Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Zone 3 Flowers: Chinese Lanterns


Description: The Chinese lantern plant is a perennial that grows rapidly and can overtake flower beds with ease. The lantern-shaped pods that encase fruit from the plant emerge from the white flowers that appear in early summer. These pods give the plant its name as they take on a golden-orange to reddish hue in the fall. Many gardeners use these pods for decoration during Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Hardy: Zone 3

Bloom Time: September - Oct

Height: 1 - 2 feet

Spacing: 3 feet

Sun Needs: Full Sun

Water Needs: Medium. They don't like pools of water but can handle a good watering

Outstanding Features: Chinese lantern plants bear white flowers, but the flowers are insignificant and not the reason for which the plants are grown. Rather, the plants are grown for the 2-inch wide papery pods or "calyxes" (calyces), that eventually envelop the flowers. Each of the pods later encases a berry with seeds. In fall, they turn bright orange!

Uses: Cut flowers, fall arrangements, garden filler, dried flowers

Tips: Separate the rhizomes, or large roots that are capable of reproducing the plant, to prevent overcrowding. These rhizomes are found beneath the soil as the lantern plant's root system. The separation needs to be done every four to six years or as soon as a plant grows too large for the area. Each rhizome will have an eye: a large circular clump with a root stem protruding outward. Space these new plants 3 feet apart.


Winter Care: Trim back the entire plant to the main branches near the ground for winter, prior to the first frost, but only after the lanterns have been harvested. You will want to ensure the cuts are made at a bend in the branch with a 90-degree angle. This will prevent water from sitting in the cut, thus reducing the risk of rot.

Chinese Lantern Plants - from Poundland (Physalis alkekengi (Alkekengi))

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