Also known as
Balloon Plant, Swan Plant, Goose Plant, Balloon Cotton Bush, Giant Swan Milkweed, Family Jewels, Oscar, Cotton-Bush, Bladderbush, Narrow-Leaf Cottonbush, Wild Cotton
Asclepias physocarpa, detail by Tauʻolunga (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
5 years to reach maturity
This plant has a mild fragrance
More images of Hairy Balls
Hairy Balls Overview
Gomphocarpus physocarpus is a deciduous subshrub capable of reaching over 2m in height. Also known as Balloon Plant or Balloon Milkweed, this plant is rarely cultivated, but is found in some indigenous gardens in southeast Africa. They are often grown as annual ornamentals in more temperate regions or to add interest to cut flower bouquets. Be aware though: because of its ease of spreading seeds by wind dispersal, it can infest areas rapidly and some consider it invasive. The cut flower industry use both the fruit and linear to lance-shaped foliage in floral arrangements. Flowers are small, delicate and white with pink-purple shading, leading onto large, bulbous and bristly seed pods, often in pairs. This species is a food source for certain insects including the monarch butterfly and caterpillars of the Danaus genus. For optimal growth plant in sandy, well-drained soil and full sunlight.
Common problems with Hairy Balls
How to harvest Hairy Balls
The local cut flower industry use the strange balloon shape fruit. Pick when the fruit has reached a fair size but is still green.
How to propagate Hairy Balls
Sow seed as soon as ripe and keep moist.
Tip cuttings or seed in spring.
Special features of Hairy Balls
Attracts useful insects
African Monarg butterfly larvae use it as host plant.
Particularly popular with insects, this plant will attract butterflies to the garden!
Other uses of Hairy Balls
Grown for their flowers
Fruit, seedpods and foliage are used in the cut flower industry.
Important food plant for the larvae of the Monarch butterflies