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Balloon Flowers: The Ultimate Guide to Planting, Growing, and Caring for Platycodon Grandiflorus

When it comes to captivating flowering plants, balloon flowers are always a top choice. These delightful perennials earn their name from their unique blooms, which start off as a balloon shape before opening into stunning...

When it comes to captivating flowering plants, balloon flowers are always a top choice. These delightful perennials earn their name from their unique blooms, which start off as a balloon shape before opening into stunning star-shaped flowers. The petals are adorned with darker veins, adding even more intrigue to their beauty.

Not only are balloon flowers stunning, but they are also incredibly easy to care for. Once planted, they require minimal attention and can create waves of color in your garden. They are also a great addition to mixed perennial plantings, effortlessly complementing other flowers while standing out on their own.

With their wide range of cultivars, you are sure to find the perfect balloon flower for your garden. Let's dive deeper into the world of balloon flowers and uncover everything you need to know about planting, growing, and caring for Platycodon Grandiflorus.


Roots of Cultivated Flowers Many people cultivate Platycodon Grandiflorus for their roots.

Balloon flowers, scientifically known as Platycodon grandifloras, belong to the Campanulaceae family and are the sole member of the Platycodon genus. They are also known as Chinese bellflowers due to their origin in Asia.

While they may have originated in Asia, balloon flowers are now well-loved garden plants across the globe. Their popularity stems from their fascinating flowers, which resemble balloons before transforming into star-shaped blossoms with five petals.

Blue Chinese bellflowers with purple-ish hues are particularly popular due to their rarity in the plant world. However, you can also find them in bright white and blush pink, allowing you to choose the perfect color for your garden.

In addition to their beauty, the roots of white platycondons, known as "doraji," are commonly used as a vegetable in Korea. They are consumed fresh or dried and are also utilized in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as asthma and bronchitis.


Balloon flowers are typically propagated from seeds, although they can also be propagated from cuttings. However, dividing them is not recommended due to their sensitive taproots.

Propagating From Seed

Seed Tray Using a seedling tray is the best way to prepare Platycodon Grandiflorus for planting.

At the end of the flowering season, you'll notice brown seed pods developing around the blooms. Once these seed pods have completely dried out, remove them from the plant and bring them indoors. Each pod contains several tiny brown seeds resembling grains of rice.

Save some of these seeds in a dry place for planting next year, as one flower can produce over a hundred seeds. You can start seeds indoors in seedling trays over winter or plant them directly into the ground in early spring after the last frost.

When planting seeds in trays, lightly sow them over a seed starting mix. Gently press them into the soil for better contact, but do not cover them completely to aid germination. In about two weeks, you should start to see small leaves emerging.

Once the seedlings have developed a few leaves, gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions by moving them outside for a couple of days. Afterward, they can be planted directly into the ground, taking care not to disturb or damage the roots.

Keep the seedlings well-watered after planting, and they will reward you with new blooms within the year.

Propagating From Cuttings

Flower About to Bloom While seeding is preferred, balloon flowers can also be grown from cuttings.

Although seed sowing is the most reliable method of propagation, you can also propagate balloon flowers from cuttings. This method is ideal for impatient gardeners who don't want to wait for the plant to produce seeds.

To propagate from cuttings, take a clean pair of pruning shears and cut a stem from the plant that is at least four inches long. Remove the soft stems near the base of the cutting for the best chance of rooting.

Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone powder, which will stimulate growth and increase the chances of successful propagation. Plant the cutting in a pot or tray filled with a moistened mixture of peat moss or coconut coir and perlite, providing good drainage and the right conditions for root development.

Once new growth and leaves appear, the cuttings can be transplanted into pots or directly into the garden. Take care not to damage the root growth during transplantation and water the cuttings well afterwards.


Close Up of Pink and White Flowers Early spring is the best time to plant balloon flowers in your garden.

Plant balloon flower seeds or seedlings in early spring when the ground has warmed up. Before planting, enrich the soil with organic matter such as compost to improve soil structure and nutrient content. Loosening the soil deeper will facilitate root growth and help the plant establish itself.

Space the plants around 20 inches apart, although smaller varieties can be planted closer together. The label on the plant will provide guidance on the mature plant's size, helping you plan the appropriate spacing.

While planting, ensure that the soil in the hole is loose, and place the plants at the same depth as they were in the original pot or tray. Sow seeds on top of the soil, just as you would in trays.

Water the newly planted flowers thoroughly to provide a good foundation for growth, especially for seeds, as they need moisture to trigger germination. Thinning the seedlings as they sprout ensures adequate space between plants, improving airflow and reducing competition as they mature.

