If you love cute, colorful, whimsical flowers with low-maintenance characteristic, balloon flower is your choice. Known for its hardiness and bright colors, this plant is popular for an easy home gardening project. Planting this flower will give you amazing colorful garden during summer.
Characteristics of Balloon Flower
Balloon flower, also known as Platycodon grandiflorus, is a long-blooming perennial plant with bell-like blooms. The name “balloon” came from its round, unopened buds. Most of the flowers have five petals, with colors such as pink, purple, and white. The leaves are slightly ridged on the edges.
Balloon flower is famous for kid’s gardening project. The plant looks whimsical, but it can live with minimum treatment. Regular deadheading will keep this plant alive and bloom for a long time.
Requirements to Plant Balloon Flower
Balloon flower may be hardy, but it needs several requirements to grow healthily. They are:
Acidic, well-drained soil
Balloon flower likes acidic soil, but in the pH range between 5.8 and 6.8. It tolerates drought-prone area. The soil must be well-drained.
As a summer plant, balloon flower loves full sun, at least four to six hours a day. However, it can tolerate partial shade. In a hotter region, partial shade is important to keep the plant happy.
Balloon flower is not a greedy plant, but occasional feeding is required if you want to have an extended blooming period. Organic fertilizer in the spring and compost during fall are recommended.
Plants that are too close together have bigger risks in suffering from fungal diseases. The basic rules for distances are 12 to 18 inches for regular varieties and nine to 12 inches for dwarf hybrids.
As a hardy summer plant, balloon flower is good in handling a little drought. You can water it every few days during hot days. Skip the watering during periodic summer rain to prevent mildew.
How to Plant Balloon Flower from Seeds
Planting balloon flower in the spring will give you blooming flowers during summer. You can plant balloon flower seeds indoor before relocating them to the garden. Start with a seed planter and regular pot mix. Make sure the soil is moist, and the seed planter has proper drainage holes underneath (with a tray to catch the water).
Place individual seed on each planter section. Press them gently, but don’t bury them in the soil, because the seeds need light to germinate properly. Wait for two or three weeks until you see sprouts. Move the sprouts to smaller pots, and start the process of “hardening”, with the goal of increasing their hardiness.
How do you do the hardening? Simply place the pots outdoor in shady areas. Leave them for three to four hours before taking them inside. Do this for seven to 10 days before actual planting. When you are not hardening the plants, place them in a warm room.
Finally, plant the seedlings permanently in your garden. Make sure the place gets constant sun for at least four to six hours. However, pick a cloudy day when planting the seedlings. Water them well (but don’t flooding them) to ensure good growth.
How to Care for Balloon Flower
Balloon flower care is relatively easy once the plant is established. Keep the soil moist, but don’t flood it. When your plants grow to six inches, pinch them to ensure robust flowers. Mulching is effective to keep them healthy and fertile. Remove yellowed stems or leaves and any bad parts.
If your area is hot and dry, make sure the plants have shades to protect them from the scorching sun. You can wait until the soil is slightly dry before watering the flowers, but don’t let the soil cracked before you do. Add organic fertilizer in the spring, and compost in the fall (after the blooming season).
All balloon flower types are beautiful, whether you pick the pedigree hybrids or not. Tall varieties such as Fuji may flop a little, so they need to be planted in a large cluster to support each other. However, Astra Blue balloon flower is the easiest type to plant from seeds (especially for beginners).
Balloon Flowers’ Common Problems
Balloon flowers don’t have many problems. Slugs and aphids may occasionally attack, but you can remove them with hands or environmentally-friendly methods. You can crush egg shells and strew them around the flowers. You can also create beer traps using several flat plates with some beer inside. Aphids can be removed by hands, strong water spray, or horticulture oil.
Mold and root rot may appear if the condition is too moist. The solution is to reduce overwatering and create 12 to 18-inch of distance between seeds when planting. Avoid watering the flowers from the top. You can use a slow-release watering tool that releases water in a controlled period.
Fungal diseases are also common among balloon flowers. The signs include white patches and slimy or powdery grey mold. You need to remove the leaves and roots that experience these symptoms. If most of the flower parts are attacked, remove them completely.
Tips to Design Garden with Balloon Flower
Balloon flowers grow in clusters, with stems that can reach two feet tall (unless you plant the dwarf varieties). Therefore, they are ideal as border plants. You can also plant them next to pathways, creating beautiful and colorful display when summer comes. The flowers will not immediately bloom when summer comes, but they suddenly burst open in mid-summer.
Balloon flowers’ delicate shapes create an amazing view when contrasted with spiky plants or grasses. Celosia, Liatris, and Persicaria are ideal greens to plant with balloon flowers. They also look great with yellow and orange flowers, like Cosmos, yarrow, and lilies.
Balloon flowers are also great to create a wild or cottage garden. Their serrated leaves make them deer-resistant. Perfect if you live in the area where deer often disturb gardens.
Planting balloon flowers will give your garden beautiful borders, perennial beauty, and source of cut flowers. While they may be hardy, balloon flowers still need a proper condition to grow properly. You need to fertilize them occasionally, provide enough water and sunlight, and take care of occasional pests. If you can do those things, you can enjoy a beautiful balloon flower in summer and fall continuously.