The Platycodon Genus (Balloon Flower; Chinese Bellflower; Japanese Bellflower)

The Platycodon genus is only made up of one species, Platycodon grandiflorus, which keeps things simple.

It belongs to the campanula plant family, and hails from Japan, Korea, China, and parts of Russia. 

Platycodon At A Glance

The bellflower is an interesting plant throughout its life cycle, as the flower buds look like balloons, and when they open, they form bell-shaped, starry flowers.

While they are grown across the world as ornamental plants, adding beauty to any garden, they also have a lot of medicinal applications.

In Japan, the bellflower is known as kikyō, and forms one of the Seven Autumn Flowers, and also represents the official crest of some clans.

The Seven Flowers of Autumn are hugely popular in Japanese literature, especially in haiku.

Other plants in this category include Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese Silver Grass, or susuki), Patrinia scabiosifolia (Golden Lace Flower, or ominaeshi) Pueraria lobata (Japanese arrowroot, or kuzu), and Dianthus superbus (nadeshiko).

Platycodon Name Meaning

The name comes from Ancient Greek. Platys means broad, and kodon is bell, and as you might guess, grandiflorus means large flowers, describing the plant pretty nicely.

You may also know it as the Chinese or Japanese Bellflower, or the balloon flower.

The Symbolism Of Balloon Flowers

Bellflowers stand for enduring love, friendship, affection, and honesty.

They also represent loyalty and fidelity, and can be used to symbolize your commitment to someone you hold dear.

This doesn’t just mean romantic relationships, as it encompasses relationships with friends, partners, children, siblings, and other loved ones.

Bellflowers were also a symbol of the Onmyōdō, a system of natural science, magic, and divination in ancient Japan.

In Kyoto, a shrine to Abe no Seimei, renowned for working for the emperors and the Heian government as a spiritual advisor, is often covered in Chinese bellflowers.

Bellflower Uses

As an ornamental, bellflowers are hardy and reliable plants, and also make a good choice for cutting gardens, too.

In Korea, the bellflower is used as an edible plant. In particular the roots are a vegetable staple, and they are also used in desserts, tea, and even to flavor alcohol.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the bellflower is used to help alleviate symptoms of colds and flu, as well as tonsillitis, coughs, sore throats, and to suppress coughs.

Other uses include helping to reduce pain, killing parasites, relieve hypertension, treating diabetes, bronchitis, stomach complaints, and asthma.

There is some evidence to suggest that the roots of the bellflower contain antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and anti-allergy properties.

However, more testing is needed before it can be fully verified.

Platycodon Growing Requirements

The bellflower is hardy in USDA zones 3a through to 9b, and blooms in summer, well into autumn if the weather allows.

It reaches just under two feet tall at maturity, provided that you give it soil with decent drainage. For best results, plant platycodon in sandy soil, which has some acidity.

This plant will thrive in partial sunlight or direct sunlight, whichever you happen to have in your garden.

It’s not a greedy plant when it comes to how much attention or maintenance it requires, and it will largely look after itself, having only average water requirements.

These plants are sensitive to too much irrigation, so make sure you keep them out of boggy soil, otherwise you’ll find that they won’t last long.

These plants are hardy down to -40°F or -40°C, and while it dies back to the ground completely, they will spring up again during the last few weeks of spring, into summer.

Bellflowers generally produce large blue-lilac flowers, but they also come in white, pink, or purple. In Korea, white is the most prominent color.

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