Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1136 Papaver nudicaule

Common Names: Icelandic poppy, Arctic poppy Family: Papaveraceae (poppy Family)
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Iceland poppy
Iceland poppy is known for its brilliantly colored, almost translucent flower petals that glow in sunlight like stained glass.


Iceland poppy is a clump-forming perennial that is usually grown as a biennial. It has very hairy, blue-green leaves, up to 6 in (15 cm) long, with 3-4 narrow, pointed lobes. The leaves are mostly basal, arising from the clump, with just a few smaller ones on the upright stems. Like other poppies (see for example, opium poppy, Papaver somniferum) the cut stems exude a milky latex. The flowers are bowl shaped, three or more inches (7.5 cm) across, with four (sometimes double) petals. They are carried singly on hairy stalks 8-12 in (20-30 cm) tall. The very pretty flowers are mildly fragrant and may be white, yellow, orange or shades of red. Several cultivars are available. 'Champagne Bubbles' is larger, to 18 in (45 cm) tall, with flowers in a variety of colors up to 5 in (12.5 cm) across; 'Wonderland' and 'Garden Gnome' are small, compact selections that don't exceed 10 in (25 cm) in height; 'Summer Breeze' is noteworthy for its long blooming season. 'Matador' has large flowers that are bright scarlet red. These are all "seed strains" or "seed races" that are planted from seed and most include a variety of colors under each name.

The Iceland poppy flowers emerge from hairy buds that are held on slender hairy stems.


Papaver nudicaule is native to the region below the Arctic Circle in North America, Asia and Europe.


Light: Grow Iceland poppy in full sun, although afternoon shade might be appreciated in hotter climates. Moisture: Iceland poppies like a well drained soil and rarely require supplemental watering except in desert conditions. Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 - 8. Iceland poppy does not like the heat (who knew?), and usually will not survive hot, humid summers. In warmer climates, plant seeds in autumn, and enjoy the flowers the following spring. Repeat. Propagation: Sow the tiny seeds of Iceland poppy where you want them to grow in the autumn, and allow to overwinter for blooming in spring. Poppies have long taproots, and are difficult to transplant successfully.
This is the yellow representative of the Iceland poppy seed strain 'Champagne Bubbles'.


Iceland poppies are great plants for the mixed border or flower bed, and in rock gardens. These are short lived perennials and ordinarily (in cool climates) can be expected to live 2-3 years, blooming each spring and summer. In hotter areas, the plants will probably succumb after their first summer. In the South, Iceland poppies are typically planted in autumn. The bright colors of the Iceland poppy make them excellent as cut flowers, and they are the only species of poppy that is suitable as a cut flower. For the longest lasting flowers, cut before the flower bud opens, and sear the cut end with a flame or plunge into boiling water to seal the latex so it doesn't spill out. The smaller cultivars are ideal for container cultivation.


A poppy poem:

The Poppy

by Jane Taylor (1783-1824)

High on a bright and sunny bed
   A scarlet poppy grew
And up it held its staring head,
   And thrust it full in view.

Yet no attention did it win,
   By all these efforts made,
And less unwelcome had it been
   In some retired shade.

Although within its scarlet breast
   No sweet perfume was found,
It seemed to think itself the best
   Of all the flowers round,

From this I may a hint obtain
   And take great care indeed,
Lest I appear as pert and vain
   As does this gaudy weed.


As with other poppies, all parts of Iceland poppy contain poisonous alkaloids and should not be ingested.

Steve Christman3/23/11

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Papaver species profiled on Floridata:

Papaver nudicaule

( Icelandic poppy, Arctic poppy )

Papaver orientale

( oriental poppy )

Papaver somniferum

( opium poppy, bread poppy )

More Floridata:

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