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Mekonopsis - The Himalayan Poppy

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Mekonopsis or blue bell poppy for the beauty and unusual coloring of the petals of the large flower, called the blue Tibetan sun. According to the biological similarity of the structure of vegetative organs and the external structure of the flower, it is referred to the poppy family, united in the corresponding genus. It includes several species, but the best known is a genus Meconopsis grandis, or in translation into the Russian language - Meconopsis grandis, a large, great, Himalayan blue poppy. The unusual coloring of the large flower, up to 10 cm in diameter, so fascinated the people of Bhutan that they adopted meconopsis grandis as the national symbol of the country.

Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Meconopsis. © Lotus Johnson


  • Biological features and range
  • Use of meconopsis in the home landscape
  • How to grow meconopsis in the garden plot?
  • Meconopsis outdoor care
  • Vegetative propagation of Meconopsis

Biological features and range

The genus Meconopsis (Meconopsis) is interesting because it has a discontinuous range that has also affected the external features of plants. The main homeland of Meconopsis is the Himalayas, where more than 40 species of the family are distributed. Plants of the Himalayan range of distribution have a variety of blue-blue, fiery red, creamy yellow, white shades of petals of large single or clustered flowers.

And only one species of the genus Meconopsis - Meconopsis cambrica (Meconopsis cambrica), has chosen the English continent, including Wales and Ireland, as its permanent place of growth. Unlike Himalayan Meconopsis, English Meconopsis never forms blue and blue-colored flowers.

Himalayan Meconopsis is represented by perennial herbaceous giants from 2 m to dwarf plants 10-12 cm tall. They grow in mountainous shady forested areas and in moist alpine meadows. Most widespread in Nepal, Bhutan, western China, southeast Tibet.

The area of their distribution has now expanded to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Alaska (USA), Western Europe and Russian regions. The hot dry air and small amount of precipitation are the limiting factors of spreading.

A single meconopsis plant is a rosette of light green, simple large petiolate leaves, with individual flowers (10-25 cm in diameter) rising from the center on high peduncles, or one or several peduncles of corymbiform or paniculate type, bearing up to 10 buds. The entire plant, including flower buds, is covered with dense pubescence, grayish or sometimes brownish tint.

The leaf blade of rosellate leaves is almost entire, broad, extending wide upward along the stem, changing to oblong. The leaf apparatus of Meconopsis opens very early and by mid-June the first flowers are already decorating flowerbeds, rockeries, alpinaries or stony gardens in shady places. The mesmerizing beauty of flowering lasts more than a month.

The plant grows by rosettes and in a few years presents an ornate bush. Roots range from taproot to taproot. Rhizomatous forms have well developed branched underground shoots with dormant buds, from which new plants are formed in spring. Every year the above-ground mass dies off and a new rosette grows from the buds of regeneration located on the rhizome. A somewhat different Meconopsis species (Meconopsis betonicifolia (7>Meconopsis betonicifolia) is spread in Europe and the Russian Federation, giving rise to many garden forms, varieties and hybrids. Gardeners simply call it the Himalayan poppy. It also contains milky sap, so it is classified as a poisonous plant, but not a narcotic.

Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Meconopsis purpurea (purple-red), or Meconopsis punicea. © Steve Garvie

Use of Meconopsis in the home landscape

In the old days, every corner of a private property was tried to be occupied with food crops. Today, more and more often large areas are left for recreation corners, playgrounds. Wild green lawns became fashionable, and the grass is systematically cut. Against the background of mowed lawns spread monoclubs, mixed gardens, rock gardens. Large heads of poppy-like flowers of blue and other blue colors create an original island of joy.

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The thick green clumps of blue, red, orange, yellow, white flowers of meconopsis do not need partners, but at the end of flowering their decorativeness decreases because of wilting of flowers and pedicels, desiccation of the rosette part of plants. That's why Mekonopsis can be combined in flowerbeds with hosta, Brunnera coarse-leaved, low green grasses (bentgrass, ryegrass perennial and others), which will cover the loss of decorativeness of the main plant. If you remove the faded flowers in time, you can prolong flowering until the end of August. Then you will have a fabulous flower garden throughout the summer. For example, you can pick varieties and hybrids of the following Meconopsis species:

Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Meconopsis grandis (Meconopsis grandis). © vitenskapsmuseet
Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Meconopsis betonicifolia. © Kerry Woods
Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Meconopsis cambrica. © Jill Catley
  • Meconopsis grandis (Meconopsis grandis) blooms in June. Flowering lasts until early August. Flowers are large blue and purple, rarer pink and white, 10-12 cm in diameter. Forms multifloral rosettes. It survives frosts as low as -20°C.
  • Meconopsis betonicifolia (Meconopsis betonicifolia) blooms in June-July with bright blue flowers, up to 10 cm in diameter. Blossom lasts 2-3 weeks. It can bear frosts as low as -18°C. It has many varieties and hybrids which differ in sizes and colors of flowers.
  • Meconopsis cambrica (Meconopsis cambrica) flowers from July to August. Flowers are orange, yellow, rarely red. They are small, up to 4-5 cm in diameter. In the rosette 1 flower is formed on a flower stalk, which reminds me a lot of poppies. Flowering lasts all summer. It can bear frosts down to -23 °C. In contrast to previous species it can grow in the sun, so it is often used in alpinaries and rockeries.
Mekonopsis - the Himalayan poppy
Sapling of Meconopsis. © T. MA

How to grow Meconopsis in a garden plot?

