How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Plant seeds 2023

How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Plant seeds 2023

The Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi and Physalis Franchetti), also known as the Japanese lantern and bladder cherry, produces small white star-shaped flowers in late spring, followed by green balloon-like shells that turn into papery, colored shells. Orange-red in late summer.

Hanging from 2- to 3-foot-long stems, the shells look like brightly colored lanterns. This pest-resistant plant requires little care and can become invasive, especially in rich soil.

Origin of the Chinese lantern

The Chinese lantern, however, their name is a bit misleading as they are not solely of Asian origin. There are around 200 species in the genus Abutilon. These plants are mainly native to South America and grow in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.

How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Plant seeds 2023

Several species are native to the American Southwest and Mexico, too. Its evergreen shrubs are grown in warmer climates for their colorful flowers and rapid growth.

Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi and Physalis Franchetti), also known as the Japanese lantern and bladder cherry, produces small white star-shaped flowers in late spring.

What’s in a name?

The genus Abutilon comes from the Arabic word “abutilon.” It was given to plants by a Persian physician and astronomer Avicenna (c. 980-1037), a man often described as the father of early modern medicine.

Avicenna was also a prolific scholar, philosopher, astronomer, and writer in his time (a period known as the “Islamic Golden Age”). Two of his best-known compositions are The Book of Healing, an encyclopedia of philosophical and scientific concepts, and The Canon of Medicine, which chronicles the history of medicine up to that time.


Gardeners will recognize some of the famous botanists associated with certain Abutilon species. A. darwinii, or Indian mallow, is a species of Chinese lantern from Brazil with pinkish-red flowers and large, broad leaves. Named after Charles Darwin by Joseph Hooker, this species was collected during Darwin’s iconic voyage on HMS Beagle. Palmer’s Indian mallow, or A. 


Palmeri is a species native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico with bright yellow flowers. This species is named for Edward Palmer (1831-1911), an English immigrant who extensively collected botanical specimens in the southwestern United States.


The Chinese lantern. They are invasive plants, spreading through underground rhizomes and reseeding (if not all pods are collected). And they are poisonous plants, a concern if you have children or pets in the garden that might eat them.

  • Botanical NamePhysalis alkekengi (sometimes listed as P. franchetii)
  • Common Name: Chinese Lantern Plants, Winter Cherry
  • Plant type: herbaceous perennial
  • Adult size: 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun in cool climates; Partial sun in warmer temperatures.
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, sandy or clay soil
  • Soil PH: Neutral 7
  • Bloom Time: Midsummer
  • Flower Color: White
  • Native Areas: Eurasia

Chinese Lantern Plant Varieties

Plants in the genus Physalis are in the night hat family. Other members of that genus and the related Solanum genus include:

  • Tomatillo (P. Philadelphia): native to Mexico for its edible fruit; its name means “small tomato” in Spanish; Tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicum) are also part of the night owl family.
  • Cape gooseberry (P. peruviana) – native to South America that produces a fruit that can be eaten when ripe
  • Horse nettle (Solanum carolinense): noxious weed with yellow fruits that is poisonous
  • Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara ) – a common weed with toxic berries often of different colors on the same plant (because they don’t all ripen at the same time)


The deep green, heart-shaped foliage reaches a height of 23-35 inches and a spread of 23-35 inches.


These flowers are lantern-shaped and (among wild species) can be yellow, orange, or occasionally red or pink.


  • It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with spirally arranged leaves 6–12 cm long and 4–9 cm wide.
  • The Chinese lantern, a plant that belongs to the genus Abutilon, has many forms. With maple leaves and colorful, five-petaled flowers that resemble dangling lanterns (hence the common name), this group of plants consists of small trees, shrubs, and vines.

How to Grow Chinese Lantern Plants

Chinese lantern plants are easy to grow and require minimal care. This plant is grown from seed, which can become invasive once established. You can find new plants growing from the horizontal rhizomes of the parent plant. So if you want to prevent these plants from spreading, you should grow them in containers or pots buried in the ground.

