Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The nice thing about fall is that this is a time when there are so many seasonal floral materials available. These include baby pumpkins and gourds as well as other things. At this time of year, the Chinese lanterns ripen to a gorgeous dark orange. These stems add a wonderful touch to fall and winter designs.
This plant goes by various other names, including Japanese lantern and ground cherry. The stems are commercially available from August or so onwards. These can be used as a form flower. This is also used as a line flower for accent.
The vivid, perfectly shaped little fruits are rather delicate looking. These are about one to two inches in size. The reddish orange berries are enclosed in colorful orange calyces. In profile, they almost look heart shaped.
If you look closely, youíll notice a similarity to the edible husk tomato that is sold in supermarkets. These are all in the Nightshade family.
When used as a fresh cut stem, the vase life of Chinese lanterns does vary. Usually, it will be for about a week.
In addition, these stems can be used as an everlasting. Just let the stems air-dry.
The Chinese lantern grows as a perennial. Up to two feet in height, the plants spread by roots or underground stems. Under good growing conditions, this plant can be aggressive and spread very easily. If necessary, you can control this by pulling up the extra plants as they spread. The plants can also be grown from seed. These need some light to germinate. So, donít cover them.
Chinese lanterns arenít terribly hard to grow. They prefer a reasonably moist, average soil. So far as pH is concerned, they really like acidic to neutral conditions best of all.
These plants will grow in partial shade as well as full sun. The Chinese lanterns are undemanding plants. Vigorous and easy to care for, they are seldom attacked by insects or diseases.
Chinese lanterns donít need a lot of fertilizer. I just add this when I am fertilizing the cutting garden in the spring.
For best results, space Chinese lanterns about a foot or so apart in the cutting garden. This allows a little extra space for them to spread without overcrowding each other.
The flowers of the Chinese lanterns are rather inconspicuous. They resemble those of their relatives in the Nightshade family. These arise from the leaf axils. Usually by the time the fruits have ripened, much of the foliage has dropped from the stems, which exposes the vivid fruits.
Though these fruits are mostly harvested ripe, some people use them in
their green state for floral design.