How to Grow Physalis Plants

Guide to Growing Cape Gooseberry and Chinese Lanterns

Physalis plants are mainly grown in the garden for their attractive lantern shaped seeds.

These can be dried out, and used as part of floral arrangements.

Physalis alkekengi
Physalis alkekengi by candiru.

Physalis plants are hardy perennials. They range in height from 30 cm to 1.2 m (1 to 4 feet).

They bloom in the summer and early autumn.

Some of the common names for Physalis include Chinese Lanterns, Winter cherry, Husk tomato, and Cape Gooseberry.

Commonly Grown Physalis Species

Physalis peruviana

Physalis peruviana
Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry / Goldenberry / Aguaymanto / Harankash / Ground Cherry), photograph by Harry Rose; CC.

Physalis alkekengi

Physalis alkekengi
Physalis alkekengi (Chinese Lanterns), picture by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.

Physalis angulata

Physalis angulata
Physalis angulata (Angular Winter Cherry / Balloon Cherry), picture by Dinesh Valke; CC.

Physalis Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Cape Gooseberry, Chinese Lanterns, Groundcherry, Winter cherry, Golden strawberry.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 14 to 60 inches (35—150 cm); some species as high as 10 feet (3 m).
  • Native: All species are from the Americas with the exception of Physalis alkekengi, which is native from southern Europe through to Japan/East China.

  • Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9.
  • Flowers: Summer through early autumn.
  • Flower Details: Inconspicuous. Yellow, white.
  • Fruit: Orange. Small. Lantern-like papery red or orange husk.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Tomato-like (both plants belong to the nightshade family).

  • Sow Outside: Seeds: Surface. Spring or summer.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: 2 to 4 weeks in the light. Temperature: 70 to 75°F (21—24°C). Start of spring. Spacing 10 to 36 inches (25—90 cm).
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight or partial shade. Good drainage. Average soil. Regular watering. Cut stems back to the ground in autumn. Propagate: by at the start of spring.

  • Family: Solanaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Nightshades.
  • Miscellaneous: Great for use as a dried flower. Used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever, sore throats, and coughs. Spreads from its root system so may become invasive; consider growing in a contained area. Seeds of Physalis alkekengi are traditionally used in Japan to offer guidance to spirits.

How to Grow Physalis Plants

The seeds of Physalis can be sown outdoors on the soil surface in spring or summer.

It is best to grow them in an ordinary soil. This should have good drainage. Locate in an area of the garden that is sunny or partially shaded.

You can start off Chinese lanterns by sowing the seeds indoors first, do this at the start of spring.

It should take about two to four weeks to germinate at 21 to 25 degrees centigrade (70 to 77°F) in the light.

Once growing transplant seedlings into the garden aat bout 30 cm (12 inches) apart (small Physalis species) to 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3 feet; larger varieties).

Caring for Cape Gooseberry, Chinese Lanterns, and other Physalis plants

Once growing, it is best to regularly water Chinese Lanterns, Cape Gooseberry, and other Physalis plants. The stems should be cut back to ground level in the autumn.

If you require more plants, then propagate by division in the first month of spring.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Physalis plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Tomatoes, Cupflower, and Nicandra plants.