  • Choose an appropriate spot with plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. The soil has to be rich and moist and not soggy. The best time to plant the seeds is in late spring, after the last frost. Seeds are generally sown directly after the last frost.
  • When planting the seeds or seedlings in the ground, leave a space of two to three feet between them. The mulch will benefit the plant as it retains moisture in the soil and somewhat prevents weed growth. Be sure to mulch around the plant to a depth of about two to three inches. As these plants are invasive, they tend to spread and produce new growth in the surrounding area.
  • Water the plants during dry weather and feeding can be done with a regular fertilizer once every season. Pruning should be done how and when you notice diseased branches.
  • Chinese lantern plants grow fast and produce flowers for the first year. Before winter, harvest the lanterns and cut back the plants. Only a few inches of the main stems remain. Once every five or six years, you can separate the rhizomes and plant them in different places.

Their name is a bit misleading as they are not solely of Asian descent.

In a garden

Planting Chinese lanterns directly in the garden

  • Select a location in full sun with good, rich, organic, moist, well-drained soil.
  • Sow the seeds thinly in a sunny outdoor cold frame or a seedbed in spring after the danger of frost. Sow seeds fall through spring in the Deep South, Gulf, and Pacific Coasts.
  • Remove weeds and put organic matter in the top 6 to 8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Sow thinly ¼ inch deep.
  • keep moist
  • Seedlings will emerge in 15-21 days, depending on soil and weather conditions.


Growing Chinese lantern plants in pots allows you to avoid the dirty work of weeding and clearing a bed of soil. Instead, you can get straight to the fun stuff! Start by providing the light and soil conditions your specific plants prefer. When ready to plant, place your Chinese lantern plants in the pot and soak the ground to help them settle into their new home.

 Water, fertilize, prune regularly, and keep an eye out for pests and diseases. With a little effort, you can keep your plants green throughout the growing season or, depending on the species, for years to come.

Chinese Lantern Plant Care

These virgin perennials are not low-care plants. Chinese lanterns are subject to many plant diseases and insect pests, including false potato beetles, cucumber beetles, and flea beetles. It’s a shame to witness a beautiful pod form during the summer only to have it full of holes (chewed by insects) later. Neem oil and insecticidal soap sprays should help combat most offending pests.

How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Plant seeds 2023

Because various bacterial and fungal diseases can attack them, leave plenty of room for your Chinese lanterns (place them 3 feet in the center). Overcrowding promotes the spread of such conditions. Also, properly trim and remove foliage in the fall if your plants have had any disease problems to minimize their space. Could you not put it in the compost bin? If crowding occurs, divide plants in spring.

Chinese Lantern Flower Harvest

Chinese lantern pods are used in Halloween crafts (because of their orange color), harvest-themed decorations, and dried flower arrangements for fall. If you need to harvest only a few pods for such purposes, consider growing the plants in pots (sinking the jars into the ground is a design option if you don’t want the banks to be visible).

Not only is this a convenient way to grow a small crop of plants, but it’s also an excellent way to combat this invasive perennial’s desire to spread. If you must grow them directly in your garden soil, one way to prevent them from spreading is to use a barrier to act as a “firewall,” as it would prevent a working bamboo from spreading.

When the pods have turned their highly prized orange to orange-red color, it is time to harvest them. Remove a plant by cutting its stem at ground level. Strip the leaves, then suspend the entire plant upside down from a nail or string—dry harvested pods in dark, cool places with good ventilation (perhaps a garage).

If you can’t grow and harvest your Chinese lanterns but want to buy some for crafts or ornaments, you can buy them at florists and craft stores.


Planting Chinese Lantern Seeds Indoors

  • Sow indoors six weeks before the last frost.
  • Sow ¼ inch deep in the seed starter formula.
  • Keep the soil moist at 70-75 degrees F.
  • Seedlings emerge in 15-21 days.
  • As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3 to 4 inches below fluorescent plant lights that are on 16 hours a day and off for 8 hours at night. Turn up the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work in this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow and don’t leave the lights on for 24 hours.
  • Seedlings don’t need much fertilizer; feed them when they are 3-4 weeks old with a starter solution (half the strength of complete houseplant food) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If it is growing in small cells in your garden, you may need to transplant the seedlings into 3- or 4-inch pots when they have at least two pairs of true leaves before transplanting them into the garden, so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
  • Before planting in the park, the seedlings must be “hardened off.” Accustom young Chinese lantern plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered spot outdoors for about a week. Be sure to protect these plants from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or brings the containers indoors, then remove them in the morning. This hardening process hardens the structure of the Chinese lantern plant and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

How to Grow and Care for Chinese Lantern Plant seeds 2023


The flowers are white, with a five-lobed corolla 10–15 mm wide, and an inflated basal calyx maturing into orange papery fruit covering 4–5 cm long and wide.

