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Why Are Your Balloon Flowers Dying? 6 Common Causes

Why Are Your Balloon Flowers Dying? 6 Common Causes

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Balloon flowers are a favorite among gardeners because they’re low maintenance and can thrive on a bit of neglect. However, a few environmental factors can affect their health, and some can even be life-threatening when left unattended.

Your balloon flowers may die from overwatering, underwatering, or poor soil quality. Pests, extreme temperatures, and too much sunlight can also weaken your plant. The key to reviving balloon flowers is identifying the underlying issue and applying the appropriate solutions.

This article will dig deeper into the six causes of your balloon flowers dying and recommend ways to fix them. Read on to save and revitalize your plant.

1. Overwatering

Fully established balloon flowers have a deep taproot system that gives them drought tolerance and provides physical support to the stem. However, these roots are fleshy and susceptible to root rot when left in soggy soil for extended periods (source).

Younger plants prefer consistently moist soil but will similarly suffer from root rot in water-logged conditions. On the other hand, mature plants are unlikely to survive severe root rot because balloon flowers typically don’t respond well to division.

Digging out the entire plant to cut off infected root sections won’t guarantee that your plant will recover after replanting.

How To Fix

Inspect the base of the plant for signs of decay. Severe root rot can affect the stem and manifest as a brown or black discoloration at the crown. This symptom indicates Fusarium fungi attacked your plant’s roots (source).

You may still save the plant if the symptoms are mild or it has yellowing leaves or water-soaked lesions. It could mean the plant is overwatered, but root rot hasn’t occurred yet.

In that case, adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Balloon flowers typically have a one-foot (30 cm) spread. Therefore, each plant should receive 1 inch (2.5 cm) or 0.6 gallons (2.4 liters) of water per week (source). Keep this up for a few weeks and see if your plant recovers.

2. Extremely Low Temperatures

Balloon flowers enjoy warm temperatures ranging from 60 to 80°F (15.6 to 26.7°C) during the growing season (source). The plant normally dies back after the first fall frost and returns in the spring. However, premature growth in the spring, followed by late spring frosts, can damage or even kill your plant.

How To Fix

Cover the new growth in burlap or with a bucket as long as the temperatures don’t remain above 50°F (10°C). This should help your plant recover if the damage isn’t severe enough.

However, if the plant dies from frost injury, you can use this as an example to care for your plant better next time. For instance, you can apply mulch around the plant and cover the shoots in burlap in late fall or winter. Only take the cover off and prune the plant after the last spring frost.

3. Underwatering

Since mature balloon flowers are generally drought tolerant, it’s easy to overestimate them and chronically underwater them. Unfortunately, this habit can take its toll on the plant, and you’ll notice the leaves turning brown and dry. The plant may also appear droopy.

How To Fix

Remove the dried foliage and water your plant deeply. If your soil dries too quickly due to excessive drainage or intense sunlight and heat, you may need to water the plant more frequently. 

Check the soil regularly and add more water when the upper 2 inches (5 cm) have dried up. Alternatively, you can apply light mulch, such as 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of shredded dried leaves, to regulate soil temperature and improve water retention.

4. Too Much Sunlight

Balloon flowers thrive in full sun or at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Although generally sun-loving plants, balloon flowers can also wilt from too much light and heat, especially in the peak of summer. 

If your area has low humidity and hot and dry summers, you may notice your plant appearing weaker and growing more slowly.

How To Fix

If grown in southern or western gardens, provide your plants with some shade in the afternoon. You can install anti-UV plant shades or nets to filter the sunlight.

In addition, increase the watering frequency accordingly to make up for the moisture lost from the soil too quickly due to the intense heat.

5. Compact Soil

Over time, garden soil can become compacted due to several factors, including foot traffic, moisture, and the freezing and thawing of snow. 

Balloon flowers prefer loamy, well-drained soil (source). When grown in clay-rich or compact ground, the roots of young plants may struggle to pierce through the soil, leading to poor shoot growth.

On the other hand, mature plants with deeper roots will sit in wet soil longer or receive poor air circulation. As a result, the foliage and the buds won’t receive adequate moisture and nutrients, and the plant will appear droopy.

How To Fix

Work a few handfuls of compost up to six inches (15 cm) into the soil around your plant. Organic matter helps improve the texture of compacted soil, allowing air and water to pass freely. It can also provide essential nutrients for your plant during the growing season.

For more information, see Plants Dying In Clay Soil: Troubleshooting & Prevention Tips

6. Slug or Snail Infestation

Balloon flowers are resistant to most pests and diseases. However, slugs and snails find them attractive. You’ll know these pests are causing trouble when you inspect the plant’s foliage and find irregular holes. Slugs also leave shiny slime trails behind.

Although occasional visits from slugs and snails don’t pose serious risks, excessive feeding can lead to plant death (source). It usually happens when there are no other plants the pests can feed on or if they don’t have predators in your area, such as toads and birds.

See How To Know What’s Eating Your Balloon Flowers for more information.

How To Fix

There are a few ways to deal with slugs and snails. Here are some tips:

  • Handpick them. These pests typically attack at night after watering or rainfall because they like cool and moist conditions. Therefore, you’ll have better chances of catching them at night. You can eliminate them by placing them in a tub of soapy water.
  • Introduce slug or snail predators in your garden. Choose predators that won’t harm the plants in your garden, such as toads. Blackbirds and thrushes are excellent slug or snail hunters (source). However, they’re unsuitable if your garden has fruit crops because these birds prefer them over pests.

Final Thoughts

Balloon flowers are easy to care for but can be vulnerable to various environmental factors, such as over-watered soil, pests, and extreme temperatures. Luckily, the damage is often reversible if you identify the cause and address it soon enough.

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