Harvest Chinese lantern plant pods to create the perfect, illuminated holiday display.
CREATIVE SOLUTION | I first spotted brilliant orange Chinese lanterns fitted over mini-lights on an organically decorated Christmas tree. This is one way to use them for sure, though I like them better when they are used to create an original Thanksgiving or Halloween display. I love them threaded through a tangle of branches on the front porch or on top of the mantel or on a dinner table. I also love mini-lanterns strung around doorways for a punch of spot-on seasonal colour.
Commonly known as Chinese lanterns, Physalis alkekengi franchetii, the variety shown here, is actually native to Japan. I bought dried lanterns from a florist, but they are easily grown from seed. Choose your site carefully as they are highly invasive. Pick the lanterns when they start to turn orange in the fall, and hang them upside down to dry for several days. Properly dried Chinese lanterns can keep for up to two years.
To use Chinese lanterns over mini-lights, remove the stem, cut a small hole in the base with nail scissors and extract the fruit. I wound florist’s tape around each light base so the lanterns would fit snugly. —Brendan Power
You can find Chinese lantern plants at most corner grocery stores where they also sell flowers; most florists carry them, too, though you may well pay extra for proximity and convenience.
Photo: Martin Tessler