Jack o lantern flower

Learn About Chinese Lanterns

Common Disease Problems for Chinese Lanterns

Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to grey centers form on the upper surface of the leaves and along the midrib. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Black Rot: This bacterial disease thrives in warm and humid conditions and attacks the leaves. Yellow-orange V shaped lesions occur on the edges of the leaves and eventually dry out and the leaves fall. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.

Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Virus (Various causes): Young plants may have a yellowish tone and become stunted. Fruit is usually not affected in outward appearance, but it may be smaller and scarcer. Burpee Recommends: Remove and destroy affected plants. Control flea beetles which can spread the disease.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Cutworms: These insects cut off the seedlings at the soil level. Burpee Recommends: Place a paper cup collar (use a coffee cup with the bottom cut out) around the base of the plant. They are usually mostly a problem with young seedlings. You can also control by handpicking and controlling weeds, where they lay their eggs.

Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.

Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.

Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

Caring For Chinese Lanterns – Tips For Growing Chinese Lantern Plants

If you see a resemblance between Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) and tomatillos or husk tomatoes, it’s because these closely related plants are all members of the nightshade family. The spring flowers are pretty enough, but the real delight of a Chinese lantern plant is the large, red-orange, inflated seed pod from which the plant gets its common name.

These papery pods enclose a fruit that is edible though not very tasty. While the leaves and unripened fruit are poisonous, many people like to make use of the pods in dried flower arrangements.

Growing Chinese Lantern Plants

Growing Chinese lantern plants is similar to growing other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Chinese lantern is winter-hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. In addition to growing Chinese lantern plants from small transplants, many people have success with growing Chinese lantern seeds.

Chinese lantern seeds can be a bit fussy to germinate. Start them indoors in late winter or early spring. They need light in order to germinate, so lay them on top of the soil and place the pot in an area with bright but indirect light and temperatures between 70 and 75 F. (21-14 C.). Have patience with this plant, as it takes as long as a month for seedlings to emerge.

Once transplanted outdoors, Chinese lantern plant care and growth begins with choosing the right site. The plant needs average, moist but well-drained soil and prefers full sun though it will tolerate light shade.

How to Care for a Chinese Lantern

Caring for Chinese lanterns is easy. Keep the soil moist at all times. Water when there is less than an inch of rainfall in a week, and spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch on the soil to prevent water evaporation while keeping the roots cool as well.

Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer in spring and a balanced general-purpose fertilizer after flowering.

If the plants become leggy after flowering, you can cut them back to give them a fresh start. Cut the plants back nearly to the ground at the end of the season.

Drying the Pods

Another aspect of Chinese lantern plant care is collecting the pods. Dried Chinese lantern pods make excellent materials for fall floral arrangements and decorations. Cut the stems and remove the leaves, but leave the pods in place. Stand the stems upright in a dry, airy location. Once dry, the pods retain their color and shape for years. If you cut along the veins of the pods, they will curl into interesting shapes as they dry.

CHINESE LANTERN PLANT

Article by David Marks
The Chinese Lantern Plant (Physalis alkekengi) is a hardy, perennial (grows year after year) plant when grown in the UK. The season of interest first occurs when the plant produces light green fruit cases in August. These turn to a very attractive deep orange in September.

The fruit cases remain attractive if left on the plant for three or four weeks but if they are correctly harvested (see below) they can be dried and will then retain their colour and shape for several months.

The name “Chinese Lantern” has been commonly given because the orange pods which encase the fruits look like Chinese Lanterns which are paper cases with small candles in them. Physalis alkekengi is native to Southern Europe, Southern Asia and Japan. The “Physalis” part of the name means bladder. If you want to buy, online, fully grown plants .

They are fully hardy in the UK even when grown in containers. One problem they have when grown in flower beds is that they spread very easily, similar to mint plants. They grow from roots which spread just beneath the soil surface. For this reason they are often grown in containers to restrict their spread.

