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Himalayan blue poppies are adored by plant lovers for their natural exotic sky-blue blossoms. Native to Tibet, these are known as somewhat demanding and difficult plants to grow in other climate zones in the world which is why they’re not a common sight in gardens.
However, if you follow the correct guidelines and tips you’ll be surprised to find out that they can be grown successfully in your garden too.
About Blue Himalayan Poppies
Blue Himalayan Poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia), while indigenous to Tibet, are also currently naturalized in other parts of the world with similar climate conditions. They’re popularly grown on the pacific coast and eastern coastal regions in northern New England.
Despite their name and falling under the poppy plant family of Papaveraceae, Himalayan blue poppies aren’t real poppies. They actually belong to a different flowering genus that is similar in appearance to common poppy flowers.
These plants grow up to a full height between 3-4 feet (90-120 cm) and have similar foliage that’s similar to other poppy species. They’re known to bloom from late spring to early summer and are best grown in USDA zones 7-8.
Himalayan blue poppies can be propagated either from seeds or division so let’s take a close look at both methods closely.
Propagating from Seeds
You can easily buy Himalayan blue poppy seeds from a nursery or online but you should carefully look into their harvested date and the storage period before doing so. As they don’t have a considerably longer shelf life in comparison to other flower seed varieties, this is an important step in figuring out their viability.
If you’re collecting the seeds by yourself, do it after the seed pods are ready, but before they burst out. The best way to do it is by cutting the seedpods with a bit of stem attached to them.
Storing the seeds
After you have the seeds, you need to store them in a refrigerator or a similarly dry and cool place to give them a pre-chilling period. Himalayan blue poppies like cool climates so the goal is to give them a feeling of false winter. This whole process is called “vernalization” which is a horticultural practice that’s sometimes used to increase the chances of germination.
First, fill a plastic bag or a bucket with damp sand as the seeds need to be kept moist throughout the chilling. Use some light-colored sand so the dark-colored seeds can be easily spotted.
Then store them at a dry place with a temperature below 40 degrees of Fahrenheit but not down to the freezing levels. Keep the seeds chilled for a time period of 3 weeks and then get them out to prepare for planting.
However, In areas where the natural temperature goes under 40 degrees of Fahrenheit at least 3 weeks before the winter in the fall the seeds can be directly sown in your garden outside.
Sowing the seeds
- For pre-chilled seeds, start planting them outside in the early spring whereas non-chilled ones can be sown in the late fall 3 weeks prior to the winter.
- Prepare the beds at a shady and cool place in your garden and keep the soil moist before the planting is done.
- Scatter the seeds on the prepared bed, with the damp sand you stored them.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and water enough to keep the 3-4 inches of topsoil layer damp. In areas with heavy rainfall reduce or stop the watering accordingly.
- At an average temperature of 70 degrees of Fahrenheit, the seed will start sprouting within 14 to 30 days. After they had developed their second set of true leaves, the young plants are ready to be transplanted or moved into their new homes.
- If you’re transplanting them in containers, use pots 3-5 inches in size.
Dividing blue Himalayan poppies is far less time-consuming and complicated than seed propagation. However, it needs to be done carefully and precisely for the best results. Start the dividing process in the early spring.
First, make sure the soil around the parent plant is damp and loose enough to dig up the plant conveniently. Then raise the plant crown from the ground and carefully separate the young plants from the parent plant without harming the new offshoots. Finally, re-plant them in holes that are 18 inches in size and depth.
Blue Himalayan poppies love fertile, well-draining yet moist soil with a pH level of 5.2 to 6.2. When planted in alkaline soils, the flowers tend to take a violet shade more than the color of sky blue.
Sunlight, Temperature, and Wind
In regions with cool summers, Himalayan blue poppies can tolerate even full sun. Although in areas with a day temperature that goes up to 80 degrees of Fahrenheit these plants should be grown in a partially shaded location that gets bright yet indirect sun exposure.
The most ideal temperature that fits these plants would be between 50-60 degrees of Fahrenheit in the daytime and non-freezing weather in the night. It’s better if the location is protected from strong winds as well.
Water your Himalayan blue poppies with clean water that’s free of chlorine and any other chemical. The best option is clean, rainwater. As these plants prefer constantly moist soil, don’t allow the soil to dry out between each watering. Water regularly in the summer and reduce the amount in winter accordingly.
Use a soaker hose to provide water directly to the plant base without wetting the foliage or flowers. This helps in reducing the risk of infections and infestations. While you need to keep the soil continuously damp, be careful not to overwater them as soggy soils can also harm these plants.
If the soil isn’t rich enough you can add a balanced organic fertilizer or other slow-release fertilizer or some organic compost to amend the soil. Simply spread 2 – 3 inches of compost. For seasonal feeding, use a liquid fertilizer once every two weeks or a balanced granular fertilizer once a month in the growing season.
Himalayan blue poppies benefit from annual mulching, especially in their winter dormancy period so the roots are protected from frost and extreme cold. Apply an organic type of mulch such as compost or leaf mold around the plant crown with a depth of 3-5 inches in the spring or autumn.
Make sure to not overcover the plant base with mulch as it can cause a lack of drainage and air circulation of roots.
Pruning and Deadheading
Trimming away any flower buds that appear within the very first year of growth is recommended to be removed before they flower. This makes the young plants to be able to direct their full energy on developing a strong root system and healthy foliage. This also helps these short-lived perennials to thrive a bit longer.
For pruning, Cut down the plants closer to the ground in late fall, and in late autumn remove any dried-up and dead branches, stems, and leaves. You can also use the deadheading practice on these plants in the blooming season to encourage the flowering further by pinching the wilted blossoms.
Infections and Infestations
The most common diseases Himalayan blue poppies face are caused either due to under or over-watering. While the excessively dry plant can be affected by powdery mildew, soggy soil can cause root rotting so maintaining a correct irrigation schedule can prevent these infections beforehand.
If infected, separate the healthy plants immediately from the sick ones and use a suitable fungicide or horticultural oil to treat the infected plants. Re-planting them in fresh soil is also an option.
As for pest infestations, aphids, snails, and slugs often pose a threat to these plants. They harm the foliage and can even cause stunted growth and lack of blooming. You can manually handpick slugs and snails whereas aphids can be washed off with a stream of water. To prevent a relapse, spray the plants and the soil with a pesticide.
Himalayan blue poppies may not be a common, easy-grown flowering plant but it can be grown with very little effort. If you’d like to try growing them, you’ll find it’s extremely worth it as they will give your garden a gorgeous, unique look.