Very few flowers in the plant world are true blue, but the balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is one of those few. On top of its unique color (other bloom colors also available), balloon flowers are an easy-to-grow perennial that requires very little maintenance and the unusual name comes from the way the flower bud resembles a blown-up balloon just before it bursts open into a blue bloom. So how do you grow balloon flowers then?
Balloon flowers grow best in full sun but will grow in partial shade. Sow seeds in spring right after the last frost of the season. After seeds germinate thin plants to one to two feet (30 – 60cm) apart.
Seeds can be started indoors in late winter and set outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Balloon flowers are adaptable to most soil conditions except heavy clay. The plant will grow best in a loose, loamy soil that drains well.
Add compost to the soil before planting seeds and cover seeds with 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) of compost after planting.
Mature plants will reach 1-3 feet (30 – 90 cm) tall and 1-2 feet (30 – 60 cm) wide and bear a continuous supply of whimsical puffy blooms all over the plant.
Remove spent blooms to keep the plant looking neat and encourage more blooms. Water plants once a week during times of little rainfall.
Plant location should be marked in some way because the plants are slow to appear in late spring and are easily forgotten about.
After the seedlings have become established, apply a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of organic mulch to the plants.
Don’t fertilize the first growing season, wait until the following spring and apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil or organic plant food.
Because plants are tall and produce an abundance of blooms, they become top-heavy and flop over. Use a trellis or other type of support system to hold the balloon plants upright.
Balloon flower, also called Chinese bellflower, is a late-season bloomer that will put on a dazzling display throughout the summer months.
Small, balloon-shaped buds appear on the plant and begin to enlarge until they reach approximately an inch (2.5cm) in diameter. Then they will burst open into a bell-shaped flower with five points.
Blue is the most popular bloom color with pink or white bloom colors also available. Balloon flowers make long-lasting cut flowers and can be cut off the plant throughout the growing season. The more you cut, the more blooms the plant will produce.
Once established, the balloon flower is a long-lived, deer-resistant perennial that you can rely on for many years. The flower will re-seed itself and spread via a long taproot.
You may be interested in my other article “5 Fall/Autumn Flowers for Your Garden” here.
|Light||full sun, part sun|
|Soil drainage||moist but well drained|
|Height x Width||6~36 x 12 inches (15~90 x 30 cm) depending on type|
|Plant hardiness zones||3 – 8|