Physalis alkekengi

Common Name: Chinese lantern
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: Europe, northern Asia
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July
Bloom Description: Tiny white flowers followed by orange-red calyx
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut, Good Dried

Culture

Easily grown in average, evenly moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants spread by rhizomes and can spread aggressively in the garden. Plants may self-seed in the garden. Propagate by seed or by division. Plants may be grown as annuals by starting seed indoors about 6-8 weeks prior to last spring frost date.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chinese lantern is an herbaceous perennial of the nightshade family that grows in an upright clump to 24” tall and as wide. Stems are clad with ovate-rhombic medium green leaves (to 3” long) with entire to undulate margins. Small, bell-shaped, axillary, white flowers in summer are insignificant. The showy part of this plant is the papery, globose, orange-red calyx (to 2” long), resembling the shape of a Chinese lantern, that forms around each ripening fruit in late summer. The bright calyces provide excellent and somewhat unique fall color. Fruit is technically edible but tasteless and rarely eaten. Fruiting stems are used in both fresh arrangements and dried arrangements. For dried arrangements, cut stems as soon as the calyces turn from green to orange-red, remove the leaves and then hang the stems upright in a dry location. Genus name comes from the Greek word physa (meaning bladder) in reference to the inflated calyces.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Best sited in areas of the landscape where its spreading tendencies are not a concern. This plant is generally not recommended for borders.