Balloon Flower - all about grooming, multiplying and wintering

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Balloon flower - Platycodon grandiflorus

In the colorful round of winter hardy perennials, the balloon flower is already causing a sensation with its round buds. It seems like they want to lift themselves off the stalk as little balloons. Instead, in July and August, magnificent bell blossoms unfold in bright blue, pure white or delicate pink. With its Asian charm, the herbaceous flower beauty populates preferably rockeries, clear perennial borders and the balcony. Did you miss the Chinese bellflower in the creative planting plan? Then, below you will learn everything about care, propagation and wintering.


So that the balloon flower unfolds its pretty flower florets in perfection, first of all a site comes into consideration with at least 3 hours of sunshine daily. This requirement implies that the perennial is not required to be permanently lit by the sun. First and foremost hobby gardeners appreciate this, who do not want to be out with the watering can several times a day during warm summer days. It depends on these site conditions:
  • Sunny to partially shaded location
  • Protected from heavy winds and pattering rain
  • Warm and without cool draft
Since a Chinese bellflower anchors itself with deep-reaching tap roots in the ground, the location wants to be chosen with care. On a later transplanting the perennial responds sometimes a little indignant.
Tip: White flowering balloon flower varieties favor a place in the semi-shade, as the pure white flowers could discolor under intense sunlight.

Soil quality and substrate

Regarding the beetle and the substrate in the bucket or balcony box, a platycodon should be quickly satisfied. If she prefers the following conditions, she will happily stretch her roots:
  • Loamy-sandy garden soil
  • Nutrient-rich and humic
  • Sandy-gritty rock garden floor is accepted
  • Well drained without danger of waterlogging
In the planter, a mixture of potting soil and sand is recommended. The addition of perlite, expanded clay or lava granules makes a valuable contribution to the permeability, as commercial balcony soil tends to densify.

Pouring and fertilizing

The better the site and the soil meet the requirements of a balloon flower, the more frugal it is in the care.
  • Keep the soil constantly moist in the bed
  • Let the soil dry between the waterings
  • In the bucket and balcony box determine the need for daily casting by a thumb sample
  • From April to August, apply liquid fertilizer for flowering plants every 4 weeks
  • Balloon flower in nutrient-rich garden soil is not compulsory to fertilize
  • Optionally in the summer from time to time incorporate a portion of compost into the ground

Balloon flower - Platycodon grandiflorus

Immediately after planting, the water requirement of a platycodon is higher, so that it is well established at the site. However, the substrate surface should always dry during this phase before you water the next time. Ideally, avoid sprinkling leaves and flowers and pour directly into the root area.
Tip: Regular watering with pond water makes it unnecessary to apply fertilizer to a balloon flower.

To cut

Immediately after flowering, the balloon flower begins to feed its aboveground plant parts from August / September. As part of this process, the plant absorbs the remaining nutrients to feed on during the winter. If the withered leaves and flowers do not affect the visual appearance of the garden, they should remain in the winter over the perennial, as they also act as a natural winter protection.
  • Regularly pollinating balloon flower in July and August attracts new flowers
  • If a clearing is not desired, dried flowers are immediately cut off
  • At the latest in early spring, cut the perennial near the ground
As Georgetown University in the US discovered, the roots and leaves can be poisonous. It is therefore recommended to wear protective gloves during all planting and care work. The clippings should also not be disposed of in a meadow with grazing animals.


In view of the beautiful flowers and the low maintenance costs, the balloon flower awakens in the hobby gardener the desire for more copies. There are two approaches to propagation, which are explained below. It is important to decide in advance whether a pure-bred offspring is desired or the result may be a surprise. If you choose to sow and collect the seeds by hand, Platycodon varieties will not produce any sorted seed. In contrast, if you favor the vegetative propagation by division, the new flower develops exactly the attributes of your mother plant.


After flowering, small capsules are formed which, when dried, contain numerous seeds.However, do not wait too long with the harvest, so that the capsules do not burst open and scatter the seeds in all winds. Stored in a dark glass jar in a cool place, the seeds are stored until the middle / end of February. How to sow:
  • Fill a seedbed with peat sand or lean herb soil
  • Moisten the substrate with a fine shower
  • Then spread the seeds and press lightly as light germ
  • Covered with glass or foil, set up on the partially shaded window seat
  • At temperatures of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius, germination begins within 3 to 4 weeks
If the first cotyledons appear, the cover has fulfilled its duty. As more leaves develop, the substrate should not dry out. From a stature height of 5 centimeters, the seedlings are piked in individual pots. The substrate may now be slightly more nutrient-containing, such as a potting soil-sand mixture or commercial Pikiererde. From early to mid-May, the time window for planting in the bed and on the balcony opens.


A well-established balloon flower is suitable from the fourth year for the propagation by division. In the weeks from early March to mid-April is the best time for it, unless the ground is frozen. How to do it right:
  • Loosen the perennial with the digging fork all around
  • Lift from the ground and cut with the spade
  • Each segment has at least two buds
At the new location, plant the cuts exactly as deep as they were previously in the ground. Ideally, enrich the soil with compost and horn shavings. Repeated watering is required in the first few days and weeks to allow the Chinese bluebells to grow well.


Balloon flower - Platycodon grandiflorus

The balloon flower is frost-resistant to -20 degrees Celsius. Therefore, a normal winter can not harm it in the local latitudes, so that special precautions are not required. In the planting year, it is nevertheless advantageous to protect the young perennial with a layer of compost or Lauberde. Since the root ball in the planter is at risk of freezing at low temperatures, the following precautions should be taken:
  • Cover bucket or balcony box with bubble wrap or garden fleece
  • The substrate cover with straw, brushwood or Lauberde
  • Place planters in front of the protective house wall, on a wooden or styrofoam block
Permafrost without snow can lead to drought stress in a platycodon. Therefore, water the perennial on frosty days both in the bed and in the tub or flower box.
If in the spring the mercury column exceeds the zero-degree mark, any winter protection is removed in time so that no mold or rot can form underneath.

Further facts

The balloon flower is used in herbal medicine. In her countries of origin she is used in many ways. So their roots in traditional Chinese medicine are used to stimulate the immune system and against cancer.
In addition, different dishes are prepared with the balloon flower. For example, the young leaves are eaten cooked. The older leaves, however, are said to be poisonous. They are dried and used for seasoning.
The roots of the balloon flower are used like vegetables. They come mainly as a vigorous vegetable in the soup. Another use is the peeling and acidification of the roots, which are then preserved in sugar. In Korea, the inclusion of balloon flower roots is manifested by the term bellflower roots. Whether the balloon flowers from the garden are suitable for consumption, but you should not try it better.
With its balloon-like buds and charming bellflowers, the balloon flower creates a colorful appearance in the bed and on the balcony over many years. Once the hobby gardener has learned everything about grooming, multiplying and wintering, the decision for the Asian perennial is no longer difficult. With the choice of a sunny to partially shaded location, in conjunction with nutritious, well-drained soil, half of the care requirements are already met. Regular watering and a little fertilizer complete the cultivation. Equally uncomplicated is the propagation by means of sowing or division. Even the hibernation of this frost-resistant beauty of flowers is not a significant challenge.

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