What Is Bladderpod: Learn How To Grow Bladderpod Plants

What Is Bladderpod: Learn How To Grow Bladderpod Plants

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

with Liz Baessler

Bladderpod is a California native that holds up very well to drought conditions and produces beautiful yellow flowers that last almost all year long. If you are looking for an easy-to-grow plant with low water needs and lots of visual interest, this is the plant for you. While it looks a bit like someone crossed an evening gown with something Dr. Seuss dreamed up, the plant also has elegant ornamental appeal and provides wild interest in the landscape. Learn how to grow bladderpod and add this plant to your native growing list.

What is Bladderpod?

Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea, formerly Cleome isomeris and Isomeris arborea) is a multi-branched shrub with corky bark and smooth twigs. The evergreen plant can grow 2 to 7 feet (.61 to 1.8 m) in height. The plant has several other common names, among them bladderpod spider flower, California cleome, and burro-fat.

The leaves are compound and divided into three leaflets. Some say that bruising the leaves releases a strong pleasant scent while others call the odor vile. The plant has been lumped into the Cleome family and does have decorative yellow blooms that are similar to cleome plants. The flowers are very attractive to pollinators, including native and introduced bees.

As the name would indicate, the fruits are inflated balloon-like capsules, each with 5 to 25 pea-like seeds. Bladderpod plant info indicates the plant is related to capers. This is quite evident when you look at the dangling pods. Their shape and texture are very reminiscent of capers but are not considered edible, although the seeds within the pods are edible and can pass in a pinch for capers. While it is the seeds that are edible, the flowers were also once used by native dwellers as a meal when cooked for up to 4 hours.

How to Grow Bladderpod Plants

You can choose to grow the plants outdoors in USDA zones 8 to 11. The plant prefers well-draining, sandy soil, and it will tolerate high levels of salinity. It also performs best in soils with a pH of at least 6 and is very drought tolerant once established. Bladderwort can tolerate temperatures from 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to 38 C.).

The best method for growing bladderpod flowers is from the seeds. They easily germinate and, in fact, wild plants self-seed readily. The seeds do not require stratification or striation or any other treatment to encourage germination. Simply prepare a seedbed that is well draining and of average fertility in full sun. Plant seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm.) deep. Alternatively, plant in late winter in flats indoors and transplant out in spring or fall.

Plants should be spaced 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8 m.) apart. While the plants are young, take care to remove nearby weeds to ensure proper growth.

Bladderpod Plant Care

Growing bladderpod flowers is easy if you are in a warm enough zone. In fact, bladderpod plant info indicates that these desert dwellers prefer neglect. Of course, this is only once they have been established, but the plant doesn’t need supplemental fertilizer or much extra water.

Spring rains are usually sufficient to establish seedlings but a small amount of water in the hottest parts of summer will be appreciated. Keep competitive weeds away from the root zone of plants.

As an addition to the landscape, bladderpod will provide food for many birds, especially quail. The plant is also fire resistant and has no known disease problems.

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Cleomella Species, Bladderpod, Spiderflower

Family: Cleomaceae
Genus: Cleomella (klee-oh-MEL-uh) (Info)
Species: arborea (ar-BOR-ee-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Cleome isomeris
Synonym:Isomeris arborea
Synonym:Isomeris arborea var. insularis
Synonym:Peritoma arborea


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:


Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From seed direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant break open to collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Long Beach, California(2 reports)

Lucerne Valley, California

West Sacramento, California

Gardeners' Notes:

On Feb 15, 2010, AmyMorie from Green Cove Springs, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Very happy native if not over-watered in the garden. Flowers much of the year in Los Angeles area self-seeds if happy but easy to control. I've had about 50% success rate with small transplants. Grey-green foliage and lacy texture outstanding mixed with Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) for contrast and year-round interest.

On Jun 14, 2009, plutodrive from Denver, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

Isomeris arborea's fruit is edible.

On Oct 27, 2008, caopenspace_org from Long Beach, CA wrote:

I grew several of these in peat pots with a mix of peat moss and planting soil, planted seed 1/4" deep and kept moist until sprouted. My seedlings grew best in shaded area until the plant is about 6" high, then "harden" in direct sun. I collected seeds from dried pods that had fallen on the ground. Birds love the seed. Good background plant in my California native garden.

