Platycodon Grandiflorus, also known as Balloon Flower, Platycodon, or Chinese Bellflower, is a species of herbaceous flowering plants in the Campanulaceae family. Balloon flowers are the only members of the Platycodon genus. They are native to regions of East Asia, such as Japan, China, Korea, and the Russian Far East.
Balloon flowers are usually grown as ornamental plants worldwide, but they are also used in food recipes and traditional remedies in Asian regions. In Korea, the root is consumed preserved in sugar, pickled, or as a tonic vegetable in soups. Also, their leaves serve as the main ingredient in many Japanese salads.
The roots of these plants have great medicinal value. They are often used as a treatment for digestive and respiratory disorders, liver and heart problems, fatigue, inflammations, and allergies. Moreover, studies have found that Balloon flowers’ roots can stop the growth of cancer cells.
About Balloon Flower Plants
- The most common cultivars of Balloon flowers as ornamental plants are Sentimental Blue, Astra Series, Fuji Series, and Komachi.
- Balloon flowers have a wide range of health benefits due to the volatile active ingredients and other organic compounds found in their root.
- These plants love areas full of sun and they will show it by blooming sporadically. If you cannot provide Balloon flowers with enough daily sunlight, you can place them in a spot where they can get some hours of the morning sun.
- Balloon flowers are thirsty plants that demand lots of moisture. They need extra watering only if you live in a region with scarce or absent rainfalls.
- They are hardy plants that prefer mid-warm temperatures, but they can still thrive in slightly hot climates. Keep them away from frost, as this may damage them irreversibly.
- Balloon flowers can tolerate short periods of drought. However, it is better to water them regularly to maintain the soil damp.
- Although some parts of these plants are edible, other ones are toxic. You should grow Balloon flowers in a place where curious cats, dogs, and children cannot reach them.
Balloon Flower Plants Features: An Overview
- Balloon flowers are tropical perennial plants that can reach between 1 and 2.5 feet (30.4-76.2 cm) in height and 1 and 1.5 feet (30.4-45.7 cm) in width.
- Their foliage is thick, oval or lance-shaped, green to blue-green with serrated edges.
- They produce flowers in the summer from late July to early August.
- Balloon flower buds look like balloon-shaped swellings. The opened bloomings of these plants resemble those of their kissing cousin Bellflower.
- After fully opening, their star-shaped flowers have five petals that can appear in various shades of violet, blue, pink, or white.
- Balloon flowers are non-aggressive plants that can pair nicely with lilies, yarrow, ornamental grasses, or spiky plants such as yucca, Liatris, and celosia.
Growing Balloon Flower Plants
So, have these lovely plants aroused your interest? You are not the only one! Many gardeners adore Balloon Flower plants due to their attractive appearance. And the best part: they are very easy to grow both indoors and outdoors.
You can start the journey of caring for these plants by purchasing nursery plants or growing them from seeds. It is best to plant nursery Balloon flowers outdoors after the winter has passed to protect them from the last threat of frost. They can also be planted from spring to fall, but they might not bloom until the next year.
If you want to grow Balloon flowers from seeds, you need to start the process indoors for six to eight weeks. When the temperatures are warm enough, you can safely take the container outside or transplant the seeds directly in your garden. They will need some time to grow, thus they will not bloom in the year they were planted.
These plants do well in areas with full sun to partial shade. Still, Balloon Flower plants will produce an abundance of flowers when they are grown in bright and direct sunlight. If you live in a region with hot climates, plant them in a location where they are protected from direct light, as this may burn their leaves.
Balloon Flower plants prefer slightly warm temperatures between 60 and 80 °F (15-26 °C). They are hardy plants that can tolerate even higher temperatures if they are provided with some shade in the afternoon. Keep in mind that these plants can be killed by frost, so you should bring them indoors in the winter.
They like to grow in a loamy, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. When planting, look for a slightly acidic potting soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5. Avoid clay or any type of dense soils, as these plants do not grow well in them.
When balloon flowers are planted in rich soil, they can grow healthy without any extra fertilizer. If you grow these plants in poor soil, it is best to feed them an all-purpose and slow-release fertilizer in early spring. No matter what soil type they grow in, they will benefit from a layer of compost in the autumn. This will make them more vigorous after the growing season.
These plants do not require regular pruning. However, if you want to maintain your Balloon Flower plant in its best-looking shape, you can halve the tall stems’ length. This will encourage growth and prevent your plant from flopping over. You can also remove the spent flowers to induce new blooming. Make sure you do not take out the entire stem, as the remaining flower buds will keep opening.
Generally, Balloon flowers do not have major problems with pests, but snails and slugs might attack them once in a while. They like to feed on your plant at night, so you should inspect the leaves or the soil around your plant for wet-looking trails. You can keep these pests away using snail and slug baits.
Watering Balloon Flower Plants
If you are a busy or forgetful gardener, no worries! Balloon flower plants need frequent watering only during their first growing season. Once they have settled in their new growth environment, these plants can be drought-tolerant for a few days at a time.
They are susceptible to root rot, so it is always better to give them a break from watering than over-water them. These plants appreciate a good amount of moisture, but they do not enjoy growing in wet or soggy conditions. Make sure you do not water your balloon flower unless the top layer of the soil is dry to the touch.
Balloon flowers are very thirsty plants that can trick you into providing them with more water than they actually need. The safest way to water these plants is to irrigate them using a soaker hose. They will benefit more from slow and deep irrigations, ensuring the proper amount of water they require without over-watering them.
Propagating Balloon Flower Plants
Besides the casual method of growing Balloon flowers from seeds, they can be easily propagated through stem cuttings. If you are an experienced gardener, you would probably ask why these plants cannot be propagated by division. You should know that their root system is very fragile, so they generally do not respond well to any kind of disturbance.
You can harvest the seeds of balloon flowers from their dried-out blooms. To propagate these plants from seed, you need to plant them in a container and place them indoors in the early spring. During the late spring or summer, they can also be propagated directly outdoors.
Be careful not to cover the seeds with potting soil, as they require direct light to germinate. Water them regularly to keep the soil damp, but do not over-water them. After the last frost, you can take the seedlings outside and carefully transplant them without damaging their delicate new roots.
You can propagate your Balloon flower by stem cuttings using clean pruners. Look for a long healthy stem and trim off about 4 inches (10 cm) from it. Remove the bottom-half layer of leaves and dip the stem in rooting hormone. Fill a pot with fresh well-draining potting soil and plant the cutting in it.
Keep the soil damp by regularly watering it. If you notice new leaves growing and resistance when gently pulling the cutting, it is an indicator of root development. Transplant your baby Balloon flower into the garden and give it the usual care as for a mature plant.
Are flowering plants your greatest weakness in the gardening world? Well, we are more than sure that you have a little extra space for these beauties. Balloon flowers come in numerous cultivars, giving you the opportunity to fill your garden with the varieties that you like best.
These plants will maintain their bloomings healthy and open if you provide them with bright and direct sunlight, warm temperatures, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter, and regular watering to keep the soil damp. Also, they are pretty easy to propagate, so you can share some colorful baby plants with your friends.