Physalis alkekengi – Chinese lantern

Physalis alkekengi, commonly known as the Chinese lantern, is a member of the Solanaceae family found throughout Europe and Asia. You can see it growing at Begbroke Science Park. There are many varieties of Physalis, and this one is common in cultivation, although it is not edible like some of its relations. It’s a vigorous, spreading herbaceous perennial which grows 60cm tall. It has fairly plain creamy yellow bell shaped flowers in the summer. Its most impressive feature is its lantern-like orange calyces, which appear in the autumn. They break down leaving an intricate skeleton framework and exposing the red berries. This is quite a robust and hardy plant family, happy in either sheltered or exposed spots, in full sun or partial shade and in a range of soils provided they are quite free-draining. Ideal for a mid-border splash of late colour, it will grow well from seed or can be divided in the spring. Prune the stems down in the winter.

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