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The balloon flower is considered to be well tolerated by frost, but still does not survive many a winter. Several factors can be responsible for this. The perennial can be affected by the cold, dryness and wetness. With the right choice of location, preparation and care, however, it is quite possible to enjoy the plant for many years.
Choosing the right planting spot is crucial for year-round growth and also for overwintering. It is often said that the balloon flower prefers partial shade to the sun. Experience has shown that blue-blooming balloon flowers also tolerate longer periods of sunlight without any problems and thrive very well.
The white and pink variants are different. If these are too sunny, not only does the flower color change - the plant also suffers. In winter this can be devastating. Wind exposure also plays a role. Particularly tall specimens easily break off in the winter wind. A sheltered location is better.
Tip: The balloon flower tolerates changes of location only badly. The planting place should therefore be chosen well at the beginning.
Loose and permeable but not too dry, rich in nutrients but not prone to hardening - the substrate for the balloon flower should meet these requirements. While the perennial can still forgive one or the other shortcoming in the garden season, it quickly becomes problematic in winter. The nutrient content and the loose texture should be carefully considered. If the soil tends to be compacted, coconut fibers can be introduced. In addition, fertilization or compost should be worked in regularly from spring to autumn.
To protect the plant's own reserves and to make them less susceptible to damage, the balloon flower should be trimmed in autumn. All shoots are removed except for a hand's breadth above the ground. The ideal time for this measure is right after flowering. However, you can also wait until the shoots dry off a little by themselves.
Balloon flowers are considered frost hardy down to -15 °C, but well hardened specimens have survived even harder winters without any problems. In addition, protection plays a role, which preserves the perennial. Anyone who is unsure or lives in areas with very harsh winters should under no circumstances do without comprehensive insulation in the first few years. Alternatively, the culture in the bucket can be preferred first.
If the balloon flower is outdoors, has been pruned after flowering and fertilized appropriately during the summer, it is already well prepared for a mild winter. Nevertheless, the perennial should receive adequate frost protection at least until the third year, or even better until the fourth year.
Straw and fine, chopped brushwood, which is placed directly on the ground, have proven useful for this purpose. Coarse brushwood can be laid on top. On the one hand, this layer protects against frost and, together with snow, forms an insulating layer. On the other hand, it prevents the penetration of too much moisture into the soil.
Tip: In very harsh winters, older balloon flowers should also be protected in this way.
Hibernation in bucket
Since the balloon flower is a perennial, a bucket culture or culture indoors is not recommended in the long term. Initially, however, it can make sense to grow the plant in a bucket and in this way to gain resistance and robustness. There are two options for overwintering in the tub.
Overwinter in the house
If the balloon flower is in the bucket, overwintering indoors is very easy. The vessel is simply placed in a frost-free but cool room, which can also be dark.
It should be ensured that the trimming takes place after flowering and that the substrate does not dry out. If the plant is strong and well cared for, it can be planted out in spring if there is no frost. In areas with very cold winters, this should be allowed to wait until the second or third year.
Overwinter in a bucket outdoors
So that the roots of the balloon flower in the bucket are not damaged, they need appropriate insulation. It is ideal and at the same time easy to place the plant pot in a larger container and on a pallet or a piece of polystyrene. This protects the roots from below. The free space between the two containers is then filled with bark mulch, bubble wrap, polystyrene or garden fleece. This protects the roots from temperatures that are too low.
It is also important to ensure that the substrate is not exposed to strong sun or persistent wind. On the one hand, these influences produce too great fluctuations in temperature and, on the other hand, promote excessive drying out of the earth. The location should therefore be chosen with care and, if necessary, garden fleece laid on the substrate.
A watering of the balcony flower in winter is actually only necessary when the cold season remains snow-free and no rain falls - or the hibernation takes place in the bucket. Balloon flowers usually tolerate drought very well. It is therefore only watered on frost-free days and only so much that a complete and permanent drying out of the substrate can be avoided.
A major danger for the balloon flower is waterlogging during the winter, but also from spring to autumn. It can damage the roots and increase the risk of diseases, as well as leading to the death of the crop very quickly.
As early as autumn, care should be taken to ensure that the soil is slightly damp but not wet. The brushwood cover already described offers additional protection. Coconut fibres, sand or perlite worked into the soil ensure improved drainage.