Papaver  nudicaule  Iceland Poppy

This northern species is grown for the colorful flowers and is becoming more popular in designs. Breeders have provided some outstanding cultivars. Colors are incredible, including. white, pale yellow. raspberry, salmon, burnt orange, egg yolk yellow and apricot.

Propagation

All grown from seed; when sown at 65-75F (18-24C), seeds germinate in 7-12 days (Nau, 1999). Do not cover seeds. Some growers start plants in 392 cell trays around August 15 to September 1st, then bump them up to 72’s, and plant around mid-November, depending on latitude. Germination is difficult (often less than 50%) and is a major limitation to the crop. It may be more profitable to purchase started plugs when available.

Growing-on

Transplant seedlings to containers in about 3 weeks from sowing, or when the seedlings can be handled. Plugs are available, and an intermediate transplant prior to placing in the field or greenhouse is recommended. Grow on at 45-55F (10-13C).

Environmental Factors

Iceland poppies do poorly in temperatures above 70F (21C). Plants can be flowered at warm temperatures but plant quality and flower size is reduced as temperatures rise. No photoperiodic effect is known.

Field Performance

In the South (Zones 7-8), plant in late fall (October) for early spring production. However, to be safe, plant them out in an unheated greenhouse to avoid winter injury and death. In the North, plants will not do well if planted in the fall unless covered. Place in the field as soon as the ground can be worked.  
    
Little data are available, but plants generally produce 10-15 flower stems per plant before warm temperatures reduce their usefulness. Plants can be harvested as long as summer nights remain below 60F (15C). Stem length varies from 18-28″ (45-67cm).
 
Greenhouse Performance

Plants are being produced in greenhouse conditions for winter production when cool temperatures can be maintained. Propagate and grow on as above. Production occurs in ground beds or 6″ (15 cm) containers. Multiple plants per container can be used successfully. Temperature should be maintained below 60F (15C) whenever possible. Crop time is 15-17 weeks from seed (Nau, 1999). If profitable, supplemental lighting is useful to enhance growth and flowering, particularly at northern latitudes.

Stage of Harvest

Harvest flowers at colored bud stage (fuzzy sheaths are splitting open and color is showing). Some flowers fail to open if cut too early. It may be necessary to cut twice a day. Stems can be harvested by giving the stems a sharp tug to the side. Some growers find this method reduces decay and crown rot. Stems are scalded in hot water to reduce latex flow. Scalding each time the stems are cut is practiced. See comments by Ray Gray below.

Postharvest

Flowers persist for 5-7 days (Vaughan, 1989). Storage not recommended because of thin stems and petals.

Cultivars

‘Champagne Bubbles’ is an F1 hybrid with 3″ (8 cm) diameter flowers in white, orange, pink and yellow shades. Stem length is about 15″ (38 cm).
  
‘Flamenco’ offers pastel pink flowers with white fluted edges. They are a mixture of colors around pink, light pink, dark pink, etc and probably should be thought of as pink shades.
  
‘Highlight Mixed’ “wide range of early flowering halo and pastel types.
  
‘Kelmscott Strain’ is 12-18″ (30-45 cm) tall and consists of mostly pastel colors.
  
‘Meadow Pastels’ is a mix of both pastel and bright colors, in shades of rose, pink, white, yellow, orange, cream and bicolors.  Plants grow to 24″ (60 cm).
  
‘Monarch Mix’ bears flowers up to 2″ (5 cm) wide in many bright colors.
  
‘Party Fun’ produces sturdy upright stems with 4″ (10 cm) wide flowers in a wide range of colors. Plants stand about 12-15″ (30-38 cm) tall.
    
‘Popsicle’ has 3-4″ (8-10 cm) wide flowers in an assortment of colors.   

‘Red Sails’ bears 5″ (13 cm) wide orange-scarlet flowers on 30″ (75 cm) tall plants.
    
‘San Remo Mix’ is a lesser-known variety, with red, orange, rose, yellow and white flowers on 24″ (60 cm) plants.
    

‘Solar Fire Orange’ is useful as a cut flower, growing nearly 2′ (60 cm) tall. One of the few choices in a single color, the bright orange flowers are eye-catching.   

‘Summer Promise’ contains both solid and bicolor 2-3″ (5-8 cm) diameter flowers on 2′ (60 cm) tall stems.
    
Temptress series provides long-stemmed flowers in numerous colors. A favorite among growers (see Grower Comments).
    