They are invasive plants, spreading through underground rhizomes and reseeding.

hidden flowers

Chinese lanterns can be lit indoors six weeks before the last frost for early blooming or sown directly in the garden. They begin to bloom in the summer, but the flower can be easily overlooked. 

The flowers are tiny, creamy white, and bell-shaped. Large oval leaves often hide small flowers completely. It is not until the flowers are pollinated by bees and begin to fruit that the Chinese lantern begins to develop the lantern-shaped calyxes for which it is named.

berry time

Once the flower is pollinated, a berry begins to form in the center. Surrounding the berry is a calyx, a covering made up of tissue similar to flower petals.

The calyx is green at the beginning of its development. As the berry ripens in the fall, the calyx turns a bright orange color and resembles a Chinese lantern, where the plant gets its name. The bright orange calyx is often referred to as the Chinese lantern flower, but it is the berry’s skin.

Properties and benefits of the Chinese lantern flower

Historically, they have been used to reduce fevers, help stop coughs, as an expectorant, as a diuretic for gout sufferers, and to disperse kidney stones and gravel. They also have anti-inflammatory properties; in Iran, they were used to induce labor.

 The juice of berries or fruits has diuretic properties, but the whole plant can be used above ground. Traditional medicine in Iran they have been used for centuries to stop constipation, relieve pain from arthritis and rheumatism, and inhibit female fertility.

Modern research has shown that extracts from the plant have antioxidant as well as antimicrobial and antimicrobial activities. In rats, they have been shown to have anti-fertility effects probably because they inhibit egg attachment to the womb, although this is inconclusive.

The peels are a source of zeaxanthin (sadly lacking in Western diets in general), as are cayenne pepper, sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), paprika, and dried wolfberries. It helps prevent the onset of age-related vision loss, as does lutein. The fruit contains twice as much vitamin C as lemons.

food uses

Pick the berries only when the pod has turned a creamy color rather than when they are still red. Otherwise, they will be too sour to eat or use. Fruit harvested when fully ripe can be used fresh, juiced, or dried.

This delicacy is also rich in vitamins A and C, phosphorous, calcium, and iron. They are also rich in pectin, a complex carbohydrate that can help prevent constipation. Compared to Physalis Peruviana, alkekengi have a more acidic taste, so they are specially added to salads, juiced, and made into a delicious jam.

Medical uses

The plant was first found in Japan and adopted into the Chinese medicine system as it has some excellent medicinal properties.

  • The plant has a long history of herbal use and unique chemistry; It has been used in treating urinary and skin diseases. The fruit is an aperitif, strongly diuretic, and lithotriptic. It is used internally in the treatment of gravel and is highly recommended in case of fevers, common colds, and gout due to its high vitamin content.
  • The dried fruit of alkekengi is called the golden flower in the Unani system of medicine and is used as a diuretic, antiseptic, liver corrective, and sedative.
  • The best places to dry harvested pods are cool, dark places with good ventilation. Drying should be completed within a few weeks.

Other uses

light decoration

  • The lantern-like shells can be cut up and used in fall decorations, fresh or dried. To dry, remove the leaves from the stems. Place the stems in a cool, airy place with the husks positioned, so they are vertical. Once dried, the shells retain their brilliant color for several years and can be hung like lanterns.
  •  The covers can also be cut along the veins from tip to base while still fresh and moist. The skins will expose the fruit and curl into exciting shapes as they dry. They will retain the same color as the dry, intact ones.
  • It is being cultivated mainly as an ornamental plant since its dried pods are an excellent material for flower arrangements and decorations.

Curiosities of Chinese Lantern Flowers

Alkekengi derives from the archaic French term “alquequange,” which derives from the Arabic origin “al-taking.” The Chinese lantern, which in the language of flowers symbolizes deception, is particularly appreciated for the fruit’s smooth texture. The small berries, which have a flavor reminiscent of raspberries, are used to prepare tasty jams and jellies.

Sometimes you can find them in the windows of a fine chocolate-covered pastry shop. In Japan, Alkekengi is loved enough to dedicate an entire market called “Hozuki-Ichi” during July. Ancient people appreciated this plant for its many medicinal properties. Rich in vitamin C, it was used to reduce fever and treat skin diseases.

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