One of my favorite flowers is at the height of its bloom period right now. Blue Balloon Flower, Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’, opened its first flower the first week of July and has been going strong ever since.
This Balloon Flower is rated hardy from USDA Zones 3 – 8. It grows well in full sun, but tolerates and blooms in partly shady conditions as well. It boasts a lengthy bloom cycle, flowering prolifically for most of the summer. Dead-heading is a must to keep the flowers coming and to keep the plants looking tidy. Here’s what they look like if you fall behind!
Here’s the “after” shot:The stems ooze a milky liquid when cut, so I recommend wearing gloves!
‘Sentimental Blue’ is a dwarf cultivar, supposedly reaching only six to twelve inches in height. Mine must be over-achievers; these four mature plants range from thirteen to sixteen inches high. The plants grow in fairly neat mounds with about a fourteen inch spread. The five pointed blue-violet flowers are each three inches wide.
The plant’s name, Platycodon, comes from Greek and means “broad bell.” It’s also known as Chinese Bellflower. The common name “Balloon Flower” comes from the way the flowers’ buds puff out like balloons before they open:
Balloon Flowers are available in blue, pink, and white, but blue is the most common. There are some tall varieties as well; I have one that came from a friend’s garden, so I don’t know its name:
This plant is about forty-five inches tall. It begins to bloom in mid-July. This cultivar can get quite floppy, so I try hard to remember to install a plant ring around it before it gets too tall!
Aside from moving this clump from my friend’s yard about four years ago, I haven’t tried to divide or move my Balloon Flowers. The reading I’ve done indicates that it’s possible but can be difficult because they have long, stringy roots. It is most successfully done in the spring. I’ve tried letting the seed heads mature and fall to the ground in hopes that they’ll spread that way, but haven’t had any luck with that. Here’s what the seed heads look like:
Balloon Flowers are late to emerge in the spring, so it’s wise to mark their location and remain patient. When they first pop through the ground, they resemble asparagus tips. Those tips then quickly burst into a rosette of leaves. Notice the purple at the base of the stems:
Balloon Flowers are low maintenance, no-fuss plants that require little from the gardener besides some dead-heading once in a while. They’re fairly slow growers that won’t try to take over the garden. They are deer and woodchuck resistant, though I must tell you that this spring I did indeed see a woodchuck nibbling on the Balloon Flower in my rock garden. It seemed to be a one-time sampling, and the plant has recovered well and is now blooming. I heartily recommend Platycodon grandiflorus!
I do apologize for being a day late this week, and will try to do better next week! If you have a plant you’d like to feature, please feel free to join in! Just leave a link to your site in the comment section here. See you next Thursday