Chinese lantern, or Physalis alkekengi, is a genus belonging to the solanaceae (nightshade) family. Physalis alkekengi is sometimes called orange puffball and strawberry groundcherry. The United States Department of Agriculture shows the Chinese lantern growing in northeastern United States and Canada and as far south as Tennessee. This beautiful plant grows to two feet tall and has orange lanterns or husks that hold the tomato-like fruit. You can grow Physalis alkekengi in a pot and enjoy the beauty of the tiny white flowers or the large lanterns. But if you grow it in the ground, it can become invasive and kill other plants.
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Kill Chinese lantern if it is invasive or growing in locations you want to garden or plant other flowers by studying the way the plant multiplies. Physalis is a rhizome and removal of the seeds or lanterns will not eliminate the plant, although mowing will reduce the external growth and make it easier to remove.
Eliminate Chinese lantern plants by following the roots and digging to remove them. Because this plant is a rhizome, it travels underground and comes up in another location. The University of Illinois Extension Service suggests inserting a barrier underground to prevent the rhizomes from growing outside the area.
Remove the roots of any plants that appear the following year to eliminate all the invasive Chinese lantern plants. This removal should prepare the soil for new plants of your choosing.
Use chemical control if necessary. The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension Service suggests that glyphosate will kill bamboo, another rhizome plant. Rutgers University makes the same suggestion for phragmites, a reed that has rhizome roots six feet deep, and Washington State University suggests that it works for nightshade plants of the solanaceae family, of which Chinese lantern is one. Glyphosate is sold under the Roundup or Kleenup name. This is a non-selective herbicide that will kill everything it touches, so use it carefully.
Tips and warnings
- Save a few Physalis alkekengi plants and plant them in hanging pots or as container garden plants. They will not invade your yard or garden and will be a pleasure to grow.
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- University of Illinois at Urbana: Extension Service: Invasion of the Orange Puffballs
- University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension Service: Bamboo
- Rutgers University: New Jersey Agricultural Extension Service: Phragmites (PDF)
- Washington State University: Pacific Northwest Extension: Nightshade: Biology and Control in the Pacific Northwest (PDF)
- United States Department of Agriculture: Plant Profile: Strawberry Groundcherry