Balloon flower (Chinese Bellflower, Japanese bellflower) is an easy-to-grow plant originated in Russia, Japan, Korea, and China. It got its name because of flower buds reminding to a hot air balloon right before blooming.
You will adore white, blue, pink, or purple, single or double flowers appearing on 2 to 3 feet (61 – 91.5 cm) high stems throughout summer.
However, if you prefer dwarf varieties, you can find some lovely, 6 inches (15 cm) tall Balloon flowers as well.
I can say that the most desired color of blooms is definitely blue since that color is quite rare in gardens.
Toxicity of Balloon Flower
Even though the leaves of this plant are considered a remedy, those growing from the base are slightly toxic.
Therefore, you should use just the top foliage for medical purposes and in culinary dishes.
The most popular varieties of Balloon flower
|Astra Series||Violet-blue, white, or pink||
4 to 20 inches (10 – 51 cm)
|Violet-blue||6 inches (15 cm)|
|Sentimental Blue||Blue or deep-purple||
6 inches (15 cm)
|White||12 inches (30.5 cm)|
|Komachi||Blue or purple||
12 to 24 inches (30.5 – 61 cm)
|Purple-blue||18 inches (46 cm)|
|Shell Pink||Pale, almost white||
24 inches (61 cm)
|Double blue||24 inches (61 cm)|
|Double White||Double white||
24 inches (61 cm)
|Double blue||24 inches (61 cm)|
|Fuji Series||Blue, white, or pink||
30 inches (76 cm)
How to Plant Balloon Flower in Your Garden
Propagation by seeds
Propagating Balloon flowers by sowing seeds is easy. However, some gardeners prefer purchasing seedlings to avoid waiting the next season to see the first blooming. If you are patient and you don’t mind waiting for a year to see the first flowers, you won’t regret it when using this method.
The procedure is not complicated at all. You just need to wait until pods entirely dry out. Collect them and hang upside down with a paper bag underneath. Press the pods to help them open and carefully collect hundreds of small, brown rice-like seeds.
Always start sowing seeds indoors in the spring until it germinates. You will need a pot full of the starting mix. Barely press seeds into it and cover the pot with a plastic bag to provide moderate light and the constant temperatures of 60 F (15.5 C) for the process of sprouting.
On average, the first seedlings will appear after approximately two weeks. A few weeks later you should transplant them to a bigger container or directly into your garden when the period of frost passes.
I will tell you a secret! You don’t need to bother with this job at all unless you have a plan to plant Balloon flowers at the other end of your garden. It is enough leaving last blooms on the stems and let them dry.
When pods mature, seeds will fall to the ground as soon as they burst. You can expect to see new seedlings in spring.
Propagation by cuttings
It is not a too hard way for the propagation of Balloon flower. Wait for late spring to come and cut 2 to 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) long stems with garden pruners.
You will get the best results when using stem joins the roots. Gently dig the soil to the place where they are connected and cut off a stem with a 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long piece of root. Pot every cutting separately and keep it consistently moist.
It will establish quite quickly. It seems that you will have almost 100% success when using cuttings that way. The probability of surviving cuttings dipped in rooting hormone is not higher than 50%.
Propagation by division
Balloon flower has a complex and extended root system, which doesn’t prefer being disturbed. Therefore, propagation by dividing is a quite tricky option without much chance of success.
However, if you want to try this method, you should cut a piece of the root without uprooting the plant entirely. The best period for this action is at the end of the season. In any case, don’t do it more than once in a decade.
Take care to cut at least 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) of the root, so that the new plant can start growing. Pot the plant right away and water it well.
If you decide to plant the seedlings directly into the garden, you should dig a hole as deep as the root ball. The best option is that the hole is twice as wide as the plant’s root.
When planting a few flowers at once, try to provide enough space between them. In fact, Balloon flowers look much better if you plant them in a group of three plants together.
Put the cut piece of your Balloon flower in that hole, fill it with the garden soil, and water it abundantly. Take care to keep the taproot 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 – 3.8 cm) under the surface of the ground. Don’t expect the new plant to begin blooming at least a season or two.
Growing in a container
You can grow this flower in the medium-sized container for a year or two. However, you should avoid the transplanting Balloon flower because it is a plant with a quite complex root system.
