I like growing flowers that are unique and fun. One easy-to-grow perennial that fits the bill is the balloon flower.
Our balloon flowers are blooming now for a second time this year. This hardy Asian perennial produces a round, puffed up flower bud on the end of a stem that looks like a hot air balloon. Kids can squeeze the flowers and they pop. What fun! They eventually open into a star-shaped blossom.
There are a number of varieties of this perennial. Fuji comes in blue, white, or pink selections and features 3-foot-tall plants. Shell Pink has pale pink blooms on 2-foot-tall plants. Sentimental Blue only grows 1-foot-tall and is great for rock gardens and low flower borders.
The Chicago Botanic Garden trialed 19 different balloon flower cultivars and you can find the results online.
Balloon flowers can be grown from seed sown in the garden, but they'll take a few years to reach the flowering stage. It's easiest to plant nursery-grown plants or divisions from friends or family.
They thrive in full sun on well-drained slightly acidic soil. Their taproot makes them drought tolerant and deer don't bother them. Tall varieties will need staking to keep from flopping over. Another way to support your balloon flower stalks is to grow them near other tall, stiff stemmed perennials such as yarrow, sedum and salvia.
Deadhead to encourage more blooms. Once the flowering ends, the foliage turns a nice yellow or purple color in fall. You can also cut the flowers for use in arrangements indoors.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about Asian pears. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.