From Siberia, northern China, and Japan. Grows to 3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Inflated, balloonlike buds are carried on slender stalks at the ends of upright stems clad in broadly oval, 1–3-in.-long, light olive green leaves. Buds open to 2-in.-wide, star-shaped, blue-violet flowers with purple veins. Bloom begins in early summer and continues for 2 months or more if spent blossoms (not entire stems) are removed.
Pink, white, and double-flowered varieties are available; dwarf forms may grow to just 1 ft. high. Blossoms of 1 1/2–2-ft.-high ‘Komachi’ keep their balloon shape, never opening fully. ‘Mariesii’ is a dependable grower to 1 1/2 ft. high, with deep violet-blue blooms.
Balloon flower dies back completely in autumn, and new growth appears quite late in spring; mark the plant’s position with small stakes to avoid digging up its fleshy roots. If you do unearth a root, replace it (or the pieces) right away. Protect roots from gophers by planting in wire baskets. Grow as a winter annual in Zones 12 and 13.
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