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chinese lanterns

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Physalis alkekengi
(FY-sa-lis  al-ke-KEN-jee)

Chinese lantern, Japanese lantern,
Winter cherry, Bladder cherry

Chinese lanterns are notable for their pendulous, bladderlike, orange calyxes—the “lanterns.” The calyxes, which hang from leafy, lightly haired main stems, have a thin, paperlike texture and enclose red-orange (when ripe) berries.

Chinese lanterns are green at first, then yellow and finally orange to red-orange as they mature. (The color develops as the berries inside the calyxes ripen.)

When given proper care, Chinese lanterns can last for five to 10 days or longer as fresh flowers, but because they dry beautifully in a fresh-appearing state, consumers often perceive them as lasting for months.

These distinctive botanicals are available from July through December, but peak production occurs in September, October and November. Early crops usually have green calyxes.

PROCESSING Immediately upon their arrival, remove Chinese lanterns from the shipping boxes, and check flower quality (see “Purchasing Checklist”). Next, remove any leaves that would be under water in the storage containers, and recut the stems with a sharp knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, then place them into clean, disinfected containers partially filled with warm (100 F to 110 F), properly proportioned flower-food solution.
REFRIGERATION/STORAGE After processing, place Chinese lanterns into a floral cooler at 34 F to 38 F, and allow the stems to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them. These botanicals also can be held at room temperature.
CARE EXTRA Recut stems, wash containers and change flower-food solution every other day to prevent bacteria buildup. Stems can become slimy quickly.

fun facts


WHAT’S IN A NAME The botanical name Physalis comes from the Greek word “physa,” meaning “bladder,” in reference to the puffy calyxes. The specific epithet “alkekengi” is derived from Al-Kakendi, who was an Arab physician and pharmaceutical authority to the Eastern Caliphate (western central Asia during the European Dark Ages).

FAMILY MATTERS Chinese lanterns are members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. Close relatives include Petunia; jessamine; tomato and tomatillo; bell pepper, chili pepper and cayenne pepper; eggplant, potato and Jerusalem cherry; tobacco; and thorn apple and jimson weed.

HOME SWEET HOME Chinese lanterns are native to an expansive region from southern Europe through Asia, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Korea and Japan.

HEALING PROPERTIES Throughout history, herbalists have recommended P. alkekengi berries for the treatment of fevers, arthritis, rheumatism, gout and urinary disorders. The berries are still used today as a homeopathic remedy for headaches, dizziness, stiff limbs and cramps, fevers, and urinary and respiratory disorders.


purchasing checklist

  • Chinese lanterns are usually sold in five-stem bunches. Packaging should be somewhat loose, to minimize damage and rot.
  • Look for “lanterns” that are puffed out and undamaged. (These botanicals are extremely delicate and damage easily, so choose bunches that have the fewest damaged calyxes.)
  • Avoid bunches that have spots on the calyxes or leaves.Make sure stems are clean and nonslimy.


design tips

  • Chinese lanterns are interesting botanicals, especially suited for masculine and fall designs.

  • These unusual botanicals dry beautifully and naturally. Keep the stems in clean flower-food solution until the calyxes (“lanterns”) are dried.

  • For an interesting look, split some calyxes into three or more sections while they are fresh. Then, as they dry, the calyxes will curl outward, exposing the berries inside.


Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Firefly Dictionary of Plant Names, The: Common & Botanical, by Harold Bagust
Floral Artists’ Guide, The: A Reference to Cut Flowers and Foliages, by Pat Diehl Scace
Florists’ Review
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners by William T. Stearn


Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.