Dictionary of Flowers: Platycodon Grandiflorus (Balloon Flower, Chinese Bellflower)

Platycodon Grandiflorus (Chinese Bellflower or Balloon Flower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Trev Grant and Flickr

Platycodon Grandiflorus (Chinese Bellflower or Balloon Flower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Trev Grant and Flickr

  • Platycodon GrandiflorumPlatycodon Grandiflorum
  • Common name: balloon flower, Chinese bellflower
  • Family:  Campanulaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA  zones 3-8
  • Height: 12” to 30” 
  • Width: 12” to 18”
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: late spring to summer
  • Attracts: butterflies, bees
  • Growth habit: upright, clumping. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: poor to average to rich, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, cottage garden, cutting garden
  • Diseases: rot if grown in wet conditions
  • Pests: slugs and snails

Herbaceous perennial native to eastern Asia, balloon flower is a nice addition to the garden because of their original shaped flowers.

They are bell shaped, but before they open, the buds look like inflated balloons. They grow on stalks that form from an upright plant with blue-green leaves. Flowers have five petals that can be white, blue or violet.

The root is fleshy and it's used in Asian cuisine and medicine.

It's a very cold hardy perennial that requires very little care or maintenance and it's long lived.

Platycodon prefers to grow in full sun to part shade locations. It doesn't do well in hot, dry summers, so it might be best to plant in part shade if not being grown in cooler areas.

It requires fertile, rich soil that is kept consistently moist but drains well. A layer of mulch will help maintain the soil cool and moist. It's not picky about soil pH, handling either slightly acidic or alkaline soils.

Balloon flower requires fertilization once a year in early spring. Fertilize with a slow release granular formula. To keep plant tidy and encourage blooming, remove spent blossoms. 

Balloon flower is late to emerge in spring. Mark the area where planted to avoid planting over or pulling them out by mistake.

The plant's fleshy root resents disturbance, so it's best not to attempt to divide them. The clumps don't really spread, so there is no need for division.

Remarkable Chinese Bellflower grows well in containers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Chad Horwedel and Flickr

Remarkable Chinese Bellflower grows well in containers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Chad Horwedel and Flickr

Balloon flower is available in nurseries in spring. They are easy to grow from seed and to propagate by basal cuttings.

To grow from seed indoors, sow in peat pots as not to disturb root when transplanting about six to eight weeks before last expected frost. Do not cover seed, as they need light to germinate.

When kept at around 70F they germinate in about a month. Transplant in the garden when all danger of frost has passed and seedlings have several pairs of true leaves.

When started from seed, they won't bloom the first year. Basal cuttings can be taken by removing a stalk from the plant by cutting it from the parent plant with a little root attached. Replant immediately.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Balloon flower is not bothered by disease if grown on fast draining soil. Slugs and snails can attack the leaves during spring. Bait as needed.

Popular varieties:

  • Platycodon grandiflorum 'Astra' series - dwarf variety, up to a foot tall. Blooms can be pink, white, blue-purple or blue. Semi-double varieties are available. They might bloom the first year when planted by seed
  • Platycodon grandiflorum 'Hakonee' - double forms available. Blue or white flowers on plants up to three feet tall
  • Platycodon grandiflorum 'Fuji' - available with pink, white or blue flowers. Grows up to two feet and prefers light shade
  • Platycodon grandiflorum 'Mariesii' - dwarf variety, up to a foot tall. Blue flowers. Hardy to zone 3
  • Platycodon grandiflorum 'Alba' - white flowers, strong stemmed variety with large flowers

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Click to see Penstemon (Beard Tongue)
Click to see Polystichum Acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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