Perennial Chinese Lantern flowers are not native to China. Rather, this unique plant originates from southeastern Europe and Japan. Chinese Lanterns get their name from the distinctive color and shape of the papery husk, which resembles a Chinese (or Japanese) Lantern. Consequently, it is a novel plant and conversation piece. Growing Chinese Lanterns near a walkway, a patio, or a deck where people frequent will cause people to stop and take note. They may even ask you for some seeds or a few rhizomes, too.
This novel plant grows up to two feet tall, producing white, 5-petaled flowers in mid-summer. The flowers give way to a light green, lantern-shaped husk with a berry inside. As it matures, the husk turns a bright orange-red color, and the husk turns papery.
Dry Chinese Lanterns for indoor arrangements. They are also popular for Fall and Halloween art projects.
IMPORTANT: The unripe berries and the leaves are poisonous. Keep this plant away from children and pets.
Chinese Lanterns look great in the garden, and indoors as a dried flowers.
Other Names: Chinese Lanterns are also called Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato, Winter Cherry, and Jerusalem Cherry.
Did You Know? Tomatillos and Chinese Lanterns are both grouped as Physalis, members of the nightshade family. Tomatoes are also members of the nightshade family.
Note: Seed companies often classify them as annuals. But, they are a fast-spreading (almost invasive) perennial.
Flowers Bloom: Mid-summer
Flower Colors: Orange to reddish-orange.
Plant Height: 1 – 2 feet.
As was previously stated, Chinese Lanterns are poisonous. Yet despite the poisonous nature of the leaves and unripe berries, this plant has have had a variety of medicinal applications.
The medicinal applications include anti-inflammatory, expectorant, cough suppressant, fevers, treating malaria, bedwetting, and even promoting early labor!
Achillea is grown from seed. Sow seeds directly seeded into your flower garden, or start indoors for transplanting later. For outdoor starts, plant Achillea seeds after the soil has begun to warm in the spring.
Sow seeds early in the season and cover lightly with soil. Space seeds or seedlings 12-18″ apart.
Once your plants have been established, they can be propagated by separation in the fall.
New plants are grown from seed. You can start Perennial Chinese Lantern seeds indoors, or out. Because of the long germination period, we recommend an indoor start. Also, we recommend a heated germination mat, for faster, more successful germination.
Space seedlings two to three feet apart.
They will bloom in the first year.
The plants can also be propagated by digging up and dividing the rhizomes. They can be invasive in your flower garden.
Days to Germination: 20-25 days.
Chinese Lantern plants are very easy to grow. They like full sun but will tolerate a partial or light shade.
The plants will do well in average soils. However, the plants are more productive in rich garden soil.
Plant Chinese Lantern seeds indoors 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost in your area. Or, you can direct seed them after the last frost date.
Garden Tip: For outdoor plant starts, make sure to mark the planting area, as the seeds take a long time to germinate.
Keep the soil moist, not wet. Add a general-purpose fertilizer once a month. Apply a thick layer of mulch around the plants to keep weeds down, and to retain moisture.
Once your plants are established, they will grow well, with little or no attention, for many years.
After a few years, the plants will begin to get over-crowded. Dig up and separate the rhizomes, leaving at least one eye on each segment.
Give a few segments to your friends. They will be appreciative!
After plants have died back in late Fall, it’s okay to cut them back to ground level.
Ideal Soil pH: 6.2 – 7.4.
Plant Problems – causes and cures
A variety of insects like to chew on the leaves of Chinese Lantern plants. Use insecticidal soap or general-purpose insecticide as needed.
The plants usually do not have major problems with plant disease.
The roots can rot in wet soils. Do not plant in low areas or poorly draining soils.
As noted above, Chinese Lanterns make great dried flowers and are used in art projects.
Cut stems with mature lanterns on the stem. The plant should be dried in an upright position. Place the stems loosely in a jar, allowing plenty of room between stems for air circulation. Allow them to dry in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Drying takes about 3 weeks.