PHYSALIS Chinese Lantern

The small and nondescript white flowers have little decorative value, but the picture changes when autumn arrives and the leaves start to turn yellow. Large papery structures expand around the fruits, producing golden or flame-coloured Chinese Lanterns hanging from the stems. A novelty in the garden but much more useful as dried plant material for winter flower arrangements. Cut the stems in September and tie in small bunches – hang upside down in a cool and airy place away from direct sunlight. Any soil will do and it will grow in sun or shade.

VARIETIES: The best species to grow is P. franchetii – height 2 ft. Spacing 3 ft.

Flowering period: July-August, fruiting period September -October. The 2 in. long ‘lanterns’ are decorative in the border, but Physalis is best grown in an odd corner away from other plants. Its problem is the invasive nature of its underground stems – if surrounded by other plants it is a good idea to cut around the crown with a spade each autumn.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil will do – thrives in sun or partial shade.

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or spring.

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