This delightful plant is like a miniature version of the Iceland Poppy. Papaver alpinum is a tufted perennial with much divided, grey-green leaves and plenty of small Poppy flowers, each 2.5cm (1in) across, in shades of pink, apricot, yellow, orange and white throughout the summer.
These miniature poppies rarely stand taller than about 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in). The fine, slender foliage has a ferny blue-green beauty even when between re-flowerings. They flower from late spring or early summer, with rebloom possible up to autumn.
Papaver alpinum is an 'Old World' poppy, native to high mountains of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Pyrenees. The isolation of these poppy populations on mountains far distant from one another, a few even restricted to specific islands of alpine lakes, means there are a vast number of variant forms, several of which qualify as subspecies. They are nevertheless quite adaptable and though preferring life at high elevations will also flower freely at sea level.
Sowing: Sow in Autumn or in Spring
Papaver alpinum can be sown in pots in Autumn and overwintered in either a cold greenhouse or cloche. Otherwise sow direct in early spring after all danger of frost has passed. Keep soil decently moist throughout the three week germination period.
However, recommendations do vary, as often it is thought to be better to start them in coldframe or greenhouse because many more of the seeds will develop than would occur in situ. On the other hand, they are difficult to transplant without losing half of them, so starting them in their permanent locations could well be best, with perhaps a removable coldframe or tent until they are well up.
Although it's often said they will flower their first year if started from seed early enough in spring, just as commonly they do not flower until after they've experienced one winter dormancy. One reason to start them in greenhouses, despite the losses from their susceptibility to transplant shock, is to get a head start on spring and so improve the odds of summer blossoms the first year.
Alpine poppies can be very sensitive and not apt to self-seed and return in conditions that stress them, yet hardy when they find themselves growing in conditions they like. Too much attention will kill them, and sometimes the best results are had from ignoring them. In particular, fertilising is a bad idea.
They don't like drought and will die to the ground in a hot dry month, but the root doesn't necessarily die, and a clump can return in early autumn when drought conditions improve. Yet at the same time they decline swiftly if over-watered and are especially at risk if soil drains poorly. It is sometimes recommended to place them in gravelly soil and mulch around them with stones to help maximise drainage
Alpine poppies are short lived, to the point that they are often regarded as annuals or biennials. However they can self-seed and in optimal conditions will return year after year: keep them going by adding seedlings started in cold-frames. Alpine gardeners may be able to get them to perennialise, and can divide clumps every other year to keep them refreshed. Without a dormant cold winter they cannot perennialise.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Garden Edging, Gravel Garden, Alpine and Rock Gardens.
Native to high mountains of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Pyrenees. The isolation of these poppy populations on mountains far distant from one another, a few even restricted to specific islands of alpine lakes, means there are a vast number of variant forms, several of which qualify as subspecies.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 250mg Average Seed Count 2,000 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 8,000 seeds per gram Family Papaveraceae Genus Papaver Species alpinum Common Name Alpine Poppy Other Common Names Dwarf Poppy, Glacier Poppy Hardiness Hardy Annual Natural Flower Time Late spring/early summer, (may rebloom to autumn) Height 20-25cm (8-10in) Spread 30-38cm (12-15in) Position Full Sun Aspect West or South facing. Sheltered. Notes Short Lived Perennial (treat as an Annual)