Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’

Eric La Fountaine took today’s photo earlier this week in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden.

Campanulaceae (bellflower family) consists of about 70 genera and 2000 herb, shrub, and (rarely) tree species that are distributed broadly over the surface of the earth (excluded regions are the Sahara, Antarctica, and Greenland). The family's species exhibit simple leaves that are arranged either alternately or oppositely, and they don bisexual, bell-shaped flowers which develop into berry or capsular fruits.

Platycodon is a monotypic genus (consisting of a single species) native to parts of Korea, Siberia, Japan, and China, from where Robert Fortune collected the plants for Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society (R.H.S.) in 1843. The species, a perennial herb, is renowned for its floppy stems, balloon-like valvate flower buds, and, of course, its brightly coloured, deeply veined, and bell-shaped flowers. It is from these last distinguishing features that the genus derives its name, which comes from the Greek for 'broad bell'. Platycodon's notoriously flimsy stems, which in gardens often require staking, grow to about 45 centimetres in height and bear sharply serrated ovate leaves that can reach up to 15 centimetres in length. Though they are variously hardy to drought and to the climates of Zones 3 through 7, plants require deep, well-drained, moist soil conditions and exposure to full sun in summer—along with drier conditions when dormant—in order to excel.

Platycodon grandiflorus is often employed as an anti-inflammatory or as treatment for coughs and colds, and, in Korea, it is used in salads and in several traditional dishes as well. Today, all but one petal on one of the flowers of our dwarf cultivar, 'Albus', looked like an immaculate piece of white paper; the fifth petal was stained with a streak of dark blue that seemed to run down its white body like a drop of spilled ink. On a different blossom, two petals took on this rich blue colour.

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Albus'
Platycodon grandiflorus 'Albus'

13 responses to “Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’”

  1. phillip

    ..the seed pod looks like a rose-hip…a very calming blue…

  2. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    I used to have a similar blue bellflower in my garden. One of the neat things about this plant is the flower bud. You can see a blue bud in the background at the left edge of the top photo. The bud is like a balloon (and I believe it’s sometimes called “balloon flower”) — the petals are joined at the edges and form a hollow almost-sphere, and gradually separate as the bud opens. Behind the blue bud is a younger, green one.

  3. Lanie

    I thought the seed pod looked like a poppy seed pod, are they related? can I get this blue and white version in America?

  4. Dori

    I have blue balloon flowers in Seattle where it’s not anywhere near dry in the dormant period. They do very well, in fact they want to take over the bed even though I pull them out at the end of the season. I find them and the other 2 kinds of campanulas in my garden fairly invasive. But I love those little balloons.

  5. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Yes, I love those little balloons!
    Love them even more than the flowers!

  6. Cambree

    Oh, another beautiful flower I’ve never seen before. This would make a nice pattern for a skirt or dress. Love it!

  7. Quin

    Lanie – Not closely related – Platycodon in the Campanula Family, Poppies in the Buttercup Family (in the greater scheme of things-botanical not even in the same orders)- another case of familiar faces from different families. Always exciting, eh?

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    the close up is just fine
    i rather think the painters are at work

  9. Douglas Justice

    Quin, I expect you meant that poppies are in the poppy family (Papaveraceae).

  10. Quin

    Douglas – Thank you, forgive my confusion…..

  11. Dana

    Oh great! Now I have to add another plant to my wishlist – a Platycodon with streaked petals! I do love these plants. The blue ones positively glow in late day sun. Also, a word to the wise, deadheading these will greatly extend the bloom time. Just take a thumbnail and snap off the seedpods as you check the garden a few days a week.

  12. Adriana

    It is lovely but of course, ‘albus’ is a white variant of the species. It shouldn’t really do this so I suspect that it is reverting to the typical blue of the species. In time, it may all be blue again.
    A note on cultivation-if you cut them back about 1/2 in May or when they have reached 1/2 of the mature size, they will branch out and also be shorter and sturdier (no flopping) with the added bonus of more flowers produced per stem. Flowing is triggered by daylength so this does not remove any blossoms except that they will bloom a bit later than normal. I usually do this to half of the stems so I have a longer bloom time. (unpruned ones bloom first).

  13. Donald Coffman

    Even though this is supposed to be an alba form, the uneven distribution of the blue makes me think the plant may be a chimera, with two sets of genes in the same plant (one white, the other blue). This is quite common in African Violets and possibly Mirabilis jalapa ‘Broken Colors’, which I grow. Lovely flowers.

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