and wide range of color options. 


Close-up of flowering Papaver nudicaule plants in a sunny garden against a backdrop of green foliage. The plant features finely dissected, blue-green leaves that form a graceful basal rosette. Rising above this foliage are slender, erect stems that bear captivating cup-shaped flowers. The translucent petals of the blooms come in a coral color.Space plants 6-12 inches apart, thinning if self-sown.

Give Iceland poppies 6-12” inches of space. If you direct sowed seeds or allow your plants to self-seed, thin them to this spacing in the spring. Staking may be necessary for taller varieties. 

Iceland poppies are a popular choice for bouquets and last about a week in a vase, but since pollinators love them, many gardeners leave them bee, er.. be. Here are some popular varieties to consider. 

‘Champagne Bubbles’

Close-up of a blooming Papaver nudicaule 'Champagne Bubbles' against a blurred garden background. This cultivar showcases a large, cup-shaped flower in a delicate peachy-pinkish color. Its petals are translucent with a delicate, papery texture.This cultivar is a top choice with vibrant colors perfect for bouquets.

This is the most popular cultivar, and if you’ve seen it in bloom or showcased in a bouquet, you know why. Colors include white, yellow, pink, orange, and red. ‘Champagne Bubbles’ is extremely productive and nicely complements bouquets of other early blooming flowers like foxglove, snapdragons, and sweet peas. 


Close-up of Papaver nudicaule 'Colibri' flower. The plant produces a striking, cup-shaped flower in a delicate peach hue. Its petals are translucent, have a papery texture and slightly corrugated edges. The central disc is bright yellow with prominent stamens.This is a rare, large Iceland poppy cultivar from Italy with apricot and peach tones.

Although a bit harder to find, ‘Colibri’ is a large cultivar bred in Italy. It’s extremely high-yielding and consists of mostly shades of apricot and peach, with about 10% red-orange and yellow. 

‘Pastel Meadows’

Close-up of a field of flowering plants Papaver nudicaule 'Pastel Meadows'. This variety showcases finely dissected, blue-green leaves forming a graceful basal rosette. Above this foliage, slender stems rise, bearing delicate, cup-shaped flowers in pastel hues. The blooms, measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter, exhibit translucent petals in shades of pale pink, lavender, and creamy white.This cultivar blends lighter shades of gold, yellow, apricot, white, and watermelon with a lovely scent.

This cultivar offers a blend of lighter shades of gold, yellow, apricot, white, and watermelon and features a hint of a citrusy scent, which adds even more charm to a garden. 

‘Sherbet Mix’

Close-up of Papaver nudicaule 'Sherbet Mix' flowers on a gray background. Papaver nudicaule 'Sherbet Mix' is a delightful cultivar of Iceland Poppy, known for its vibrant and varied appearance. This variety has large blooms that exhibit translucent petals in shades of peach, apricot, cream, and subtle pinks.This poppy is recognized for large, ruffled blooms in white, apricot, and soft coral.

The ‘Sherbert Mix’ cultivar is known for its large blooms, ruffled petal edges, and silky appearance. Colors range from white to apricot to soft coral. 

Common Problems

There are no serious pest or disease problems, but growers should look out for aphids, squirrels, and downy mildew. Keep these under control and you’ll have beautiful blooms every year.



Close-up of a Papaver nudicaule stem surrounded by a swarm of aphids. These tiny pests typically measure a few millimeters in length and are identified by their shiny black color. They have soft pear-shaped bodies and thin legs. The stem is thin, green, covered with fine white hairs.Prevent aphid damage by monitoring and using water, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or lacewing larvae.

Aphids don’t cause too much trouble if populations are small, but if you let an infestation get out of control, they could ruin your poppy patch and move on to the rest of your garden. There are many different types, and if allowed to overwinter, populations will spike in the spring, starting the season in a bad way. They can produce many generations in a year, so you want to keep pressure down

If you notice them early, use a strong blast of water to remove them from your plants in the morning. Insectidical soap and neem oil are also great treatment options. If your garden is prone to aphids, you can preemptively hang cards with lacewing larvae on them for biological control.


A brown squirrel runs along the top of a chain link fence. Deter squirrels from poppies with noisemakers, lights, water sprays, guard dogs, and scents like coffee or garlic.

Some growers say squirrels eat the buds of their poppies as if they’re nuts. Noisemakers, motion-activated lights, water sprays, and guard dogs are ways to deter them. They also detest the smells of coffee, garlic, rosemary, and peppermint. Try placing oil-soaked cotton balls in your poppy patch. 

Iceland poppies are deer-resistant, so you won’t have to concern yourself with them.


Close-up of a leaf affected by Downy Mildew. The leaf has irregularly shaped gray-white lesions between the leaf veins. A grayish fuzz, resembling a downy growth, appears on the undersides of the affected leaves.Prevent downy mildew in Iceland poppies by avoiding wet conditions, overhead watering, and ensuring proper spacing.

Downy mildew may affect your Iceland poppies if the ideal conditions present themselves, which include wet leaves and prolonged wetness, cool weather, and high humidity. Overhead watering may help the sporangiophores spread by underleaf splashing.

Symptoms include: 

  • Yellowing on tops of leaves 
  • Distorted growth 
  • Purpling and fuzzy growth on the undersides of leaves 

Downy mildew occurring in poppies is caused by Peronospora arborescens and has become an issue with ornamentals since first being detected in 2003 in Italy. Avoid wet conditions and overhead watering, provide proper airflow, and space plants appropriately. Fungicides can be applied if caught early. Follow all instructions and warnings before application.

Key Takeaways

An article from the L.A. Times posted over 30 years ago is titled “Consistency Secret to Thriving Iceland Poppies”. The author, Robert Smaus, lists the secret as:

  1. Space the plants about a foot apart and then:
  2. Water often and from below, with drip or a soaker.
  3. Fertilize every other week.
  4. Diligently deadhead. It’s that simple–1-2-3.”

What more can I say than that?

Frequently Asked Questions

All parts of poppy flowers are potentially toxic to mammals except for the seeds. Take caution when handling to avoid contact with the alkaloids, especially children. Brief handling should not cause any irritation.

After spring blooming, seeds will be stored in the pods at the top of the stems. Leave them in place to dry, then remove them for storage. Saved seeds can be sown next season for new plants.

Iceland poppies can’t be dried like some other ornamentals to be used later in wreaths or dried flower arrangements. They do, however, hold up extremely well when pressed. Simply place them between parchment or waxed paper and between the pages of a heavy book. Lay them out in the shape you’d like them to dry in and then close the book. Weight the book if necessary. Leave it as is for a few weeks or so. Once removed, use them on homemade wrapping paper, greeting cards, or frame them to put out on display.

Final Thoughts

Iceland poppies can seem intimidating to start, but once your garden features the likes of this delicate, eye-candy of a flower, you’ll never go back. If you’re trying winter sowing for the first time this year, try germinating some Iceland poppies, and you’re in for a real treat come spring. 

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