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What is Meconopsis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Meconopsis is a flowering plant genus in the poppy family. There are an estimated 40 to 45 species in this genus, almost all of which are native to the Himalayas. The one exception is the Welsh poppy, found in parts of Europe. All species tend to prefer cool, moist climates and can grow in very cold conditions, reflecting the environment of their native range. Several are cultivated as ornamentals.

These plants closely resemble their poppy relatives. They develop rosettes of greenish to blue toothed leaves and put up tall stalks that develop into large, dish-shaped flowers in a stunning array of colors including red, blue, orange, purple, yellow, and white. The petals are often slightly crinkly, and eventually they fall away, allowing a seed pod to develop. Meconopsis species come in annual, perennial, and biennial varieties.

Gardeners particularly prize M. grandis, the Himalayan blue poppy. This species is quite difficult to grow and many specimens sold under this name are actually hybrids with other blue Meconopsis species. Accurate taxonomy in this genus is difficult, as the Himalayan species hybridize readily. Some research suggests that plants currently considered different species are actually not, and the number of species in this genus is probably very small. The interbreeding also results in a continual turnover of colors, shapes, and sizes in this genus.

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Many plants in this genus are somewhat fussy and difficult to grow. They like well-drained moist soil and a cool environment. They can tolerate varying soil qualities, although rich soils are preferred. In the case of perennial species, regular divisions are necessary to keep the plant healthy, as it will keep putting out new rosettes of leaves every year and they can become crowded. Perennial species are usually able to handle cold weather, but a sharp frost can kill a plant. Since they are deciduous, it is sometimes difficult to tell if a plant is dormant or dead until the spring, when it should put out new foliage.

Nurseries sometimes carry Meconopsis seedlings. It is also possible to buy seeds, although seeds should be planted when they are as fresh as possible, as dried seeds tend to have difficulty germinating. Seeds should be sprouted indoors in rich soil in a warm, humid environment, and they will take around two months to mature into seedlings for planting. To avoid disrupting the Meconopsis plant during the transplantation process, gardeners can start their seeds in peat cups and transplant the plant intact in the cup. Over time, the cup will break down in the soil around the plant.

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