Vigorous, spreading, hardy perennials grown for their colourful papery calyces, which look like tiny lanterns.
Family: Solanaceae (nightshade)
Botanical Name: Physalis
Common Names: Chinese lanterns, Cape gooseberry, bladder cherry
Foliage: Deciduous, simple green triangular lobed leaves.
Flowers: Insignificant bell shaped flowers followed by brightly coloured, papery calyces, often containing small fruits.
Flowering Period: Summer.
Soil: Well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Plant in an east, west or south facing aspect.
Habit: Bushy, creeping.
Type: Annuals and herbaceous perennials.
Origin: Europe, Asia and America.
Hardiness: Hardy in the UK.
Toxicity: All parts of the plant (except the fruits of P. peruviana) can be toxic if eaten.
Easy to grow. Plant in an open sunny site in a well-drained but moist loam. The stems can become rather heavy as the plant matures, therefore provide support with twiggy sticks in spring.
Fruiting stems can be dried for indoor decoration. Cut stems, tie in bunches and hand upside-down to dry.
Water well in dry weather. The plant is surface rooted and will soon begin to suffer in hot dry conditions.
Susceptible to attack by caterpillars.
Increase by seed in spring or divide established clumps in early spring. Sow seed of P. peruviana under glass in March-April.
Physalis alkekengi (bladder cherry) is an upright perennial with loosely erect stems and green triangular leaves. White, open, bell-shaped flowers in summer, followed in September by inflated scarlet or orange calyces. Can be invasive. For sale at Thompson & Morgan. Variety 'franchetii' bears bright orange-red lanterns. Height and spread 18-24in (45-60cm). For sale at Crocus.
Physalis peruviana (Inca berry, Cape gooseberry) often grown as an annual for its edible round fruits.