Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengii) are known for their reddish-orange, paper-like calyces which resemble Chinese lanterns. A native plant to Asia and Japan, the Chinese lantern is a shrubby perennial of the nightshade family with tiny, inconspicuous white flowers. The beautiful calyces can be cut and dried in the fall when they begin to turn from green to fiery reddish-orange. Chinese lanterns are hardy from USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8 and can be grown easily from seed.
Things You'll Need
- Chinese lantern seeds
- Rake and trowel
- Tiny stones
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Sow Chinese lantern seeds indoors in well-drained soil, four to six weeks before the last frost. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Keep the sowing container in full sun. Germination should take two to four weeks.
Transplant seedlings outdoors in full sun to partial shade. Soil should be on the sandy side and well-drained. If you have clay-like soil, add garden soil or composted manure and tiny stones to improve drainage. Plant seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.
Regularly water Chinese lanterns in the early morning, about every other day. Watering Chinese lanterns when the sun is too high and strong can cause the plant to burn. Chinese lanterns should grow to a height between two and three feet.
Fertilize Chinese lantern plants monthly, if necessary.
Cut stems back to ground level in late fall.