- Managing Nasturtiums: Controlling Spread and Maximizing Benefits - September 23, 2023
- How To Know if Nasturtium Seeds Are Viable - September 23, 2023
- Will a Mandevilla Come Back After a Freeze? - September 22, 2023
Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) are famous for their bluish-purple blooms that grace outdoor gardens in the summer. These hardy perennials are easy to care for and will revitalize your garden in exchange for adequate care. But what do you do to the flowers after blooming?
You must cut back about a third or half of your balloon flower plant after blooming. Balloon flowers usually don’t require fall pruning, but deadheading the flowers can prevent the plant’s unwanted spread. Cutting back your plant will also reduce the risk of winter injury and control its height.
In this article, I’ll explain when and why you should deadhead your balloon flowers and share some tips on caring for your plant after the blooming season.
Should You Deadhead Balloon Flowers After Blooming?
There are two key factors to consider when deadheading balloon flowers: timing and purpose.
Deadheading balloon flowers during the blooming season will encourage more blooms throughout the summer (source). Sometimes, they can continue blooming even until early fall, as long as the temperatures remain warm.
On the other hand, deadheading balloon flowers after blooming will prevent the plant from spreading its seeds. For this purpose, many gardeners intentionally pinch or cut off the spent flowers toward the end of the season.
Balloon flowers are perennial plants that return every spring and can easily live 20 years or so with adequate care (source). Therefore, letting them go to seed is unnecessary, especially if your garden has limited space.
Therefore, you should deadhead balloon flowers after blooming only if you don’t want them to spread in your garden. Otherwise, you can leave the flowers on the plant until the foliage gradually dies in the fall.
How To Care for Balloon Flowers After the Blooming Season
As discussed, removing your balloon flowers after the blooming season is unnecessary unless you want to control their spread.
Suppose you have a small garden space and want to keep it free from unwanted seedlings in spring. In that case, you can follow the tips below:
1. Deadhead the Spent Balloon Flowers
As the number of new blooms slowly decreases toward the end of the blooming season, you can start deadheading the spent flowers. You can pinch them with your fingers or use sterile scissors for a clean cut.
A seed pod will replace the flower at the tip of the stem, containing hundreds of seeds. And once this pod dries up, it’ll eventually open up and release the seeds. Don’t wait until then if you aim to prevent your plant from self-sowing.
But if you want to keep the seeds for future propagation, you can collect the pods as they turn brown.
2. Remove Dead Foliage and Branches
About a week after the last flush of blooms dries out (roughly two weeks before the first fall frost), you can start removing dead foliage and branches.
Always use sterile shears when trimming your plants to avoid contaminating them with harmful microorganisms. Also, make sure to remove no more than half of the plant. The remaining parts can provide extra insulation and make them easier to spot in spring (source).
3. Clear the Debris and Pull Out the Weeds
Clear the ground of dead plant matter and weeds. These are ideal hiding spots for slugs and snails, which are common pests of balloon flowers (source). Dead plant matter can also invite unwanted pathogens that can compromise the health of your balloon flowers.
On the other hand, weeds can compete with your plants in spring for moisture and soil nutrients, potentially slowing down or preventing plant growth. Unfortunately, perennial weeds are stubborn and sturdy and can grow despite poor soil conditions.
Balloon flowers don’t need fertilizer in the fall. So if the soil is already lacking nutrients, weeds will have a headstart in the spring. And when you apply fertilizer during the growing season, the more established weeds can steal them from your plants.
When removing weeds, remember to pull them from the roots. Perennial weeds also have deep roots that can survive underground even after you remove the shoots. As a result, they can bounce back during spring when the roots remain intact underground.
You can use a trowel or weeding knife to completely eliminate the weeds from the roots.
4. Apply Mulch Around the Base of the Plant
Mulch can help maintain suitable temperatures around your plant’s roots and protect them from freezing and thawing in the winter. Applying 2–4 inches (5–10 cm) of mulch around the plant’s base should provide enough insulation.
Fresh compost is one of the best mulch materials for balloon flowers because it can conveniently incorporate into the soil in spring and nourish your plants.
Alternatively, you can use shredded dried leaves or bark mulch. However, when using these alternatives, you must limit the thickness to only 2 inches (5 cm).
5. Wrap the Plant in Burlap in Winter
This step is optional because balloon flowers are hardy perennial plants that can survive temperatures as low as -40°F (-40°C). In addition, a snow blanket can provide extra insulation and wind protection (source).
Still, if your area has heavy snow in winter, your balloon flower plant might not be able to bear the weight of the snow and suffer physical damage. The thin branches might split and break, making the inner layers susceptible to winter injury. The damage can spread toward the underground parts, preventing your plant from growing back in spring.
Winter injury also occurs when the temperatures fluctuate drastically during fall. Sudden spikes in fall temperatures can prevent the plant from hardening properly (source).
As a result, the plant will become vulnerable in winter and, therefore, may struggle to bounce back in spring.
To ensure your plant remains protected throughout winter, you can wrap the remaining shoots with burlap to protect them from the wind and snow.
Balloon flowers don’t need strict pruning after blooming. However, timely deadheading may be necessary if you don’t want them to spread in your garden.
Also, proper pruning can help protect your plant from temperature fluctuations in winter and ensure your plant grows back healthy in spring.