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  • Writer's pictureJan Peterson

Monkey Balls - Challenge your Creativity

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

You’ve seen them and bought them, and then wondered how do I use them?

Monkey balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) loosely translates to “bladder fruit” in Greek, is native to Africa and grown as an annual in the Midwest. Commonly known as African milkweed, it has been called balloon plant, bishop’s balls, elephant balls, hairy balls and other equally deflating (no pun intended) names. They tend to shrivel if not used right away, leak a milky white substance and resemble (dare I say) a part of the male anatomy – sounds like an appealing choice for flower arrangements, right? Maybe not, but you’ll have to call upon your creative talents to use them.


But don’t despair, they do serve an important service to Mother Nature. They are a natural deterrent to spiders in the garden and provide a lot of texture when planted to the back of a garden, with lower more colorful plants in the foreground. They also provide food for monarch caterpillars. The delicate white blossoms smell like vanilla, followed by the balloon fruit, then the pods break to release the seeds.

Use these tall unusual stems with flowing greens and filler and you’ve got an interesting texture, or cut them short and arrange them with green cymbidium blossoms for a modern look. When left to mature, they turn a mild orange. You can use them as a dried flower in Fall arrangements, and if all else fails - they make a great Halloween decoration mixed with cornstalks and pumpkins.

“Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.”

Deepak Chopra

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