Invasive Balloon Flower Takes Over the Garden

Today I tweeted that it would be good to pull weeds since it had rained buckets for the past few days, thus decreasing the heat and humidity and loosening the soil. For me, the time was ripe to pull an invasive plant from my garden, balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). “Balloon flowers?” you say, “but it has such pretty blue flowers and the kids love to pop those inflated buds.” Yes, my kids did like to pop the buds on my original plants as they walked to the front door and yes, they do produce pretty blue flowers on tall stems all summer long. But after 10 years, the kids don’t see them anymore (because their heads are always bent down viewing their iPhones) and the original four have multiplied into hundreds, crowding out my other perennials in my Virginia garden.

original four plants have multiplied on left side of walkway and have tan seed pods (directly across walkway is one balloon flower from front garden bed)

Part of problem is that balloon flowers self-seed very fast. The plants could be deadheaded to prevent self-seeding but this is a nerve racking, time consuming task. Each single seed pod has to be clipped off in order to leave the remaining buds or open blossoms. It is not possible to whack the entire plants down a foot. And part of the problem is that they are deer-resistant, drought-resistant, and generally pest free but the worst part is that balloon flowers have long, large tap roots. Breaking off the stem just encourages more stems to grow from the root. Although it is easier to pull and dig after it rains, I still spent hours pulling and digging to get the whole roots out as much as I could. I suspect I did not dig deep enough though, there probably are pieces in the soil that will rise again like the phoenix.

seeds landed on front strip across walkway (blooming with blue flowers)

Interestingly, I have found little reference to its invasive attribute on the internet. I did learn that the Kitazawa Seed Company catalog sells them and according to their description, the root, called doraji, is used in Korean cuisine. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory to treat colds and is considered a cheap ginseng substitute. The root can be dried and packaged for sale in Asian markets.

Unless you want to grow your own doraji for medicinal or culinary reasons, don’t plant this invasive perennial in your garden no matter how much fun you have popping the balloons.

pulling to reveal tap root


9 responses to “Invasive Balloon Flower Takes Over the Garden

  1. I have not had that experience at all with my balloon flowers and I’ve had mine for 7 years! They are a delight and a faithful bloomer! They have not become invasive at all. They are drought resistant and so unique. I’ve received many compliments on them. I had them up in MI and down here in SC. I would highly encourage flower lovers everywhere to plant them!

    • I am glad you have not had issues with the balloon flowers. I am still pulling mine up!

    • Do not encourage people to plant this invasive flower everywhere. That is the most irresponsible thing you could do. Have some common sense. We should be encouraging people to plant native wildflowers, not invasive exotic species from Eurasia.

      • My last sentence of the article is: “Unless you want to grow your own doraji for medicinal or culinary reasons, don’t plant this invasive perennial in your garden no matter how much fun you have popping the balloons.”

  2. I can’t remember when I purchased them but they seem to be everywhere. They only bloom in the morning and have very slimy stems. Not sure if I can dig them up or is it best to kill them with a herbiside or vinegar. They are an eyesore. I live in Malvern PA and would like to be rid of them!
    realtor Grace

    • They have long tap roots so hard to remove, it is one of those plants that if you break it at ground level it will come back. The best I can do is to pull out when the soil is moist and to make sure I cut off any flowering stem.

  3. My critical comment saying “have some sense” was not directed at you, pegplant. It was directed at Beth, who quite literally said ‘I would highly encourage flower lovers everywhere to plant them!” THAT is who I was calling out, not you. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Take care, and plant native!

  4. I just looked up invasive balloon flowers and found your post. They are taking over my garden and really look terrible when the flowers turn brown. My back is killing me trying to clip all the hundreds of seed pods. Now I have permission to dig them up. Thank you! My other perennials thank you as does my aching back!

    • Yes, clipping off the seed pods prevents but digging them up is even better but very difficult to do

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