IF I didn’t already have Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’ in my garden, I’d certainly obtain it. In early July, this amusing creature puffs up its flower buds as if to announce “I’m here at last …do you still love me?” And love it I do, because after these hot-air balloons (which make a loud “pop” if you squeeze them) open, they reveal the most dazzling, violet-blue stars you can imagine. Have a look:
Talk about plant porn! The petals are richly veined in dark purple. The pistol, cloaked in creamy-white, has a true-blue tip. Frankly, I’d give this dwarf, 8-inch tall perennial an award for its colorful reproductive-system alone.
To achieve success with platycodon, be sure to winter-sow the seeds. I did just that back in January, 2009. Seeds require cold-stratification in order to germinate, and they receive this when you sow them in milk or water jugs, as above, and expose them to snow, sleet, and rain.
You can expect the seeds to be pokier than other perennials — usually they won’t sprout until late May. In mid-June give the young plants permanent positions in full sun. Mine are planted between a pair of flowering quince, which grow atop a stone wall in my Serpentine Garden.
So handled, plants will bloom their very first summer, but not until July. Provide supplemental water the first year; afterward you needn’t bother. Well-established platycodons are mercifully drought-tolerant.
If you promptly pinch off the spent flowers, budding will continue from July through late-September. Then the plants foliage will turn golden — thus providing a hint of autumn interest.
Because it is drought-tolerant, and also because it plays so well in so many situations — sunny rock gardens, the foreground of a flower border, and between or beneath shrubs — I consider Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue,’ which is hardy zones 3-8, to be a “perfect” perennial. Just be careful when digging or weeding in spring — the plant is slow to emerge, and it will not tolerate any meddling with its crown.
Want lots of pretty blue balloons to play with this summer? You can let me know by clicking the “like” button,and also by posting a comment below. You know how much I love to hear from you!
Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.