Could there be anything sweeter than a plant called Love in a Puff? When you see what is inside of the balloon-like seed capsules of this vine, you’ll see what I mean.
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Love in a puff, a tender perennial vine, is also called a balloon vine. It’s botanical name is Cardiospermum Halicacabum. The vine produces small white flowers which after time forms the large ornamental seed pods that resemble balloons.
I first became aware of this fascinating plant while visiting a nearby community garden. The ladies at the Gibbsboro Community Garden are the kindest, most knowledgeable, talented, and helpful gardeners. They devote their time and skills creating a spectacular garden open to the community.
Most of this little non-profit garden was build with recycled, discarded, free or donated items. It has amazing walk through perennial beds, vegetable plots, pollinator pathway, honey bees, regional bird watch, monarch butterfly certification, picnic area, free little library for kids, and educational training.
If you are ever in the area, a visit to the Gibbsboro Community garden is definitely worth the time. It is located at 1000 Pole Hill Park Dr, Gibbsboro, NJ 08026, at the trail head of Blueberry Hill Area hiking trails. Pack a lunch to enjoy in the shade of the huge pine trees and watch the hummingbirds and butterflies.
The members of this community garden project are frequently on site. During a visit last September, I was gifted with a few ripe love in a puff capsules.
Collecting Love in a puff seeds
Also known as Balloon Vine or Heartseed, this vine carries its seeds in ‘puffs’. The three-chambered, lantern-shaped puffs produce matte-black seeds, each imprinted with their own white heart. How sweet is that!
You can save Love in a Puff seed by waiting for the balloons or puffs to turn brown. Each puff will have three seeds inside, all with a white heart on them, hence their name.
After allowing the seeds to thoroughly dry for a couple of weeks, I place them in a moisture-proof envelope and stored them in a cool place over the winter months.
How to grow love in a puff from seed
Start the seeds indoors in pots 8-10 weeks before last frost. Some things I read said to soak the seeds overnight before planting. Another suggested to nick the seeds first. Cutting a small nick in the hard seed was difficult.
Uncertain, I asked the lady from the community garden who gave me the seeds. She said that she just plants them with no prior prep.
I soaked a couple of seeds and then planted in a cup of potting soil. In another cup, I simply planted the seeds. Both germinated in the same amount of time. 🙂
After a couple of weeks hanging out by a sunny window sill, the seeds germinated and the tiny seedlings appeared and began to grow.
You can also sow the seeds directly in the ground after the last frost in full sun. But if you want to get a jump on the growing season, it is best to begin them inside.
Here are the healthy seedlings with their bright green lacy foliage.
When the seedling have grown a bit, you’ll want to transplant them outside after all danger of frost has passed. Love in a Puff is very sensitive to cold so wait until the weather has warmed before transplanting them outside.
After the danger of frost date in my area passed, I transplanted the little vines outside. It is a good idea to harden off the seedlings before actually planting them in the ground.
Hardening off seedlings gradually exposes the tender plants to the the outside environment, allowing the plants to transition from a protected indoor environment to the harsher outdoor conditions of fluctuating spring temperatures, wind, and full sun exposure.
How to harden off seedlings
The easiest way to harden off seedling is to place them outside in a shaded, protected spot on warm days, and bringing them in at night. Then, each day, increase the amount of sunlight the seedlings receive. Don’t put tender seedlings outdoors on windy days or when temperatures are below 45° F.
As you can see, already here in early summer, the love in a puff vine is getting bigger and filling out.
Last year we added a garden trellis netting for the clematis that is growing on the right side of the arbor. What a difference it made. Since the tendrils on the clematis could easily wrap around the netting, they grew right up to the top of the arbor. And, they flowered profusely. This is the netting we used:
The netting is more than long enough to cover the entire arbor and we even had extra to use elsewhere. It is also perfect for the love in a puff tendrils to wrap around as it gains height and fullness.
If you don’t have an arbor, the vine can also be grown on a fence. The one at the community garden was on a chain link fence.
I am delighted to find lots of balloon puffs popping up all over the vine.
I first noticed the tiniest white flowers. Many of them began developing into little pouches.
Here is a closeup of the dainty flowers. These tiny white flowers attract pollinators. The flowers have four petals, are white, fragrant and occur in clusters. The stalk of the flowerhead ends in a pair of tendrils.
The tiny pouches then grow into the green puffy pods that resemble little paper lanterns.
Lots of puffs adorn the vine of finely cut leaves that will grow dense enough to provide some shade. When the puffs fully mature, there inside will be three seeds each marked with a perfect white heart!
Love in a Puff
How to grow Love in a Puff Balloon Vine
- Name: Cardiospermum halicacabum
- Common name: Balloon Plant, Love in a Puff, Balloon Vine, Heart Pea, Heart Seed
- Annual: zones 3 to 10.
- Perennial in zones 9 and 10.
- Height: 6-10 feet
- Light: full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
- Days to maturity: 120 days
- Plant spacing: 6-12”
- Bloom Season: Mid summer to mid fall
- Soil Type: Moist, but well drained soils, pH 6.1 – 7.8
- Deer Resistant: Yes
- Recommended Propagation :Seed
- Country Or Region Of Origin: Southern U.S.A. to Argentina, Africa, China, Srilanka
- Attracts: Butterflies
- Sow Outdoors: following last frost. Spacing 20 to 48 inches (50 to 120 cm).
- Sow Indoors: Germination time: three to five weeks.
- Good drainage.
- Ordinary soils.
- Regular watering.
- Supply a trellis.
- Propagate from cuttings taken in the spring.
NOTE: Love in a Puff can be invasive in the southern states if you let it get out of control.
Love in a puff cuttings for arrangements
Cuttings from the love in a puff vine are a lovely addition to floral arrangements. Since it is early in the season, I haven’t many branches to cut for this arrangement gathered last minute from currently blooms in my yard. But you get the idea that the graceful curves of the love in a puff work well.
The cut foliage from the vine is prone to wilting in the heat, so it is best to harvest during the coolest part of the day and place directly into water to rest for a few hours before arranging.
Choose stems that have firmed up and are covered in little green lanterns. Stems will last a good week in the vase if flower preservative is used.
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