Tiny uninteresting white flowers are produced in July which then turn into small light green pods. These enlarge and turn orange in September. The pods contain a fruit which contains the seeds. The leaves and young, unripe fruits are poisonous.

HOW TO PROPAGATE CHINESE LANTERN PLANTS

There are two common methods used to propagate Chinese Lantern Plants, by seed and by root cuttings. Both are very easy to do and the success rate will be very high. Root cuttings are the quickest and easiest but you will need a mother plant for this method. Seeds on the other hand are more readily available but it may be a year before the plants are fully grown.

GROWING CHINESE LANTERN PLANTS FROM SEED

Although Chinese Lantern plants are fully hardy in the UK when fully established the young seedlings need to be protected from frost initially. The best time to sow the seeds is from February to April. The earlier you sow the seeds the better chance you have that plant will produce lanterns in the same year.

Fill an 8cm / 3in wide plastic pot with general purpose multi-purpose compost and stand it in a shallow bowl of water for half an hour. Sprinkle two or thee seeds on the surface of the compost and cover very finely with a small amount of compost. Place the pots in a position where it gets light (but not direct sunlight) and the temperature is roughly 18-22°C / 65-72°F. The seeds should germinate after 10 to 14 days.

When the seedlings appear the pots can be moved to a cooler position but not exposed to frost. For the next month a position in full sunlight is best.

The plants can then be moved to their final position – a container is recommended because this plant can easily colonise a plant border overcoming less vigorous plants.

GROWING CHINESE LANTERNS FROM CUTTINGS

When the plants come to life in the spring select a healthy looking sprig which has green growth and gently dig into soil around it. You will see that rather than roots the plant has “runners” just below the soil surface, similar to mint plants. Chop off a decent sized part of a runner (3m / 1in) with greenery growing from it and plant to the same depth in a container filled with multi-purpose soil. Place it in a frost free position out of direct sunlight.

After a month or so the cutting will be growing away strongly and it can be planted in a larger container or in your garden.

They thrive in most soils but of course do best in a well drained but moist soil. When growing them in containers sprinkle a handful of blood, fish and bone fertiliser on the compost surface every month while they are growing.

Keep the container watered throughout the year. The lanterns will turn bright orange during September and they can be left on if you want. If you want to preserve them for flower arranging or other decorations simply cut the stems off at ground level and remove the leaves. Hang the stems upside down in dark, cool and dry place such as a garage. They will have dried out after two to three weeks and will then be ready for use as a dried flower arrangement.

PESTS AND DISEASES

The plants grow very quickly when well-established and normally shrug off any attacks by pests. Slugs can sometimes be a problem especially because they can hide under the rather dense foliage. Slug pellets or the normal, more organic solutions, are the only course of action.

Nothing happened. That’s because, I have discovered after researching properly this time, that you have to cut open the fleshy spheres and tease out the tiny beige seeds, wash off all the flesh and dry the seeds before storing them away until spring.

You can devise your own methods for doing this, but you should know that Physalis alkekengi are poisonous – and although I have read that when ripe the fleshy sphere is the only part that is not poisonous I still don’t feel the need to eat it when there are perfectly good sources of vitamin C in my local grocery shop.

So, once you have fiddled about washing and drying tiny seeds you need to keep them in an air-tight box, label the box and put it somewhere safe until February or March when you can sow the seeds in small pots of seedling compost.

Because the seeds are so small, they need to be sown near the surface with just a tiny covering of either compost or preferably vermiculite that will allow more light to them so they can germinate more easily.

To save having to thin them out, try to sow them an inch or two centimetres apart, and keep the compost moist but not wet.

Warmth also helps the germination process, so if you have a heated propagator you will probably have more success.

Once the seedlings are an inch or so high, move them out of the propagator so they don’t get leggy, like you would with any other seedling.

If you are growing them indoors, rather than in a greenhouse, they can just stay on a windowsill until late March or April, when you can transfer them to a sheltered cold frame or unheated greenhouse.

They should be fine to plant out once the threat of frost is over in May, when you should think hard about choosing your site.

