image by H.B. Dean
Also known as platycodon and Chinese bellflower, this perennial is an unusual addition to gardens. Growing in upright leafy stalks, the flowers form a balloon-like protrusion before opening into a five-petal blossom. Since their new foliage resembles weeds, winterizing balloon flowers helps prevent them from accidentally being pulled up and destroyed.
Water the balloon flowers after the blossoms have faded. They need 1 inch of rain each week, depending upon the rain.
Prune the spent flower stems to the ground. Missouri Botanical Garden explains that, "new season plant stems emerge late in spring, so gardeners must be careful not to damage crowns by early cultivation." Leave 1 to 2 inches of growth visible, or use plant markers to indicate the location of the balloon flowers.
Cover the planting site with mulch or well-rotted compost. You can also rake decaying leaves over the balloon flowers. This will enrich the soil and keep it moist and warm through the winter months.