All About Growing a Chinese Lantern Plant
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How to Grow Chinese Lantern
The Chinese lantern is a hardy perennial that offers colorful colors and can be grown on the ground or in containers. It is a clumpy plant with 3-inch-long, medium green leaves.
Small white bell-shaped flowers appear in summer, but they are insignificant. The real draw lies in the distinctive lanterns, which are seed pods that start out green and ripen into a bright orange squash at the end of the growing season in early fall. The 2-inch-wide paper pod, called the calyx, serves as a protective covering over the flower and fruit.
Before planting the Chinese lantern in a garden bed, be aware that it can grow very aggressively and spread rapidly through underground rhizomes and overseeding.
Be careful when planting it, as it can invade your garden beds and even germinate on your lawn. The Chinese lantern is probably best suited for growing in containers to prevent it from spreading to other areas on your property. Eradicating the Chinese lantern is not an easy task.
Chinese lantern is easy to grow and is best planted in spring after the danger of frost has passed. This fast-growing plant will reach maturity and flower in the first season.
|Botanical Name||Physalis alkekengi|
|Common Name||Chinese lantern, winter cherry, ground cherry|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1–2 feet tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Average, medium moisture, well-draining|
|Soil pH||6.6–7.3 (neutral)|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Europe, Northern Asia|
|Toxicity||Seed pods and berries are toxic|
Chinese Lantern Care
Chinese lantern grows well in any common soil as long as it is well-drained and evenly moist. The biggest challenge is keeping the plant in check, as it will spread aggressively if you don't keep an eye on it.
When plants mature, most of your care is keeping insect pests away. It is also important to decide in advance if you want to grow these plants directly in the ground (without barriers or containers) and take a chance on their invasive nature.
Without a barrier, you will likely have to spend time removing unwanted plants that appear through the underground root system.
Chinese lanterns grow best in full sun but tolerate partial solar conditions. But in hot climates, it is better to grow the plant partially in the shade.
Chinese lanterns prefer common, well-drained, and constantly moist soil. Rich soils can cause the plant to spread faster than you want it to, so there are some advantages to growing it in sparse soil.
When young, Chinese lanterns require regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Once ripe, they are somewhat drought tolerant, although flower and fruit production is best with a constant level of soil moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant can tolerate colder temperatures, but any frost will cause it to die off in winter. No humidity requirements. The seeds will germinate when temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Feed-in the spring after new growth appears with a light application of balanced fertilizer unless the plants have been overly aggressive, in which case you can suspend feeding. If you use granular fertilizer, be sure to keep it away from the plant's crown and foliage. Too much fertilizer can stimulate rapid growth rates, which can encourage root rot and uncontrolled spread.
Toxicity of Chinese Lantern
The Chinese lantern plant is a member of the belladonna plant family (Solanaceae), and the fruits and seed pods include some of the same potent alkaloids that make another belladonna dangerously toxic.
Both the green fruits and the leaves of Chinese lanterns are poisonous to humans and animals, and the symptoms of toxicity are similar in both.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Symptoms include severe stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, slow heart rate, coma, and even death. The severity of the symptoms depends a lot on the size of the person and the amount of plant consumed. However, when ripe, the berries have been used to make traditional medicines.
Chinese Lantern vs. Tomatillo
There are no cultivars of P. alkekengi; only plant species are commonly grown in gardens. However, another closely related member of the genus Physalis, sometimes grown ornamentally or as a perennial edible vegetable, is the tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), also called the Mexican skin tomato.
This plant has a similar growth habit and cultural needs to the Chinese lantern, but within the paper shell, the plant produces a tomato-like fruit that is edible and commonly used in sauces. As the yellow to purple fruits ripen, they peel open to reveal themselves. fruits can be quite attractive in the landscape, even if you don't pick them to eat.
How to Grow Chinese Lantern From Seeds
You can plant your seeds outdoors in late spring. Or, for faster results, you can start the seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings outside after all danger of frost has passed. Seeds that are started indoors should be planted in seedling trays six to eight weeks before the last projected frost date.
When sowing outdoors, poor soils can be improved by working with organic material up to 15 centimeters above the ground. Sow the seeds in the ground, covering them with 1/4 inch of soil.
Keep the soil moist; seedlings will appear in 14 to 21 days. When starting indoors, sow the seeds similar to the initial seed mix, then place the tray in a warm, sunny location and keep the seeds moist until they sprout. Seedlings must harden before transplanting into the garden.
Starting Chinese lanterns from seed is a good way to grow them annually, especially in containers. You can simply remove and discard the plant from the container at the end of the growing season and start fresh seeds the following year. That way, you don't have to worry about the plant spreading aggressively in your garden.
Propagating Chinese Lantern
Chinese lanterns can be easily propagated by cutting a growing section with attached roots and replanting. Spring is the best time for this method. Voluntary seedlings that sprout when a Chinese lantern sows alone can also be dug up and transferred to a new location in the garden.
It is also relatively easy to collect dry seeds from plants and store them for spring planting.
Chinese lantern pods with their pumpkin color are often used in Halloween crafts, harvest-themed decorations, and dried flower arrangements for fall.
When the fruits turn from orange to reddish-orange, it is time to harvest them. First, cut a stem with pods at ground level. Remove the leaves and suspend the entire stem upside down in a cool, dark place with good ventilation (for example, a garage) to dry the fruit. Drying should be complete in a few weeks.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Chinese lanterns are prone to various insect pests, including false potato beetles, cucumber beetles, and fleas. If insects have infested your plants, you may notice that the fruits are riddled with holes made by hungry insects. Neem oil sprays and/or insecticidal soap should be effective against most aggressive pests.
Various bacterial and fungal diseases can attack plants, and crowding can promote the spread of these diseases (spatial plants at least two feet apart). You may notice discoloration of the leaves or a plant that is wilting and failing. Cut off diseased foliage if you see it.
Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Physalis Growing Guide (Chinese lanterns)
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