Planting in Pots

Purple Flowers in a Pot Platycodon Grandiflorus can be planted in containers for a beautiful display.

Balloon flowers are suitable for planting in containers, making them excellent choices for patio displays. Select a dwarf variety that won't outgrow the pot size. Shorter plants also tend to look better in pots from a design perspective.

Choose a deep pot that provides enough space for the roots, around 12 inches in depth for most dwarf cultivars. Ensure the pot has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

If you're repurposing a container or making your own, you can drill additional drainage holes in the bottom. Space the holes evenly to prevent water from pooling in one area, which could lead to bacterial and fungal growth.

Fill the pot with well-draining potting mix that is light and airy to improve drainage. Avoid using garden soil alone, as it can cause drainage and pest problems. You can amend heavier soils with coconut coir and perlite to enhance drainage.

Sow the seeds directly into the pot to avoid disturbing the roots later on, or sow them into trays and transplant them into larger pots when the seedlings are ready.

How to Grow

When it comes to growing Platycodon Grandiflorus, there is no "simple" way to ensure beautiful flowers. These plants require the right combination of light, water, soil, climate, and fertilization. Let's explore what you need to grow these flowers successfully in each category.


Purple Flowers on a Sunny Day Balloon flowers appreciate full sun but can benefit from partial shade in hot climates.

Chinese bellflowers thrive when planted in full sun, which promotes optimal growth and abundant flowering. Aim for at least six hours of sunlight per day. However, in extremely hot climates, they may benefit from some afternoon shade to prevent overheating.


Freshly Watered Purple Flower Newly planted balloon flowers need consistent moisture, but they become slightly drought tolerant once established.

Newly planted balloon flowers prefer consistently moist soil, especially in the first few weeks after planting. However, once their long taproots have developed, you can reduce watering. The taproot allows the plant to access deeper soil layers where moisture evaporates less quickly. A dry top layer of soil won't harm the plants for several days.

In areas with moderate to high rainfall, established balloon flowers can rely on rainwater for most of their hydration. However, during drier periods or hot weather, provide them with slightly more water to prevent stress. Despite their drought tolerance, they still benefit from regular watering.


Potted Flower Knocked Over Well-draining soil is essential for growing healthy balloon flowers.

Platycodon Grandiflorus prefer loamy, well-draining soil, as is the case with most flowering perennials. Avoid planting them in heavy clay soil, as it can retain excessive moisture and lead to root rot. Balloon flowers aren't overly picky about soil pH, although they do prefer slightly acidic soil.

Climate and Temperature

Field of Purple and White Flowers Mild climates are ideal for growing balloon flowers.

Balloon flowers thrive in mild climates, typically ranging from USDA Zones 3 to 8. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures above 85°F can stress the plants and hinder flowering. Frost can also damage tender new growth. However, balloon flowers are resilient and can rebound once conditions improve.

Humidity doesn't pose significant challenges for these plants, as they can handle both humid and dry environments. However, high humidity can increase the risk of diseases, requiring additional care in such regions.


Close Up of Purple Flower Fertilizing is unnecessary when planting or caring for balloon flowers.

If you plant balloon flowers in nutrient-rich soil, there is no need for additional fertilization. In fact, fertilizing plants already growing in good conditions can lead to issues with excessive growth. Excess nitrogen, for example, can cause outward growth rather than upward growth, which may disrupt the overall appearance of the interplanted garden beds.

However, if your plants are not growing as expected, you can enhance the soil with compost by applying it as mulch around the plants. Alternatively, a slow-release fertilizer can be applied once in spring to improve nutrient levels if necessary.


Light Blue Flowers Against a Wall Maintaining balloon flowers mainly involves keeping them visually appealing.

Caring for balloon flowers primarily involves keeping them visually appealing, although it is not always necessary. You can trim the stems back in late spring to encourage denser and more compact growth, but the plants can still thrive without this trim under the right conditions.

If the stems appear stretched or leggy, pruning can rectify the issue. In fall, cutting back all the dying stems to ground level will prepare the plant for the following season.

More controlled pruning can be done in early or late spring, depending on the plant's performance. However, spring pruning requires precision to avoid damaging early growth, as this can lead to issues later in the season.

If pruning doesn't address growth issues, the soil may contain an excess of nitrogen. Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient levels and adjust accordingly to restore the necessary balance for strong, upright growth and abundant flowering.

