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Agriculture Today

Platycodon, Texas balloon flower

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August 9, 2011 | 2,987 views | Post a comment

Q. I saw a flower called Platycodon at my favorite nursery the other day. The nurseryman said it was a native perennial that did well in our area. Why isn’t it used more often?

A. It is a good question. Platycodon is an excellent flower for summer blooms. It does take several years for it to become established. Platycodon is also called balloon flower. Texas balloon flower resembles dwarf ruellia in that it is a low-growing plant that produces a blue tubular flower. Its flower, however, is more sky blue than purple blue, and it does not really serve as a groundcover. Use it as a low-growing border in sun or shade or in clumps in the garden. The name balloon flower is justified by the balloon shape that the flower assumes before it opens up. It appears that deer eat balloon flowers.

Q. When should we plant tomatoes for the fall? What varieties do you recommend?

A. Plant tomatoes now for fall production. I recommend Tycoon, because it is tomato yellow wilt virus-resistant and a heat-setter. Also consider Solar Fire, Heatwave, Surefire, 444, Celebrity, Phoenix, and Cherry Surprise.

Q. Is there still time to plant a Bermuda grass lawn by seed?

A. Yes, if you have access to water so you can water three times per day the first week, two times per day in week two, and once per day in week three. The irrigation doesn’t have to be deep until the lawn is established. After three weeks, you can water two times per week.

Q. Our live oak dropped its leaves but now, after the rain, is releafing. Is it a reaction to the drought? Should we be irrigating the trees?

A. Live oaks are very drought-tolerant, but can be affected by drought if they are close to other trees and/or stressed in other ways. Trees subjected to construction damage or in parking lots are often stressed. It helps to provide a deep watering for stressed trees every month if it does not rain. Run the hose on the drip line for several hours.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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