The Chinese lantern plant is usually found in regions covering Southern Europe, Northeast and Southeast Asia, and is a popular ornamental plant which is helped because it can be cultivated in more temperate climates. Alternatively named the strawberry tomato, or the Japanese lantern, the winter cherry, or the bladder cherry, the Chinese Lantern is capable of holding out at temperatures below minus twenty-degrees centigrade. According to Gardening Know How’s article about how to care for the Chinese lantern plant, it is a member of the Nightshade family of plants, and it also has a resemblance to husk tomato plants.

In the same article, it is said the most distinctive thing about the plant is the seed pod which grows on it. The seed pod is quite large and is a red-orange in color and due to its shape and appearance which is akin to a Chinese lantern and has a rather papery touch. There is a fruit inside the seed pod which is edible, even though the taste isn’t particularly nice. Since the Chinese Lantern plant is a member of the Nightshade family, growing it is straightforward enough, though care should be taken since because the Chinese Lantern plant is a member of the Nightshade family, certain parts of it – the leaves, unripened fruit – are poisonous.

However, the pods are mostly used in dried flower arrangements. People simply cut the stems and the leaves are then removed while leaving the pods alone while keeping the whole thing standing upright in an airy place which is dry. The pods retain their color throughout the process, and they stay like that for years while the pods themselves don’t deteriorate. Some people, wanting interesting shapes to come out of the drying process, usually lightly cut along the pods’ veins, making them curl into different shapes while they dry out.

The seeds of the Chinese Lantern plant are used in the Japanese Bon festival, a tradition where the seeds are used as offerings to guide the souls of the dead.

Facts about the Chinese Lantern Plant

  1. The flowers are white, with five lobes ten or fifteen millimeters across, while the plant itself grows over sixty centimeters in height, and its leaves will be between six and twelve centimeters in length, by four and nine centimeters in width.
  2. According to the Wikipedia article on the Chinese Lantern plant has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the United Kingdom’s Royal Horticultural Society.
  3. The plant’s seed pods have been found across the ages in fossils – the Pleistocene of Germany and sediments from the same age have contained fossilized seeds in East Anglia, the Miocene of Siberia, and the Pliocene of Europe.
  4. They are perennial plants.
  5. The fruit is similar to a berry. The Chinese have used the fruit in their medicines for centuries, and many people have even baked the fruit of the Lantern plant in pies, according to Gardening Channel’s article on the plant.
  6. The Chinese Lantern plant is a cousin to the Goji berry plant, which contrasts because the berries are not full of poison, though their mode of growth is virtually identical to the Chinese Lantern plant.
  7. Other varieties of the Chinese Lantern plant, according to the Spruce article on them, include the Tomatillo, or ‘little tomato’ in Spanish, with edible fruit. The Cape Gooseberry is a native of South America which produces an edible fruit when its ripened. However there are two more varieties which are toxic – the Horse nettle produces poisonous yellow fruits and is a noxious weed. The Bittersweet Nightshade is a common weed which grows toxic berries which come in different colors on the same plant because they don’t mature at once.

To grow or not to grow

The Spruce article on the Chinese Lantern plant comes with a warning about the plant for some types of gardeners and says it might not be a good fit for all gardeners. While the Chinese Lantern plant is beautiful and can make a great addition to a dried flower arrangement, one thing is clear. The plant is highly invasive, and they spread everywhere rhizomes; a type of stem which runs horizontally under the ground, creating new roots as they go, according to the adjoining article which explains what they are, which also describes the similarities between invasive plants and aggressive types of weeds. Some plants which reproduce in this manner tend to be highly aggressive, such as the Japanese knotweed, poison ivy, and the stinging nettle, though the more aggressive types – including the Chinese Lantern plant – include the Plume Poppy, the Virginia Creeper, and the Tansy.

Jack O’Lantern

Initially, a green plant in color, the Lantern plant’s pods mature right at the end of the fall, and the color changes during autumn which makes them appear as Jack O’Lanterns, as the article written about them in Spruce describes. The pods become a brown-yellow in color, similar to other plant leaves though the shape and the papery feel of the seed pod make it resemble a pumpkin.

