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May 2010
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Chinese lanterns: these tiny, brightly colored replicas of paper lanterns are one of the season’s delights. Different growing conditions and characteristics.

Chinese Lantern flowers are not native to China. Rather, this perennial originates from southeastern Europe and Japan. It gets it’s name from the distinctive color and shape of the papery husk, which resembles a Chinese (or Japanese) Lantern. Chinese Lanterns are also called: Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato, Winter Cherry and Jerusalem Cherry.

Chinese Lantern, known botanically as Quincula lobata, is a flowering perennial member of the nightshade family and related to the petunia and potato. It produces dramatic blue-purple and sometimes yellow blooms from April through September and grows with a low-spreading habit on underground rhizomes. It happily grows in stony, low-nutrient soils and is highly drought resistant. Its name is derived from the papery, Chinese lantern-shaped seedpods that it produces.
The Chinese lantern plant is basically a herbaceous perennial that can live up to an age of three years.

How to Grow Chinese Lantern

– Chinese Lantern plants are very easy to grow.
– They like full sun, but will tolerate a partial or light shade.
– They will do well in average soils, however, rich soils are more productive.
– Plant seeds indoors 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost in your area. Or, direct seed them after the last frost date.
– Keep the soil moist, not wet.
– Add a general purpose fertilizer once a month.
– Transplant seedlings outdoors in full sun to partial shade. Soil should be on the sandy side and well-drained.
– Apply a thick layer of mulch around the plants to keep weeds down, and to retain moisture.
– Regularly water Chinese lanterns in the early morning, about every other day.
– Once your Chinese Lantern plants are established, they will grow well with little or no attention for years.
– Chinese Lanterns are grown from seed. Space seedlings two to three feet apart.
– They will bloom in the first year.
– The plants can also be propagated by digging up and dividing the rhizomes.

Insects and Diseases

– The plants usually do not have major problems with plant disease.
– A variety of insects like to chew on the leaves of Chinese Lantern plants.
– Use an insecticidal soap, or general purpose insecticide as needed.
– The roots can rot in wet soils. Do not plant in low areas, or in poor draining soils.

Medicinal Uses

Despite the poisonous nature of the leaves and unripe berries, Chinese Lanterns have had a variety of medicinal applications.
They include: anti-inflammatory, expectorant, cough suppressant, fevers, treating malaria, bed wetting, and even to promote early labor!

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