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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Physalis Alkekengi is My Favoirte Plant...This Week



Physalis alkekengi is also know as Chinese Lantern, Japanese Lantern, Winter Cherry, and Bladder Cherry.  It's small white blooms appear earlier in the season and each produces a single red berry covered  by a bright orange to red papery "lantern."  Very similar to tomatillos, another member of the Solanaceae family, but with a much smaller fruit inside the covering.


They dry beautifully and retain their bright orange color for years making them wonderful dried "flowers" for autumn.


 If left on the plant the lanterns become skeletonized and change to a light tan  color. These also last for years.
4-15-2010-2
 
Courtesy Flickr/Photo by tanakawhohttp://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/

Best kept in pots because of their aggressive spreading nature the advice reads.  The tag says, "Should only be planted in the garden is areas where you may wish to naturalize."  I put one in the parking strip to fight with the bamboo.  We'll see who wins.
 Some info from Wikipedia -

An herbaceous perennial plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with spirally arranged leaves  6–12 cm long and 4–9 cm broad. The flowers are white, with a five-lobed corolla 10–15 mm across, with an inflated basal calyx which matures into the papery orange fruit covering, 4–5 cm long and broad. 


For those of you living in the north, this plant is hardy to zone 2 and grows easily from inexpensive seeds. 


The problem with this one is that it's pretty uninteresting until September - November.  It grows well in pots so it could be hidden away somewhere until you haul it out near the front door during it's moment of glory.

Loree at Danger Garden Hosts the Favorite Plant...This Week meme.  Follow the link there to see other gardeners' favorites this week.  Better yet, join the fun and post your favorite plant this week!


34 comments:

  1. I've always heard this plant was terribly invasive, so I've stayed away from it, but your photos show how beautiful it is! I especially love the skeletonized lantern--looks like an intricate lace shell!

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    1. They are gorgeous but then so are dandilion blooms.

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  2. I hope it wins on your parking strip as it is a beautiful plant, can just imagine it en masse with those laterns in the spot, it will look great!

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    1. I think it will be victorious utnil the bamboo P.vivax aurea advances in that direction and shades it out.

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  3. It's a nice color for fall. I planted it from seeds last year and it has lots of leaves but no blooms or lanterns so far though it has made a lot more plants in the container. Another year to wait for those lanterns.

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  4. Love those orange lanterns! It's tempting, but I think if I did grow it I'd follow your advice, keep it in a pot and bring it out for its moment of glory.

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    1. They are usually available as dried cut stems during the fall. They're beautiful in the house and there's no chance of the plant ever spreading anywhere.

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  5. This plant brings back so many childhood memories! There was a big patch of it growing in a field, probably an old abandoned garden, next to an old farm house in my neighborhood (a farming community until it developed as suburbs in the early 1960's). I found those little orange lanterns fascinating! There was also an old abandoned apple orchard and it produced so many different kinds of apples, all of them delicious!

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    1. It's hard to find cool old abandoned gardens these days. Seems like there is little land that isn't being used for one thing or another. Maybe it's just that I live in an urban area.

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    2. True, that little bit of land was plowed under and a house plopped on it in the mid-1970's. But all in all, the area where I grew up (a semi-rural area south of Buffalo) hasn't changed a whole lot since then. My mom still lives in the same house and when I visit it's like going back in time, in more ways than one! Whereas Washington, DC has changed immensely in just the last 10 years.

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  6. I'm always tempted by these photos, but I'm glad you said that it's pretty uninteresting most of the year -- might not be worth it. Or is it? These are pretty fabulous...

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    1. You could always buy a bunch of the dried stems from a florist or grocery store and decorate your declining tomato plants with them in the fall. It would look almost the same without having to deal with the uninteresting green blobs all summer.

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  7. I agree with the comments above: I love the orange lanterns but got scared of the prolific nature of this plant. Keep us updated as to the winner of the parking strip battle. I wish for harmonious and balanced co-existence: it would make a wonderful fall display!

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  8. My mom had these in front of the house - love them

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  9. Fun post. I am excited to hear about your construction project just in time for fall.

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    1. It should start this Saturday. I'll keep you posted.

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  10. These make amusing tie-ons for special packages. I love them in the garden. They may be uninteresting earlier, but this is when we really need that POP. They can be a little aggressive, but that's what shovels are for.

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    1. Some of my favorite plants are thugs! I don't mind duking it out with a beautiful plant! I'd just as soon pull this as a weed as something less interesting.

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  11. I've never grown these but they do look like a lot of fun.

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  12. This one of those plants I always mean to plant Thanks for posting about it fairly early in the season. I'll keep my eyes open for one.

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    1. It's a cool plant! Hope you find one. If not, I can get one for you!

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  13. Neat! I especially like the skeletonized form.

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  14. I love these! I first saw some years ago in San Fransisco. I didn't know they kept their color when you dried them : ) how fun!

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    1. We see the dried stems here at florists and grocery stores quite a bit in October/November.

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  15. My grandmother in IN used to grow this. It's so Halloween!

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  16. Hardy to zone 2! Sign me up! I love those orange lanterns.

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    1. It makes a nice jolt of color that goes so well with all the autumn leaves!

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  17. I have never seen a plant like this before? Is this a flower? or vegetable? or what?

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.