There are two ways to grow the Chinese Lantern plant – from seed and by cutting.

How to Grow the Chinese Lantern Plant from seed

Despite their invasive nature, Chinese Lantern plants can still brighten up the garden, and when their seed pods ripen they can be decorative with their red-orange hues. According to GardenNerdy’s article on how to grow the Chinese Lantern plant, growing them is easy enough since they can be grown from seeds. Just remember – these plants are invasive. One way of stopping it becoming too invasive would be to grow them in pots. It’s also possible for you to grow the plant in trays kept indoors before planting them just after the frost. Young plants are vulnerable to chillier temperatures, it is only when they’ve become fully established in the garden they are more resilient.

The plants can grow in places of partial shade, but as long as they have enough sunlight reaching them then they will grow quite healthily, in a soil which is moist and rich, but not too soggy.

Late spring is the best time for the Chinese Lantern plant to be grown in because it will be just after the frost. It’s recommended they’re grown indoors because they have a long period of germination according to The Gardener’s Network on growing the lantern plant. They should be grown during a period of four to six weeks, but when they’ve been planted they should be given a general purpose fertilizer on a monthly basis, and a layer of mulch should be put down to keep the soil rich and moist while keeping out the weeds at the same time.

The Chinese Lantern plant should ideally be grown two feet apart from one another or from other plants nearby so they can spread their roots, and if needed they should be protected from the full glare of the sun during the afternoon, according to The Garden Helper. Once they’re fully planted the plants will survive on their own, which makes them great for first-time gardeners though they should never be eaten except for the ripe fruit they produce.

The best soil conditions for the Chinese Lantern plant, according to My Folia, should be fairly sandy, weakly acidic and weakly alkaline. Once they’ve been planted into the ground, it should only take a couple of weeks before the plants are fully established in the soil.

How to Grow from Cuttings

This article from Garden Focused says the best cuttings come from the roots, but a sprig which is healthy in appearance and has green growth around it will do just as well. Chinese lantern plants have ‘runners’ rather than roots, and if you see one with greenery growing from it, just cut it off – just an inch should do. Once you have the cutting, plant it in multi-purpose soil filled in a container. Again, make sure the soil is moist but not soggy, and keep the container moist throughout the growing period – it might also be a good idea if the container is sprinkled occasionally with a fertilizer – the best would be blood, fish and bone.

How to care for the Chinese Lantern plant

According to Love to Know, it should be watered on a weekly basis before it has become fully established in the soil. Care should be taken – if watered too much then the plant will die from root rot. The fertilizer should be 10-10-10 general purpose, at least once during the springtime and once during the summer time. Once the plant has been established in the soil, it will be fairly resilient and will need little care, though if they become too big or if they spread too far then they should be cut back.

Like most plants, the Chinese Lantern plant is vulnerable to insects such as cucumber beetles, flea beetles, and lastly false potato beetles. Deer will not touch them. The plants do grow quite rapidly once they’ve become established in the garden and they tend to ignore any pests which attack them. Slugs and caterpillars can be a problem for the plant, the slugs will just hide underneath the dense foliage of the plant. The only way to deal with them are the conventional methods of dealing with slugs, like pellets.

Black rot is also a danger. According to the Burpee article on Chinese Lantern plants, Black Rot is a bacterial disease that can harm the plant. It thrives in humid conditions and it attacks the leaves of the Lantern plant. Its symptoms don’t seem to be too harmful – yellow/orange lesions on the edge before the leaves fall off.

It’s also possible for the seeds to die even if they appear healthy. This is because of Damping-off, a fungal problem when there is too much moisture in the soil and the temperature is above sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, though it could also mean there is too much nitrogen present in the fertilizer. The seedlings need to be kept moist, but not too moist and not too fertilized so then this problem will not happen to the seedlings you’re trying to cultivate, and it’s also advised the seedlings need plenty of room and that they need air circulating so they can grow.

