Physalis franchetti is a highly attractive and much loved plant with a mound forming habit and mid green coloured leaves. Each year it makes a good show producing creamy-white star shaped flowers, which are followed by bright orange-red, paper-like lanterns in autumn.
For winter bouquets, cut the stems in autumn just as the lanterns turn colour, remove the leaves and hang them, right side up, to dry in a shady, airy place. They can be arranged in vases with other flowers such as honesty to make wonderful dried flower arrangements, threaded on string to make decorations or mobiles or just placed in a bowl.
Once dried they keep their colour and last quite a long time, they are especially good to see on gloomy autumn days.
Physalis is a genus of plants that are native to warm temperate and subtropical regions. They are herbaceous plants and are a relative of the common tomato. The plant wraps up each fruit in its own 'paper bag' (the ‘calyx’) to protect it from pests and the elements.
Most varieties are prized for their edible fruits which grow within the lanterns but are tender and will die at the first frosts. Physalis franchetti is quite different, a hardy plant but the fruits are sour and can be quite poisonous if eaten in quantity.
Franchetti is grown as an ornamental. It is hardy and has the largest lanterns of all!
Sow in Spring, February to April
Sow into pots or trays containing seed compost. “just cover” the seed with a sprinkling of sieved soil or vermiculite. Place in a greenhouse or cold frame at around 18-22°C (65-72°F). The seeds will germinate in less than two weeks.
Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of fairly rich soil when they are large enough to handle. Grow on and harden off before planting out after the last expected frosts. Plant 18-24" apart. The plant is usually naturally bushy, but it can be useful to pinch out the growing tip whilst the shoots are less than 30cm tall in order to encourage side shoots. While establishing new plants, use adequate slug protection.
In areas where frost may be a problem, provide small plants and seedlings with some protection, such as a cloche until they are growing away well.
Chinese lanterns spread quickly and make an excellent groundcover. Plant it where it can be controlled or plant into large containers which will restrict its spread.
The plant likes a sunny location, preferably sheltered from strong winds.
Very good results are obtained on rather poor sandy ground. If the soil is too rich it encourages leaf production at the expense of fruiting. Even moderate fertilizer tends to encourage excessive vegetative growth and to depress flowering.
The plant needs consistent watering, but can't take "wet feet". The plants become dormant during drought.
Staking shouldn’t be necessary, unless planted in exposed areas.
Pinching back of the growing shoots will induce more compact and shorter plants.
This plant spreads by underground runners that you can divide in the spring.
The plant is self-pollinating but pollination is enhanced by a gentle shaking of the flowering stems or giving the plants a light spraying with water.
The flowers are a bit like potato flowers but soft yellow. After the flower falls, the calyx expands, forming a red lantern much larger than the fruit enclosed. They are first a brownish green and then turn to scarlet as they mature. Inside is a red berry.
The ripe fruit (not the lantern) is edible but doesn't taste very good; it is sour on account of having more vitamin C than lemons. The rest of the plant, especially the leaves and unripe berries, is poisonous and can even be fatal if eaten in quantity. It is from the botanical family Solanaceae and contains solanine, the same stuff that makes green potatoes and tomato leaves poisonous.
Cut the stems bearing the fruits as soon as they have developed their full colouring and prior to frost arriving in the autumn. Remove the leaves and hang them, right side up, to dry in a shady, airy place for a few days.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 150mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Family Solanaceae Genus Physalis Species alkekengi Cultivar var. franchetii Synonym Alkekengi officinarum, P. alkekengi var. orientalis, P. franchetii var. gigantea Common Name Chinese Lantern, Winter Cherry Other Common Names Japanese lantern, Love in a Cage, Hozuki Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers July to October Natural Flower Time Creamy-white, maturing into orange-red lanterns Height 60cm (2ft) Spread 60-90 cm (2-3ft) Position Full sun or light shade. Soil Well-drained/light.