How to grow Chinese lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi)

Physalis alkekengi berries on the table. Getty Images

The Chinese Lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi) is a hardy perennial that bears creamy white flowers in summer, but is mostly grown for its the papery orange ‘lanterns’ (calyces) that enclose the round berries in autumn. Left on the plant they eventually form a papery skeleton around the red berry within, but if they are cut at their peak, they make excellent dried flowers. To dry them, cut the stems soon as the lanterns have turned orange, remove the leaves, then hang upside down in an airy, dark place for a few weeks to dry.

Chinese lantern spreads via underground stems, in a similar way to mint, and can be invasive if grown in the garden. Like mint, it’s often grown in pots to check its spread – you could bury the container in your garden soil, or add a barrier around the roots to stop them spreading.

Physalis alkekengi is a member of the nightshade family, and the leaves and unripe fruits are poisonous. Wear gloves when handling.

How to grow Chinese lantern plant

Grow Chinese lantern in moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. Keep the spreading roots in check by growing in a container. For dried flowers, cut the stems when the lanterns have turned orange and leave to dry in a dark, airy place for a few weeks.

Chinese lantern plant: jump links


Where to grow Chinese lantern plant

Chinese lanterns ripening on the plant
Chinese lanterns ripening on the plant

Grow in moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade, or in a container filled with multi-purpose, peat-free compost.


How to plant Chinese lantern plant

Plant to the same depth as the rootball, in a pot or in the ground. You could bury the pot in the soil, so that the plant’s roots do not spread and become invasive.


Caring for Chinese lantern plant

Mature fruits of Chinese lantern plant. Getty Images
Mature fruits of Chinese lantern plant. Getty Images

Feed Chinese lantern plant with an all-purpose feed in spring, and mulch in autumn. Make sure the soil or compost is kept moist.


How to propagate Chinese lantern plant

Sow seeds under cover in spring. The seeds need light to germinate, so leave them uncovered. They can take several weeks to germinate, before growing away strongly. Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle, around 5cm apart in a tray and grow on. Plant out about 30cm apart in autumn, for flowers the following year.

Alternatively, divide plants or take root cuttings in spring.


Growing Chinese lantern plant: problem solving

Slugs can be a problem in spring before the plant starts growing rapidly – protect the plant early.


 

Advice on buying Chinese lantern plant

  • You can buy Chinese lantern plants as plants or as bare-root plants by mail order in the winter months

Where to buy Chinese lantern plant online

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