On Oct 8, 2006, Marmared from West Sacramento, CA wrote:

I have this plant growing in heavy clay soil. It is one of the few plants able to grow in an area which gets little water. Very colorful.

On Mar 21, 2006, desert_witch from Lucerne Valley, CA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I think it's a pretty desert shrub. If transplanting, get it while it's very small, as it's got a long taproot which makes it difficult to move once established.

On Mar 8, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Peculiar native shrub to Southern California and Baja California. Has bright deep yellow flowers in early spring, later winter and swollen, 'bladder-like' seed pods. Very drought tolerant plant.

15 Plants Rabbits Won’t Bother

Rabbits adore lettuce and other tender greens, but they’ll ignore the following plants entirely. Why are these plants not of interest to rabbits?

Bunnies don’t love strong-smelling plants or ones with oddly textured foliage. Rabbits will also leave anything with prickly stems or foliage alone. They’re also smart enough (mostly) to stay away from anything toxic.

By the way, be cautious when interplanting edibles with poisonous plants. You don’t want to end up harvesting young rhubarb leaves along with your kale!

1. Onions

Onions are one of the most important tools in a chef’s toolkit. This ingredient adds a ton of flavor to dishes and pairs well with any type of cuisine. The pungent, onion-ey quality of this plant is what makes it so unappealing to rabbits. They don’t like the smell.

2. Leeks

Leeks, like onions, are also in the allium family. The strong smell is a deterrent for many small mammals. In fact, any plant in the allium family is unattractive to rabbits, including green onions and chives.

3. Peppers

Sprinkle hot pepper powder or pepper flakes around your garden to keep rabbits from eating your precious plants. They also won’t bother with mature pepper plants since they’re not fans of this fruit. You’ll need to keep your seedlings protected since rabbits might munch on the tender stems.

4. Rhubarb

Aside from the ripe stems, the rest of the rhubarb plant is toxic to humans and rabbits don’t like it either.

5. Summer Squash

It’s likely the prickly stems of summer squash that keep rabbits away. I could do without the barbed stems myself, but I appreciate that they represent built-in protection from hungry small mammals like rabbits.

6. Basil

Highly fragrant basil is an herb that will keep rabbits away. Instead of planting your basil, among other herbs, interplant it with rabbit favorites like lettuce and carrots.

While basil is one of those plants that rabbits won’t eat, you can also use it as a compost. The smell can help deter rabbits from your other garden plants, as well.

7. Mint

Every morning when I check on my garden, I tussle the tops of my herb plants to dislodge the delicious scent of this easy-to-grow perennial. I love the smell, but rabbits aren’t too keen on it.

Don’t forget that other plants in the mint family, like catmint and catnip, are unattractive to hares.

8. Bee Balm

This pollinator-friendly plant is appealing enough to attract bees and hummingbirds, but rabbits don’t love it.

9. Black-Eyed Susan

Another eye-catching perennial, this yellow mini sunflower-esque bloom is super easy to grow and tolerates a variety of soils. They also attract a variety of pollinators, but rabbits aren’t interested.

10. Poppies

Rabbits aren’t fond of these delicate perennial blooms, so substitute them for other rabbit favs. The flowers burst with color and put on a vibrant show all summer long.

11. Yarrow

Interestingly, many of the plants that rabbits dislike are plants that entice pollinators to visit the garden, including yarrow.

Yarrow is a wildflower that attracts butterflies and other buzzing beneficial insects. The delicate white flowers return every year and require little maintenance.

12. Sweet Alyssum

This is another flower that rabbits don’t care for that tolerates poor soils and spreads to form carpets of tiny blooms. It’s a great flower choice for drought-prone gardens and rock gardens.

13. Marigolds

Before I say what I want to say, I’ll knock on wood to avoid jinxing myself. In my experience, marigolds are one of the most indestructible flowers in existence.

They’re incredibly easy to grow from seed, and once they’ve found their footing, the explosion of blooms doesn’t stop until frost arrives. They’ve even survived a slug-pocalypse that killed off a ton of other flower seedlings. Rabbits, too, are not fond of these golden-hued blooms.

14. Sunflowers

Rabbits might munch on sunflower seeds and leaves, but they rarely touch the blooms. Thankfully, even if rabbits become interested in your sunflower plants, it’s easy to deter them from these hulking flowers. Plant pungent crops around the base of flowers or spread potent smelling powders to keep rabbits away.