Uses for the Lantern plant

Aside from its use in Japanese tradition and its use on Halloween when people can use its seed pods for Jack O’Lanterns, the Chinese Lantern plant is used mostly to attract butterflies into the garden. It can also be used as a border plant and for edging around the garden despite it being quite invasive in gardens in the United Kingdom and in the United States, which is one of the reasons some gardeners grow it in containers. While the fruit is edible and can have a bad taste, there are some moments where the fruit is good, like when the fruit is dried or cut. It can also be useful as herbal medicine plant though not many people use it much anymore. It can induce abortion in pregnant women. The fruit can be made to create a remedy for disorders in the kidney or the bladder. During Halloween, the plant fruit is its peak, and during Halloween, the plant is a decoration due to the orange color of the pod.

Pruning time

The Chinese Lantern plant is extremely hardy and resilient despite being vulnerable to certain insects and diseases. The best thing to do when you plan on growing one is to plant it in a hole with plenty of space all around to limit the chances of disease. Cut back the leaves of the plant, but don’t put the foliage in a compost bin.

Seed Availability

Seeds are now available at our seed store.

Description

A short perennial usually growing to no more that 2ft. Both leaves and fruits are decorative. It is a vigorous plant and can spread if left unchecked.

Hardiness

Hardy to 20F and lower in its dormant state. Can grow as an annual and will reseed itself in most climates.

Growing Environment

Can be successfully grown in full sun or part shade. Generally likes moist soil so watering is necessary in drier climates.

Propagation

By seed.

Germination Info

Physalis seeds are usually fairly easy to germinate, though germination time can be a bit longer than other vegetable seeds. 1) Prepare for planting. Physalis seeds should be sprouted in small containers, preferably 4″ or smaller. In-ground germination is not recommended because conditions are not as easily controlled. Use a standard potting mix that is well drained. Make sure potting mix is damp prior to planting the seeds. With very small seeds such as Physalis, watering overly dry soil can cause the seeds to dislodge from their position and sink deep into cracks in the soil. Seeds that sink deeply into soil will not be able to reach the soil surface once germinated.
2) Plant seeds. Plant seeds 1/4″ deep in the soil. Cover with soil and water carefully. Over watering can cause fungal growth which leads to seed rot. Excess water can also bury seeds deep in the soil where they will not be able break the surface. Water when the soil surface just begins to dry. Multiple seeds can be planted in a single starter container, but should be thinned once seedlings appear so only a single plant remains.
3) Germination. Soil should be kept consistently warm, from 70-85F. Cool soils, below about 60-65F, even just at night, will significantly delay or inhibit germination. Hot soils above 95F will also inhibit germination.
4) Care of seedlings. Once a few true leaves have developed, seedlings should be slowly moved outside (if sprouted indoors) to ambient light. Care should be taken not to expose seedlings to direct, scorching sun so plants may need to be hardened off via slow sun exposure. Hardening off can be done using a shaded or filtered light location, as well as protection from strong winds, rain or low humidity. Hardening off time varies, but can take 5-10 days.
5) Planting out. Plant in the ground once danger of frost has past and daytime temperatures consistently reach 65F.
Germination time: 2-6 weeks under ideal conditions.

Uses

Almost always grown as an ornamental for its brightly colored, orange husks (lanterns) which cover the fruit. The lanterns are sometimes used in floral decorations, usually with leaves removed. The fruits are edible and suprisingly, are higher in vitamin C than lemons. Care should be taken though, as all other parts of the plant are poisonous. The plant also has a long history of medicinal uses.

Native Range

Central Asia through China. Has naturalized in some parts of the United States and many other countries.

