How to Grow Ground Cherry — Physalis

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Physalis–commonly called ground cherry or Chinese lantern–is a rhizomatous perennial that bears inconspicuous yellow flowers that are followed by spherical red, yellow, or purple berries that are enclosed in decorative, paper lantern-like calyces.

Physalis alkekengi known as Chinese lantern is a perennial cultivated for its decorative flowers. Physalis ixocarpa is an annual commonly known as tomatillo; it is cultivated for its husk-covered fruit that is often used in salsas and curries.

Physalis has triangular to diamond-shaped leaves to 5 inches long. Physalis are bushy often sprawling plants. Perennial Physalis can is hardy to Zone 3 but will die back to the ground after the first freeze.

Physalis is a genus of about 80 species of busy annuals and perennials native to the Americas.

Get to know Physalis – Ground Cherry

  • Plant type: Rhizomatous perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 8-11
  • Hardiness: Not frost hardy
  • Height and width: 24 to 36 inches tall and 24 inches wide
  • Foliage: Rounded, arrow-shaped leaves
  • Flowers: Bell-shaped flowers with star-shaped mouths appear singly, sometimes in small clusters
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Border, vegetable garden
  • Common name: Chinese latern, Japanese lantern, tomatillo, ground cherry
  • Botanical name: Physalis
  • Family name: Solanaceae
  • Origin: Americas
Physalis alkekengi

Where to plant Physalis – Ground Cherry

  • Plant Physalis in full sun.
  • Plant Physalis in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Plants spread quickly by rhizomes and can become invasive.

When to plant Physalis – Ground Cherry

  • Set container-grown Physalis in the garden after the last spring frost.

Planting and spacing Physalis – Ground Cherry

  • Space Physalis 24 to 36 inches apart.

How to water and feed Physalis – Ground Cherry

  • Water Physalis to keep the soil evening moist. Water during dry weather to keep plants growing evenly.
  • Fertilize Physalis with an all-purpose, organic fertilizer in spring.
Tomatillo, Physalis ixocarpa

Physalis care – Ground Cherry

  • Cut stems for drying as the calyces begin to color.
  • Contact with Physalis foliage can cause skin irritation.

Physalis pests and diseases – Ground Cherry

  • Physalis can be attacked by rust, white smut, and Cercospora leaf spot.
  • Caterpillars can attack Physalis.

Physalis propagation – Ground Cherry

  • Sow seed of perennials in containers in a cold frame in spring.
  • Sow seed of annuals in the garden in midspring.
  • Divide perennials in spring.

Physalis – Ground Cherry varieties to grow

  • Physalis alkekengi, Chinese lantern, Japanese lantern. Rhizomatous perenial grows to 30 inches tall and 36 inches wid; nodding bell-shaped cream-colored flower with star-shaped mouths; flowers appear from leaf axils in midsummer; bright orange-scarlet berries follow flowers; triangular-ovate shaped leaves.
  • P. ixocarpa, tomatillo. Frost-tender annual; bears small yellow flowers with purple markings followed by small, green fruits enclose in a yellow-purple bladder-like calyx; fruits are grown in vegetbable gardens; dark to midgreen compound leaves.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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