As we celebrate the first official day of spring, garden magazines are teasing us with great annuals for our summer garden. The conversation starter Asclepias physocapa is featured as a plant pick in Fine Gardening’s April issue this spring. This delightful Asclepias is known by some colorful common names including the balloon plant, family jewels tree, and hairy balls. All of these are inspired by the decorative, unique seed pods it produces in late summer.
Fuzzy inflated lime-green seed pods covered with soft spines adorn this six-foot tall plant. These pods are a result of clusters of small white flowers with purple centers. Typical of plants in the butterfly weed family, Asclepiadaceae, the balloon plant is a monarch magnet and a caterpillar beacon. The seed pods then mature into the characteristics whisps of seed heads for Asclepias.
Asclepias physocarpa can be planted in rear of your perennial border, as it can reach four to six feet in width and six feet in height. This annual prefers full sun to partial shade. Experiment with the balloon plant this gardening season for a great conversation piece with your neighbors. It will be available at the Unusual Tropicals and Annuals Sale on May 21 and 22.