Chinese lanterns (Physalis) are closely related to the tomatillo and tomato plant. These plants grow up to 2 feet tall and produce small white flowers. Their most attractive feature occurs after flowering, when they produce a papery orange husk that resembles a Chinese paper lantern. Inside each husk is a small, edible red berry, but the plants are mainly grown as ornamentals. While the Chinese lantern is a perennial plant, it cannot tolerate cold so it's usually grown as an annual.
Spread 1 inch of compost over a well drained garden bed that receives full morning sunlight and partial afternoon shade. Work the compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Transplant seedlings or nursery plants to the garden bed two weeks after the last spring frost. Plant the seedlings at the same depth at which they were growing in their pots, spacing them 2 to 3 feet apart.
Water the plants once per week, or when the top 1/2 inch of soil begins to feel dry. Water at the base of the plants, thoroughly moistening the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch, such as wood chips, over the soil around the plants. Mulch helps retain soil moisture by preventing rapid evaporation during hot weather.
Cut off the seed pods, or lanterns, after they have formed and dried but before they drop their berries. Chinese lanterns readily self-seed and can become invasive in the garden.
Chinese lanterns can grow as perennials and survive mild freezes if mulched over during the autumn.
Tips and warnings
- Chinese lanterns can grow as perennials and survive mild freezes if mulched over during the autumn.