It is crucial to water your plant regularly and to place it in a sunny place. Don’t forget to provide stalks for taller varieties once they begin growing.
When your potted Balloon flower becomes too large for the container, you should move it in the garden. Do it carefully to disturb the flower as little as possible.
As I have already said, you should be very careful when selecting a proper place for planting Balloon flower.
Once established, this plant is highly challenging to transplant and probably won’t respond well to transplantation.
The primary reason is the thick root system, which reaches way down into the ground. It is challenging to dig deep enough to avoid root damage.
That means that you will be just partially successful in an attempt to establish a new plant that way.
How to Care Balloon Flower in Your Garden
When you plant Balloon flowers, take care to organize enough space for their healthy and free growth.
Therefore, provide at least 8 to 12 inches (20 – 30.5 cm) of space between seedlings.
To get the most prolific flourishing of your Balloon flower, you should plant it in the slightly loamy, well-drained soil.
It will also tolerate the sandier ground, and you can add this plant in your rock garden as well.
The essential thing is to provide the acid, low fertile soil for your beloved flower, with the pH range from 5.8 to 6.8.
Your Balloon flower will produce the most blooms if you plant it in full sun.
However, it will also need partial shade in the afternoons, especially if you live in the hot region.
Balloon flower grows healthy and vigorous in the regions where the average temperatures are from 60 to 80 F (15.5 – 27 C).
If you plant it at the place with partial shade in the afternoons, your plant will thrive even in the areas with higher temperatures.
You should be aware that your Balloon flower requires a lot of water to thrive, but it won’t tolerate soggy soil as well. Be careful, water your plant regularly, and keep the ground consistently moist.
The best solution is to use a soaker hose and to irrigate your Balloon flower slowly and deeply. That way, you will ensure enough water for the plant and keep it from over-watering at the same time.
In general, this plant won’t die during a short period of moderate drought, even without water. However, if the ground entirely dries out, you can expect that flowers begin wilting.
This flower is actually not a heavy feeder, but you should add compost in autumn to help it replenish with the energy after abundant blooming.
It is always a better solution to avoid additional feeding than to add too much fertilizer to your beautiful flower.
It is not necessary, but I like applying organic, preferably granular, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. It helps Balloon flower to grow healthy and bloom abundantly.
It will be beneficial if you place a 2 inches (5 cm) thick layer of organic mulch around your plant in summer.
I also like adding some more mulch in autumn after pruning.
Whether your Balloon flower needs support will primarily depend on the height of the particular variety, which you decide to grow. Plants, which stems are more than 30 inches (76 cm) long, will have a lot of benefits from supporting.
Since this flower grows from a basal stem rising directly from the root ball, you should stalk it with a support ring or heavy-gauge support. Also, some gardeners have a lot of success with a shortened circular tomato cage.
The essential thing is to place the chosen support when the flower is still young. That way, you won’t damage its stem, and your plant will grow freely inside the cage.
Pruning and deadheading
You can plant this non-aggressive flower in your garden without a fear that it will take over the other plants.
Try to deadhead wilted flowers to encourage re-blooming during the season, but be careful. You shouldn’t cut the stems since the new buds form on them. Often, you will further encourage lush flowering by pruning your plant down by one quarter in mid-summer.
Also, try to cut all stems on the eve of winter and the first severe frost. Leave a couple of inches of growth to mark the place where your plant is positioned. That way, you won’t pull out your flower instead of weeds when starting preparing your garden for the new season in spring.
After that, spread a thick layer of mulch around the plant to protect the roots of coldness. I always choose fallen leaves or compost for this purpose. When the next spring comes, you should remove that mulch to encourage the development of new flowers.
Balloon Flower Pests and Diseases
There are really just a few pests attacking Balloon flower. I will list a few possible issues you may face off.
- Snails and slugs – These horrible creatures feed on young leaves of this lovely flower. Use organic baits such as a beer trap or iron phosphorous to protect your plant. Once snails appear, you should handpick them right away.
- Deer – Even though Balloon flower is a deer-resistant plant, it is possible to see these wild animals in your garden eating the young foliage. Once leaves mature, you won’t have any problems with deer.
- Root rot – That particular issue may occur if you overwater your plant and let the soil stays soggy for an extended period, especially in summer. Keep the ground well-drained, and you will prevent this problem effortlessly.