Balloon Flower Facts:
1) Balloons are not native to the United States.
They were introduced here from Europe in 1894 by Charles Lindbergh.
2) There are over 200 species of balloon plants worldwide.
Most of them grow only in temperate regions like North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. However there are some species which have been found growing in tropical areas such as Mexico and Costa Rica (see photo).
3) There are two types of balloon flowers: those with petals and those without.
Petal balloons are usually larger than non-petal ones. The reason why they are called “balloon” flowers is because their petals float up when the plant is disturbed or moved around. Non-petal balloons have no floating feature and remain attached to the plant even if it gets shaken around.
4) Some balloon plants produce seeds, but most don’t.
The seeds of these plants are very small and cannot survive outside the plant.
5) Balloon flowers come in different colors.
These include white, pink, red, orange, yellow and green. Sometimes they are shaped differently too; for example a round balloon may look like a heart shape instead of a flat one.
Balloon Plant Care:
6) Balloon flowers need good light conditions to thrive.
If they don’t get enough natural light, they close up and sometimes start to rot.
7) These plants also like wet feet.
Place your pots of balloon flowers by a sink so that their soil stays damp all the time. Water them with room temperature water once a week, or whenever the soil dries out.
8) They grow from seeds, but these seeds don’t survive more than a year.
Most people grow them from “naked roots”, which are just pieces of the plant that can be planted in soil. These roots do not survive more than a year either, so you have to keep buying these plants if you want to keep enjoying their beauty.
9) In winter, your balloon flowers will stop growing altogether.
Reduce watering and keep them away from heating ducts, as both these things can cause their leaves to shrivel up.
10) If you see something that looks like white powder on your plants, it means mites have infested them. Mites are tiny spider-like creatures which suck the juice out of plant leaves. You can usually see their webbing clumped up in patches on the leaves. To get rid of these pests, apply some insecticidal soap and/or neem oil to the plant.
Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile
IDENTIFICATION: Platycodon grandiflorus: Tall, branching summer annual with thick green stems; leaves lobed into 3 sections; flowers shaped like little trumpets, white with purple veining, about 2.5in across, raw seed edible when cooked; fruit an egg-shaped capsule on a long stalk covered in fine hair.
OTHER CHARACTERISTICS: The petals of the flowers are too delicate to be touched so this plant is best placed where it will not get knocked.
REPRODUCTION: Seeds, root division.
Where it grows: Grows wild in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. If you want to grow it from seed, buy it. It won’t come up for 3 years!
When it grows: April to September
Where it likes to grow: In rich soil with some shade, near water.
Height: Up to 5 feet.
Habitat: Moist soils near streams or lakes,
Edible Portion: The seed is edible.
Balloon Plant FAQs:
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get on this plant. If you don’t see what you’re looking for here, please go to the top of this page and submit your question through the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page. I try to keep this page as up to date as possible, but we all know that sometime deadlines and other factors mean that things get missed.
How do I prepare this plant or the seeds from it?
As I mentioned above, some parts of this plant are not edible. Only eat the seeds when cooked. You can dry the seeds out and then soak them for 12 hours before you plan to cook with them. Then boil them in water for 10 minutes. After they are cooked, you can add salt, butter, and other herbs and spices to them if you like.
Are there any poisonous look alikes?
Yes, the Balloon Flower is closely related to the Camas plant, which is highly toxic. Be extra careful if you are foraging in an area that might have both plants growing in it. While the leaves, flowers, and seeds of the Camas are all poisonous, it is the bulbs that you have to watch out for as they can be eaten after going through a lengthy process of leaching out the poison.
Other lookalikes include: Meadow Rue, Indian Warrior, Spotted Corchorus, Sand Lily, Jack in the Pulpit, and Wild Lilies.
Return to Plant List
Return to Home Page
Sources & references used in this article:
A Comparative Study of Platycodon grandiflorus Cultivars by C Freeman – Citeseer
Cytogenetic characterization of induced tetraploids in medicinal plant (Platycodon grandiflorus) by Y Wu, F Yang, X Zhao, WD Yang – Caryologia, 2012 – Taylor & Francis
Taylor’s guide to growing North America’s favorite plants: proven perennials, annuals, flowering trees, shrubs, & vines for every garden by B Ellis – 2000 – books.google.com
Requirements for new floral crops-perspectives for the United States of America by MS Roh, RH Lawson – III International Symposium on New Floricultural …, 1996 – actahort.org
Platycodon grandiflorum Protects Against Anthracycline-Induced Cardiotoxicity in Early Breast Cancer Patients by W Hao, Y Shi, Y Qin, C Sun, L Chen… – Integrative Cancer …, 2020 – journals.sagepub.com
Herbaceous ornamentals: annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses by SL Love, K Noble, S Parkinson… – University of Idaho …, 2009 – extension.uidaho.edu
Notes from the Arnold Arboretum Perennials for Low Maintenance Gardening Part III by RS Hebb – Arnoldia, 1971 – JSTOR
The Sunny Border: Sun-loving Perennials for Season-long Color by CC Burrell – 2002 – books.google.com
The Chinese medicinal herb farm: A cultivator’s guide to small-scale Organic Herb Production by AF Yeager – 1923 – Agricultural Experiment Station …