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This plant may not thrive in your area
Balloon Milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus, formerly Asclepias physocarpus) is so unusual that many descriptive common names are used to describe it, including balloon cotton-bush, swan plant, bishop's balls, and nail plant. Although the jury's out on which name is the most fitting moniker, the verdict is the same '– this plant grabs attention! It grows up to 6 feet tall in a single season, with ornamental seedpods that are even showier than its flowers.
• Flowers. Small white flowers, which bear a slight resemblance to orchids, are held in drooping clusters. They bloom in summer and have the faint fragrance of vanilla.
• Seedpods. Balloon Milkweed's round seedpods are the source of its many common names. The seedpods grow much larger than its flowers '– up to 3 inches in diameter! They look like lime-green balloons that are studded with tiny nail-like hairs.
• Drought-resistant. After plants have settled into your garden and they begin growing, they are delightfully resistant to drought and will only need a little watering during extended periods of no rainfall.
• Deer-tolerant. Deer don't like to graze on Balloon Milkweed, because the stems contain a white sap that burns their mouths.
Help Bring Monarch Butterflies Back!
The National Wildlife Federation reports an alarming statistic: in the past 20 years, monarch butterfly populations have drastically declined by 90 percent. But if you plant Balloon Milkweed, you'll be helping to bring the monarchs back! Milkweed plant species are the only hosts for monarch butterflies, and they also make a beautiful addition to your flower garden. The flowers attract monarch butterflies, which feed on the sweet nectar, and the leaves are where female monarchs lay their eggs. When hungry caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they eat the slender leaves, which can grow to 4 inches long. If you're passionate about sustainable gardens and butterfly habitat gardening, your garden simply isn't complete without milkweed plants!
Growing Tips and an Ornamental Bonus
For your Balloon Milkweed to reach its maximum potential, find a location in full sun. Keep new plants watered until their roots begin to grow in their new home, and then let natural rainfall take over. Only if your climate is unseasonably dry will you have to give your plants a drink from the garden hose. You can clip the stems after the seedpods form to add an intriguing look to fresh or dried vase arrangements!