Deadheading spent flowers throughout the season promotes more blooms and keeps the plant tidy. However, if you plan to collect seeds for the following season, leave the blooms on the plant until the seed pods have dried and are ready for harvest.

To prevent excessive spreading, remove the flowers at the end of the season if you're not planning to collect seeds. Balloon flower seeds can spread rapidly if left unchecked, leading to unexpected growth in different parts of your garden.

Regular mulching with organic materials helps retain soil moisture without waterlogging. Compost is an excellent choice as it gradually enriches the soil while improving its structure. Bark chips or straw can also serve as effective mulching materials.

When mulching, avoid excessive build-up around the stems to prevent rotting.


Purple Double Flowers Double-flowered varieties of balloon flowers are popular for their fluffy petals.

While most platycondon cultivars share a similar appearance, featuring blue or purple star-shaped flowers, horticulturalists have developed stunning varieties that offer unique characteristics.

For a classic balloon flower look, 'Fuji Blue' is a top choice. These blue flowers have a purple tinge and can appear either blue or purple, depending on lighting conditions. The petals are transparent, creating an intriguing display in the sunshine. 'Fuji Blue' reaches a maximum height of 24 inches.

'Sentimental Blue' is another compact blue cultivar that closely resembles 'Fuji Blue,' but it stays on the shorter side, usually not exceeding 18 inches in height. It's perfect for filling gaps in garden beds.

Not all balloon flowers have five petals; some cultivars boast ten instead. These hybrid varieties, known as double flowers, feature an extra set of petals that fill in the gaps for an enchanting summer show. 'Astra Double' is a recommended dwarf variety, while 'Double Blue' grows taller, reaching a maximum height of 30 inches.

Stepping away from blue flowers, 'Fairy Snow' is a dwarf cultivar with delicate white flowers embellished with blueish-purple veins. 'Astra Pink,' on the other hand, produces large yellow balloon flowers that morph into pastel pink blossoms. Both varieties are ideal for adding variety and charm to your garden.

Lastly, 'Mother of Pearl' is a rare and captivating cultivar. Its pale pink flowers feature striking deep pink veins that taper toward the edge of the petals, making a bold statement in any garden.

Pests and Diseases

Slug on a Leaf Slugs are among the common pests that can affect balloon flowers.

Platycodon grandifloras generally experience minimal problems with diseases, especially if grown in the right conditions. Most popular cultivars are also somewhat disease-resistant, reducing the likelihood of issues.

In wet and humid weather or during periods of stress, root rot, crown rot, or powdery mildew may occur, but these problems are unlikely to affect your plants in most regions.

As for pests, slugs and snails can trouble balloon flowers, particularly in rainy weather. However, you can lure these pests away from your plants by creating beer traps. Simply bury a container filled with beer in the ground, and the slugs and snails will be attracted to it, ultimately meeting their demise in the liquid.

Plant Uses

Roots of Balloon Flower Besides their beauty, balloon flowers have culinary and medicinal uses.

Balloon flowers serve various purposes in the garden. They make excellent companions for tall perennials in beds or containers, creating informal and captivating displays. Their relative drought tolerance also qualifies them for rock gardens and combining them with ornamental grasses.

For dwarf varieties, planting them alongside other flowering plants in containers adds interest. The large blooms can complement other flowers or stand out against foliage. Ensure that each paired plant has similar growing requirements to prevent one from thriving at the expense of the other.

Taller balloon flowers are perfect for large beds, where they can be combined with other perennials. Paired with shorter flowering plants, they add the finishing touch of color. However, be cautious about their spreading seeds, which can quickly take over a bed if left unchecked.

Beyond their aesthetic value, balloon flower roots have culinary and medicinal applications. In Asian cuisine, the root is soaked in water, washed, and salted to remove its bitterness. It can be used as a vegetable in various dishes, or even added to desserts and alcoholic drinks. The roots are packed with nutrients such as calcium and iron.

Balloon flower root is also used in natural medicine to relieve pain and respiratory issues. Limited evidence suggests that it may help alleviate allergies by inhibiting histamine response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about balloon flowers? We've got you covered!

Final Thoughts

Balloon flowers are the ultimate perennial plants. They are incredibly low-maintenance, propagate easily, require little attention, and reliably flower year after year, sometimes even in their first year. With their charming balloon-like blooms that burst into colorful star-shaped flowers, it's hard not to fall in love.

Plant your balloon flowers from seeds or seedlings in containers or garden beds, and they will reward you with beautiful blooms in spring. You can even bring a few buds indoors for an enchanting cut flower display. While they may die back in winter, they will return in a few months to brighten your garden and your day.