Scientific Name: Physalis alkekengi ( FY-sa-lis al-ke-KEN-jee).
Common Names: Chinese Lantern, Japanese Lantern, Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry,
Physalis is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, with relatives that include petunia; tomato and tomatillo, bell pepper, chili pepper and cayenne pepper; eggplant, potato, Jerusalem cherry; tobacco; and thorn apple and Jimson Weed.
The botanical name Physalis comes from the Greek word physa, meaning “bladder,” in reference to the puffy calyxes.
Chinese lanterns are native to an expansive region from southern Europe through Asia, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Korea and Japan.
Chinese lanterns are notable for their pendulous, bladder like, orange calyxes—the “lanterns.” The calyxes, which hang from leafy, lightly haired main stems, have a thin, paper like texture and enclose red-orange (when ripe) berries. Chinese lantern calyxes are green at first, then yellow and finally orange to red-orange as they mature. (The color develops as the berries inside the calyxes ripen.)
These beauties are available from July through December, but peak production occurs in September, October and November. Early crops usually have green calyxes.
When purchasing, look for “lanterns” that are puffed out and undamaged. Choose bunches that have the fewest damaged calyxes, avoid bunches that have spots on the calyxes or leaves, and make sure stems are clean and not slimy. The stems can quickly become slimy so check daily.
When given proper care, Chinese lanterns have a vase life of 5 to 10 days. But because they dry beautifully in a fresh-appearing state, they are often perceive as lasting for months. They can be used either on or off the stem.
These are “Fanciful flowers” that are great for fall festivities.
Chinese lanterns dry beautifully and naturally. Keep the stems in clean flower-food solution until the calyxes (“lanterns”) are dried.
For an interesting look, split some calyxes into three or more sections while they are still fresh. Then, as they dry, the calyxes will curl outward, exposing the berries inside.
When they’re dry, spray the lanterns with a dry flower sealant. If their color fades, enhance the calyxes with spray, mist or dip-dye floral colorants.