In high summer, many plants have their best time and present themselves with great flowers. For some, this phase doesn’t last long. The flowers wither and the plants begin to produce seeds. The balloon flower, on the other hand, only really gets going relatively late in the year and decorates beds from late July to September.
Profile of balloon flower:
Scientific name: Platycodon grandiflorus
Plant family: bellflower family (Campanulaceae)
Other names: Chinese bellflower, platycodon
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: spring
Flowering period: July to September
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: stony to sandy, nutritious, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, bouquet,s group planting, planters, borders, flower garden, stone garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, -32 °C / -25 °F
Bee and insect friendly:
Plant characteristics and classification of balloon flower
Plant order, origin and occurrence of balloon flower
The balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is the only representative of its genus (Platycodon) within the bellflower family (Campanulaceae). The plant with the beautiful buds comes from Northeast Asia and is therefore also called Chinese bellflower.
Characteristics of balloon flower
The balloon flower is a summer flowering perennial and grows upright a maximum of 70 centimeters (28 in) in height and about 30 centimeters (12 in) in width. It forms a thickened taproot. Depending on the variety, the balloon flower is hard up to -32 °C / -25 °F.
The leaves of the balloon flower have a lanceolate shape with a serrated edge and taper to the top. Their color is bluish green. The foliage is covered with a thin whitish wax layer.
From July (sometimes already Mid-June) to August, the bright blue, pink or white star-shaped bell flowers open, which are arranged in loose racemes. They can grow up to seven centimeters (3 in). The enchanting balloon flowers owe their name to the spherically inflated flower buds that open all of a sudden.
An egg-shaped capsule with violet seeds forms, which turn brown in the later stage of ripeness.
Balloon flower – cultivation and care
Balloon flowers should stand for optimal growth in the sun or partial shade and protected from the rain.
Attention: White flowers turn dark when there is too much sun, so white variants should definitely be in partial shade!
Balloon flowers have no great demands on the soil. It should only be nutrient-rich and permeable if possible. The Chinese bellflower grows in nature on dry grass and forest clearings.
Even if the flowers are usually only put on the market in summer when they are in bloom, the plants should be planted at a distance of about 30 centimeters (12 in) in spring for a good start. Water well after planting.
Attention: Young balloon flowers start small and often reach their final height of 50 to 70 centimeters (20 to 28 in) after a few years. So plan the planting area accordingly in the middle of the bed and not too far up front.
The balloon flower actually requires little maintenance. You should, however, provide them with irrigation water as regularly as possible, as long as it does not rain over a longer period. However, you should avoid waterlogging, otherwise the roots will start to rot.
Every year, the balloon flowers sprout freshly in spring and are unfortunately too often haunted by snails, of which you should definitely protect the flowers. During this sprouting period, they should also be supplied one-time with a generous amount of complete fertilizer or compost.
The propagation of the balloon flower is best accomplished by sowing. In fall, you can collect the seed pods before they open on their own and store them dry and dark over the winter. In spring, the seed is then sown directly into the bed on the earth. Since the seeds are usually not varietal, the flower color of the new balloon flowers is a surprise.
A well-grown balloon flower can be divided from the fifth year onwards and thus increased. But the plant thrives best when it is left alone.
At the end of the flowering phase you have to cut back the balloon flower completely. It will overwinter in this way. In principle, the perennials are hardy plants, but you should still protect young perennials with some brushwood in the first three years after planting.
Diseases and pests
As mentioned above, snails are the biggest enemy of the balloon flower. A snail fence or slug pellet helps the young plants through the delicate time of budding.
In the first few years after planting or in very harsh winters, frost protection with mulch or brushwood is recommended.
Use in the garden
Balloon flowers are suitable for planting window boxes and tubs, but also thrive in the perennial border or in the rock garden. It is a reliable companion in sunny borders. Do not be surprised if the plant does not show up for a long time after winter, often it does not sprout until May. The gaps in the bed can be bridged with bulb flowers in spring, such as golden garlic, wild garlic, hollowroot or dogtooth violet. Balloon flowers are durable cut flowers. They are also suitable as house-plants, but are then less durable.