The Meconopsis grandis, also known as the 'Blue Poppy', is a very attractive woodland flower. Since it likes cool dark areas of woodland it is not an ideal polytunnel plant. However, it will often thrive when planted in a shaded area – perhaps a forest garden area or a leafy corner behind your polytunnel? This lovely plant can really shine in the right environment. There are around 80 different species to choose from in this genus. Most are hardy and can do well in the right setting in the UK.
Meconopsis is an ideal choice for shaded or woodland areas in the north of England and Scotland – they are more of a challenge in the warmer and drier south. The soil in which meconopsis will thrive is a well-drained, slightly alkaline to slightly acid soil. The soil must be rich and have plenty of organic matter. A spot in the lee of a polytunnel, in woodland or in the dappled shade of trees may be ideal as the plants will appreciate shelter from cold, drying winds.
One of the key things with meconopsis is to make sure that the plants are never allowed to dry out. A good mulch of leaves and other organic materials will help these plants retain moisture and will reduce the risk of drying out during the summer months.
Meconopsis species can be grown from seed or propagated by division. Sometimes both are possible. Division is best done in the spring as soon as the plants are showing their first signs of growth.
If sowing from seed, the seed is very fine so it may be a good idea to make it easier to handle by mixing it with some dry sand. Seeds ripen in around September and if they are to be sown in spring, will need to be carefully stored in a fridge over winter. Sow seed thinly in containers in your polytunnel or a cold frame in the spring. Sow the seeds thinly and keep them moist but take care not to overwater. Take extra care not to overcrowd as the seeds can be prone to damping off. Seeds should be sown on top of the medium and not buried, as they need light to germinate.
Carefully pot on when necessary and continue to take care with watering as both too much and too little can prove fatal. Take care to avoid anything which could cause a check in their growth and protect as and when needed with a layer of horticultural fleece. Plants can be planted out in autumn or the following spring.
Meconopsis are best enjoyed where they bloom on dappled woodland edge or a shady corner.