Meconopsis propagation by seeds

Buy a mixture of different varieties of Meconopsis or a certain kind of hybrid seeds in specialized stores.

Sow in containers at the end of February and expose to diffused light in a relatively warm place in the apartment or in the greenhouse.

Preparing soil

Free, slightly acidic moderately nutritious soil is required for cultivation of Meconopsis seedlings. It can be prepared by yourself by mixing 1 part of sod, leaf soil and sand with 2 parts of peat. The mixture is disinfected with a solution of manganese. At the bottom of the container or other container drill holes for drainage of excess water, lay drainage from crumb bricks, wood chips and other materials. Pour a layer of prepared or purchased weakly acidic substrate on top.

Seeding and care

Germination of seeds Mekonopsis low, so to obtain full seedlings, moisten the soil with a solution of sodium humate or Novosil or Kornive. The substrate in the container is carefully straightened out and the seeds are superficially sown. With a flat die slightly press the seeds into the soil, literally 1.5-2.0 mm, powdered with fine river sand and through a sprayer again gently moisten the sowing. Cover with glass or film, simulating a mini greenhouse. In the house put in a warm place under diffused light, in the greenhouse away from the door.

Sprouts appear after 2-3 weeks. Mekonopsis seedlings are very delicate, do not tolerate fluctuations in humidity, immediately affected by the fungal disease "black leg". When sowing in the greenhouse for preventive purposes, you can use the chemical preparation "oksihom". Pre-treat the top layer of soil, according to the recommendation. In the apartment it is strictly forbidden to use chemicals.

The only way to get healthy seedlings is not to allow excessive moisture in the container. For indoor conditions, you can try to soak the seeds for a short time in a solution of biofungicide "phytosporin-M" or "Planriz, G". Carefully dry and sow. The air temperature is +10...+12 ºC.

The temperature limit is +13...+14 ºC. If the temperature rises even 1 ºC higher, tender seedlings will die. It is difficult to obtain healthy seedlings, but with careful care it is quite possible, especially since in subsequent years Meconopsis can reproduce itself by self-seeding.

At the age of 3.0-3.5 months (approximately in the second half of May), the container with Meconopsis seedlings is taken out into the garden and grown until the end of summer outdoors. In September, the mature plants are planted permanently in a prepared place.

If planting is carried out in a monoclub, the distance between the plants to leave from 25 to 40 cm depending on the variety and species. In an alpinarium or stone garden young seedlings are placed according to the scheme.

Mekonopsis care in the open ground

Mekonopsis are shade tolerant plants. Adult plants are quite tolerant of rain and hot weather. But for most species, direct sunlight and dry soil and air conditions are detrimental. Therefore, for young plants, choose penumbra, with sufficient light in the morning hours.

High dryness requires adequate watering and shallow spraying to create moisture in the air. If the variety is a tall perennial, low garter supports can be used. In the first year, perennials give little growth and need nutrition.

For the first year of the summer season, feed Meconopsis twice: before flowering and a month before wintering. Ammonium sulfate (ammonium sulfate) is used as an additional fertilizer to acidify the soil, which is very important for Meconopsis. Dose of fertilizer should not exceed 20-25 g per square meter. Do not fertilize and mulch Meconopsis plantings with organic fertilizers and wood ash.

Meconopsis are winter-hardy plants, so do not require winter special sheltering. It is enough to mulch them with wood chips or healthy garden foliage in the fall after pruning the above-ground mass. In the fall, perennials are cut like peonies (under the root). New young plants emerge from the dormant buds of the underground shoots of Meconopsis in the spring. From the second year the plants rapidly grow, begin abundant flowering, formation of young rosettes.

Further care of meconopsis consists of watering (not more than 1 time per month), 1 fertilizer for watering better before flowering and division of bushes in autumn.

Vegetative multiplication of meconopsis

The vegetative multiplication of meconopsis is performed by cuttings and bush division. So as not to overburden oneself with extra cares at home it is best to use vegetative propagation by shrub division.

A very important condition must be observed when dividing the shrub: the meconopsis shrub is divided when it is dormant. Early in spring, as soon as the snow melts, or in autumn. In the south, not before the second half to the end of September, in northern areas in late August. Transplanting is carried out only in hot, humid weather.

To obtain dividers, the bush is carefully dug out, shaken off the soil. Inspect and remove damaged old, diseased roots and underground shoots. After inspection and preparation, divide the bush so that each separated part has 1-2 buds of renewal or a young rosette. The mekonopsis  divisions are planted in pre-prepared locations. In the first week the young plants are shaded, carefully monitor the moisture content of the soil. The rest of the care is usual.

Mekonopsis grafting differs from bush division in that the mother bush is not touched. Only the young rosettes are separated. The detached rosettes are planted in a mini greenhouse for summer rearing and planted permanently in autumn or next spring.