Related Species

Solanaceae
Acnistus arborescens
Wild Tobacco
Brugmansia arborea
Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia aurea
Golden Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia candida
White Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia sanguinea
Red Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia suaveolens
Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia versicolor
Orange Angel’s Trumpet
Capsicum caballeroi
Capsicum caballeroi
Capsicum exile
Cobincho Pepper
Capsicum eximium
Capsicum eximium
Capsicum flexuosum
Capsicum flexuosum
Capsicum galapagoense
Galapagos Island Pepper
Capsicum praetermissum
Cumari
Capsicum rhomboideum
Capsicum rhomboideum
Cyphomandra abutiloides
Dwarf Tamarillo
Cyphomandra betacea
Tree Tomato
Datura inoxia
Thorn Apple
Datura metel
Double Purple Datura
Iochroma australe (Acnistus australis)
Mini Angel’s Trumpet
Iochroma cyaneum
Violet Churcu
Iochroma fuchsioides
Red Iochroma
Iochroma grandiflora
Giant Iochroma
Jaltomata procumbens
Jaltomato
Lycopersicon melanocarpa
Lycopersicon melanocarpa
Lycopersicon skorospelka
Lycopersicon skorospelka
Nicotiana glauca
Tree Tobacco
Physalis alkekengi
Chinese Lantern
Physalis angulata
Mullaca
Physalis costomatl
Cotztomatl
Physalis ixocarpa
Tomatillo
Physalis minima
Sunberry
Physalis peruviana
Cape Gooseberry
Physalis pruinosa
Ground Cherry
Solanum aviculare
Kangaroo Apple
Solanum burbankii
Wonderberry
Solanum caripense
Tzimbalo
Solanum chessmanii
Galapagos Island Tomato
Solanum dulcamara
Bittersweet
Solanum hispidum
Giant Devil’s Fig
Solanum lycocarpum
Fruit for Wolves
Solanum macrocarpon
Gbogname
Solanum mammosum
Nipple Fruit
Solanum melanocerasum
Garden Huckleberry
Solanum muricatum
Pepino
Solanum pseudolulo
Pseudolulo
Solanum quitoense
Naranjilla
Solanum sessiliflorum
Cocona
Solanum uporo
Cannibal’s Tomato
Withania somnifera
Ashwagandha

How to Grow And Take Care of a Chinese Lantern Plant

Chinese lantern plants can brighten up your garden with their flashy orange seed covers. This article will provide you with some tips about growing this plant.

As the name rightly suggests, Chinese lantern plants produce bright orange, ribbed seed husks that resemble the traditional Chinese lanterns. Belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), these plants are included in the genus Physalis, which has other members like tomatillos, cape gooseberry, etc. Chinese lantern plants (Physalis alkekengi) have alternate names, like Japanese lantern, strawberry tomato, winter cherry, and bladder cherry. These plants are grown in flower gardens for the colorful seed husks, that are also dried and used for decorative purposes.

Chinese lantern plants are easy to grow and require minimal care. This plant is grown from seeds, and once established, they can turn invasive. You can find newer plants growing from the horizontal rhizomes of the parent plant. So if you want to prevent these plants from spreading, you have to grow them in containers or pots buried in ground.

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Choose an appropriate location with enough sunlight and well-drained soil. The plant will also thrive in places with partial shade. The soil has to be rich and moist, and not soggy. The best time to plant the seeds is late spring, after the last frost. You may also grow the seeds in seed trays indoors, 4 to 6 months before the last frost. Generally, the seeds are directly planted after the last frost.

While planting the seeds or seedlings on ground, make sure to leave a space of two to three feet in between. Mulching will prove beneficial for the plant, as this retains the soil moisture, and prevents growth of weeds to some extent. Make sure to place the mulch around the plant at a depth of about two to three inches. As these plants are invasive, they have a tendency to spread and produce new growths in the surrounding area.

Water the plants during dry weather conditions, and feeding can be done with a regular fertilizer, once in every season. Pruning should be done, as and when you notice diseased branches. Chinese lantern plants grow fast, and produce flowers during the first year itself. Before winter, harvest the lanterns, and cut down the plants. Only a few inches of the main stems must remain. Once in every five to six years, you may separate the rhizomes and plant them in different locations.