15. Milkweed

Milkweed is an important food source for various pollinators, notably monarch butterflies, whose only source of food is milkweed. The perennial contains toxic sap that is dangerous for dogs and rabbits alike.

16. Ageratum

Ageratum has pretty round, purple flowers that attract bees and butterflies while sending rabbits hopping away.

17. Lantana

Hummingbirds can’t get enough of pretty lantana flowers. Rabbits? Not so much. You can plant them in containers and intersperse them with some of your other ornamentals to keep the little hoppers away.

18. Vinca

Vinca is a reliable groundcover that you can use to fill in those partially shady spots. It’s also one of those plants that rabbits won’t eat. You could use it as a sort of floral barrier around your vulnerable plants and not only will you have a pretty garden, but a protected one as well.

19. Geraniums

Geraniums are a popular garden plant for a good reason. They bloom reliably all season long in vibrant pink, red, yellow, and orange. It’s just a bonus that rabbits (and deer) leave them alone.

20. Begonia

Begonias make gorgeous houseplants, but if you intersperse them around your garden you can ensure that you’ll have some color that even the hungriest bunny won’t bother.

21. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and not too hard to grow. On top of that, rabbits won’t give them a second look. That’s likely because they’re part of the nightshade family, the leaves of which are toxic.

22. Globe Thistle

Globe thistle is a drought-tolerant option when you want something that looks a little different in the garden. The purple, round blossoms are eye-catching and attract butterflies and bees while keeping rabbits and deer away.

23. Wormwood

Good old mugwort – also known as wormwood – has been a medicinal garden staple for centuries. While it has been used to treat a range of stomach issues (not to mention to make absinthe), rabbits don’t dig it.

24. Lavender

Lovely lavender is a plant that you can’t go wrong with, not least because bunnies won’t touch it. The classic scent and stunning flowers are worth the little effort it takes to grow this garden staple.

25. Tarragon

Tarragon is related to sunflowers, so it’s no surprise that rabbits don’t like it. This classic green herb has a subtle anise-like flavor that goes perfectly with eggs, chicken, and fish.

26. Thyme

Thyme is part of the mint family. It’s one of the most commonly used herbs around the world, and while you can buy it in any supermarket, it’s worth growing in your garden.

Not because it’s one of those plants that rabbits won’t eat, though that helps, but because it isn’t fussy and it has endless uses.

27. Sage

Sage – also a member of the mint family – is a Mediterranean herb that has found a way into gardens across the world. Rabbits avoid this plant so much that some people sprinkle dried sage around their vulnerable plants.

I’m not sure this technique is super effective, but it’s worth a try if you have extra leaves.

29. Sedum

This gorgeous succulent, sometimes known as stonecrop, is gorgeous whether it’s blossoming or not.

These plants come in a range of sizes and shapes, so there is certainly one for any garden where you want to add a little texture while keeping rabbits away.

Physaria kingii ssp. bernardina, San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod

ESA Status

Visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile link below for links to listing and other USFWS documents.

  • Listed as: Lesquerella kingii ssp. bernardina
  • PLANTS Database Name: Lesquerella kingii ssp. bernardina
  • Listed Endangered 1994
  • Draft Recovery Plan 1997 (PDF, 2.4 MB)


The primary threats are associated with limestone mining:

  • Direct removal of mined materials
  • Disposal of overburden on adjacent unmined habitat
  • Road construction

  • Sand and gravel mining
  • Off-highway vehicle use
  • Recreational and urban development
  • Loss of pollinators or seed dispersal agents

Peritoma arborea (Bladder pod) will reach a height of 1.8m and a spread of 1.8m after 5-10 years.

Suggested uses

Banks and Slopes, Beds and borders, Bees (attract & feed bees), Coastal, Cottage/Informal, Desert garden/Xeriscaping, Drought Tolerant, Gravel, Low Maintenance, Rock, Wildlife


Grows best in well-drained, neutral to alkaline, rocky soil in full sun. May bloom all year round. Tolerates alkaline soil and coastal conditions. Tolerates drought. Where native, best planted in late autumn or early winter. Site carefully as it develops a deep taproot and is difficult to transplant once established.

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