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Growing Chinese Lantern Flowers

Chinese Lanterns flower plants.

Annual, Physalis

Chinese Lantern flowers are not native to China. Rather, this perennial originates from southeastern Europe and Japan. It gets it's name from the distinctive color and shape of the papery husk, which resembles a Chinese (or Japanese) Lantern.

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.

IMPORTANT: The unripe berries and the leaves of Chinese Lantern plants are poisonous.

Chinese Lanterns look great in the garden, and  indoors as a dried flower.

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.

Plant Height: 1 - 2 feet.

Medicinal Uses:.

Despite the poisonous nature of the leaves and unripe berries, Chinese Lanterns have had a variety of medicinal applications.

They include:  anti-inflammatory, expectorant, cough suppressant, fevers, treating malaria, bed wetting, and even to promote early labor!

Chinese Lantern plant

Plant Propagation:

Chinese Lanterns are grown from seed.  They can be started from seed indoors, or out. Because of the long germination period, we recommend an indoor start. We also 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

How to Grow Chinese Lantern Plants:

Chinese Lantern plants are very easy to grow. They like full sun, but will tolerate a partial or light shade. They will do well in average soils, however, rich soils are more productive.

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.

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 Chinese Lantern 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.

Flowers Bloom: Summer

Drying Chinese Lanterns

:Chinese Lanterns make great dried flowers.

Cut stems with flowers when the plant is dry. The plant should be dried in an upright position. Place stems loosely in a jar, allowing plenty of room between stems for air circulation. Dry them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Drying takes about 3 weeks.  

Young Chinese Lantern plant.

Insect and Disease:

A variety of insects like to chew on the leaves of Chinese Lantern plants. Use an 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 in poor draining soils.


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