‘Wonderland Mix’ is more compact than the type and bears 2-3″ (5-8 cm) diameter flowers. Bright orange 3″ (8 cm) wide flowers are available as ‘Wonderland  Orange’.

Additional Species

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy, is grown for the seed capsules, used in dried arrangements. Opium is made from the sap of the green seed capsules and was known by the Greeks and Egyptians several centuries before the birth of Christ. Cut flower growers have been producing opium poppy for the decorative pods for years. Laws are changing in the U.S. about growing this plant. Since some states frown on fields of opium poppy, a fruitful discussion with local law enforcement prior to planting is a fine idea.
    
Seeds can be direct sown in the fall or early spring. While flowers are beautiful, vase life is minimal and they are seldom harvested. Capsules are harvested green when an appropriate size is attained then dried. Plants are less stringent in their need for cool temperatures, and capsules are harvested into the summer. However, warm temperatures result in decline of additional flowers.
    
Cultivar selection is important only in that capsules are sufficiently large and stem length is long enough. ‘Black Cloud’ has almost 4″ (10 cm) double, ruffled flowers in a rich dark purple red. ‘Hens and Chickens’ bear 3-4″ (8-10 cm) lavender flowers, followed by many small seed pods.  Plants grow to 2′ (60 cm) in height. ‘Oase’ has fringed double scarlet flowers with a contrasting white blotch. ‘The Giant’ bears lilac flowers followed by large 1-2″ (2 ½-5 cm) seed pods. ‘White Cloud’ is about 36″ (90 cm) tall and has 4″ (10 cm) double, ruffled flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Southern Blight (Sclerotinia spp.) can be a problem, especially with over-wet conditions. It results in crown rot which shows up as a fuzzy white fungus.

Grower Comments
 
“My best results with poppies is to cut just as the bud is starting to split. When you get them back to the barn, recut a tiny amount from the bottom of the stem, dip a half inch or so in boiling water for a few seconds, and plunge stems into several inches of cold water. Each time the stems are recut, the treatment needs to be repeated. On Icelandics we receive from New Zealand, the treatment appears to be the same. They are shipped dry with the sepals bursting and there is evidence of  “cooked” stems on the end centimeter or so.” Ray Gray, Sunset Flowers of New Zealand, Oregon City, Oregon.

“I grew ‘Temptress’ poppies outside last year and they did last better than other Iceland poppies. I tried them several times in the house, and they definitely lasted longer than other Icelands I’ve tried. Overall I do think they are the best cut flower poppies I’ve ever tried and the price is fair.” Janet Foss, J. Foss Garden Flowers, Everett, Washington.
    
“I love ‘Temptress’ because I get 15-20″ stems and great colors. Salmon is the most popular. Germination was poor and next year I’m ordering plugs. I’ve grown ‘Champagne Bubbles’ and the blooms are bigger, but the stems aren’t as long. We treat every stem by scalding the bottom half inch for 20 seconds. I have been getting more than a week in the vase, but my farmhouse is cold. I planted mine in November and production started early March in my hoophouse. We cut twice a day when they open and put them in the cooler. They store there very well although sometimes a few never open. With all this said, these flowers are still my favorite to grow in the winter/spring.” Bob Wollam, Wollam Gardens, Jeffersonton, Virginia.

“I grow ‘Temptress’ poppies every year. I have also tried other varieties such as ‘San Remo’, ‘Meadow Pastels’ and ‘Matador’, but ‘Temptress’ is the best quality and most productive. We treat our cut stems in boiling water to stop sap flow. We stick the whole bunch in the water up to about 2 inches deep for 20 seconds. You will know you have done it long enough when you see a light grayish ring at the water level after treating. A flame can be used, but is not really effective with large amounts. When we sell them, we tell our customers to flame the ends if they cut the stems to another length.” Frank Arnosky, Texas Specialty Cut Flowers, Blanco, Texas.

“I grow somniferum for the pods, which I sell green. We sell in 12-pod bunches. That might be 5-10 stems depending on the branching. We don’t count little pods. The stems are about 3 feet. I grow Icelandic for the flowers. These are scalded and are about 12-28 inches long.” Bob Wollam,  Wollam Gardens, Jeffersonton, Virginia.

Reprinted with permission from Specialty Cut Flowers: The Production of Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs and Woody Plants for Fresh and Dried Cut Flowers, Second Edition. Timber Press, 2003.