Know More About the Plant

Chinese lantern plants can grow to a height of around 60 centimeters. During mid summer, white flowers with five petals are produced by these plants. It is the basal calyx (composed of sepals) of these flowers that develop to the bright orange papery covering of the fruits. The fruits of the plant resemble cherry tomato, and contain numerous small seeds. As the berries mature, the papery orange husk transforms to a thin web-like covering that disintegrates, along with the dry seeds.

Traditionally, this plant is grown for culinary and medicinal purposes. While the ripe fruits are edible; the unripe berries and leaves are found to be poisonous. Even the ripe fruits of this plant must be consumed moderately. In some regions, this plant is used as a herbal medicine for treating fever, malaria, bed wetting, etc. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as a remedy for cough. Some people use it for early labor. However, the fruits should be used with caution, as they may cause side effects like abdominal pain and miscarriage.

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If you haven’t heard of Chinese lantern flower, you’re not alone. Also known as Bladder, Winter, or Ground cherry, this incognito herbaceous plant’s name can be confusing. But it’s as lovely as it is mysterious. Its papery orange blooms look like little lanterns set against vivid green foliage. The contrast is stunning, and the “lanterns” are fascinating!

Within the pretty lanterns lies a sweet surprise. A small, round fruit similar to a berry is tucked neatly inside. The fruits have been used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, and it’s entirely possible that your very own ancestor might have baked the fruit from a Chinese paper lantern into a pie. Aside from being pretty and edible, Chinese lantern plant dries beautifully for a pretty, natural fall arrangement for decoration.

Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) is a perennial plant from Europe and Asia that’s hardy down to U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 6. However, Chinese lantern plant has occasionally shed its tropical preferences and headed into some of the colder, northern zones, too. Chinese lantern is worth trying to grow in containers throughout the U.S. Just move a container full of Chinese lantern indoors before a freeze.

How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Flower

Chinese lantern flower is easy to grow. In fact, it may be too easy to grow for some. Chinese lantern plant has a distinctive weedy growing habit. Like mint, it spreads quickly by underground stems. It’s hard to contain even if you cut the plant itself down to the ground. To really contain Chinese lantern flower, plant them in a container.

Place several seeds in a pot or in the ground (if you dare), in regular garden soil. Cover the seeds with an inch of soil. Place your pot in full sun. Water regularly. Allow the soil around your Chinese lantern plant to dry between watering.

Chinese lantern plants air dry easily. Cut them when the flowers are at their peak of color during the heat of the afternoon. Avoid cutting damp branches. Bundle the stems together. Then, place the branches in a tall, open container, or hang the branches upright to dry in a cool, dark room.

Chinese Lantern Flower Pests, Problems, and Diseases

Besides its weedy habit, Chinese lantern plant is classified as an invasive species in some areas. Check your local extension offices for information about growing Chinese lantern plants in your area.

Chinese lantern plant is also considered a toxic plant. It’s poisonous to humans and animals. The fruit should not be eaten until fully ripened, and the foliage should never be ingested. To be safe, always be certain of a plant’s identity before choosing to eat any portion of it. Chinese lantern plant is thoroughly enjoyable as an ornamental plant, and you might want to leave it at that.

Chinese lantern plant is not susceptible to pests or to disease. It will develop root rot if it’s overwatered, so well draining soil in the container you plant in, along with lots of sun, will help keep the roots happy and dry.

Chinese Lantern Flower Varieties

There isn’t a plant that can compare to Chinese flower plant. Those pretty little lanterns make them unique. But if you’re concerned about the toxicity and weedy nature of Chinese lantern plant, you might consider growing its cousin, goji berry, instead. Goji berry plants flower and develop colorful berries that have a similar appearance to Chinese paper lanterns. And goji berries are packed with nutrition rather than poison. Their growing habits are similar to those of Chinese flower plants.

Check out this short video to learn more about growing goji berries:

Want to learn more about growing Chinese lantern plant?

Physalis alkekengi
Chinese lantern plant: Physalis from University of Minnesota Extension

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