Poppy seedling propagation

Iceland poppy seed is very small and should be sown in late summer to early autumn (mid- February to mid-March) in a suitable seedling tray or seedbox filled with a “seedling medium” purchased from your local flower shop or nursery. Broadcast the seed onto the surface and then gently press the seed into the medium with the flat of the hand or with a wooden plank. Others prefer to make shallow parallel grooves about 2 cm apart into growing medium and then the seed is sown into the grooves on the surface of the growing medium without any compaction. Either way, the seedlings then take root into the medium followed shortly thereafter by the appearance of small leaves. Water regularly (daily during warm spells) with a fine mist-spray, or water from the bottom up, by placing the seedling tray into a container of water, but take care not to “flood” the medium if this method of watering is used. The seedling trays should be kept under shelter and not in direct sunlight but rather in filtered sunlight or bright shade. Feed every two weeks with a suitable liquid fertilizer.

Up to eight weeks later, the seedlings will be at the four-leaf stage and ready to be pricked out and transplanted into suitable polystyrene or plastic trays, placed similarly in a sheltered position and with regular, daily watering and applications of a liquid fertilizer.

Preparing your Iceland poppy seedbeds

poppy arrangementMeantime your Iceland poppy beds should be prepared in a sunny position with liberal quantities of well-rotted compost and / or manure with morning sun and afternoon shade preferably in good well-drained neutral or alkaline soils. Given that many of our soils in the high rainfall areas of South Africa tend to be acid, this may mean applying lime to neutralize the acidity but preferably do so 2 months before you plant out your poppy seedlings – lime takes time to work!

Several weeks later the seedlings should be sufficiently well developed and can be transplanted into your seedbed preferably on a cool day at a spacing of about 20 cm between plants. After planting, press the soil firmly around each plant.

Poppy seedlings, like all seedlings, must be watered regularly, if not daily, especially during hot spells, and will commence flowering up to 3 months after establishment, depending on prevailing conditions. Poppy Magic has long, strong stems and a wide range of flower colours, from pastels to dark vivid colours, some flowers variegated, others with a white fringe on the petals, yet others with a double line of petals; yes, very different from many of the mainly orange and yellow Iceland poppy varieties currently on the market.

Picking your Iceland poppy flowers

Some gardeners recommend the careful removal of the first flower buds from each Iceland poppy plant soon after emergence, thus encouraging a greater abundance of flowers in the weeks and months following. If left, these first flowers often have much shorter and thinner stems than the flowers which follow, which can be 30 to 40 cm in length, sometimes longer! If signs of nutrient deficiency (yellowing of leaves) are detected in your poppy plants, lightly topdress with the granular fertilizer 1:0:1 followed by a good watering, or apply one of the “all-purpose” fertilizers available from your local garden shop.

Pick your Iceland poppy flowers just as the buds start to open and before the bees get busy, thus ensuring that they last longer. But remember; do not place your vase of Iceland poppies next to an open window because bees from far and wide will buzz in to take their share, causing great consternation!

Give your Iceland poppy flowers space to expand to their full width by placing only a few in each vase, or use vases which are broad at the top. Prepare to enjoy these beauties for up to 7- 8 days in your home.