With their heart-shaped leaves and reddish orange, papery pods, Chinese lanterns make a unique focal point in the flower bed. Although Chinese lanterns are perennials, they rarely live longer than three years, and are often treated as annuals. They are related to the tomato, and are often called "ground cherries" or "tomatillo" because of the small fruits that grow inside the pods. Chinese lanterns are easily preserved and used as dried flowers in autumn arrangements and wreaths.
Harvest Chinese lantern in late summer when the pods turn bright orange. Chinese lanterns should be cut in the middle of the day, after the morning dew has evaporated.
Remove the leaves. Tie a small bunch of Chinese lanterns together by their stems, using rubber bands, pipe cleaners or soft string. Hang them right side up in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place such as a shed or basement.
Check the Chinese lanterns after about a week. If they feel dry to the touch, untie them and store them in paper bags or cardboard boxes. If they aren't dry, leave them for another week or two.