How To Grow And Care For Lantana
Want blooms all summer for next to no work? Try lantana.
Lantanas thrive in hot, dry weather and tolerate just about any well-drained soil, growing well even near the beach. They're a magnet for butterflies. There’s no flower that does a better job of attracting them. Plant them in masses, let them cascade over a wall, or display them in window boxes, hanging baskets, or planters.
Native to tropical America, lantanas can grow as annuals or perennials, depending on where you live. Tiny flowers in tight clusters that resemble miniature nosegays appear nearly continuously in warm weather. Although some selections boast flowers in solid colors, many have bicolored clusters.
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is a rounded, shrubby plant that you sometimes see in older gardens in the Deep South. It grows 4 to 5 feet high and wide and sports orange, red, or yellow flowers. Trailing lantana (L. montevidensis) has thinner, more pliable stems and spreads, rather than mounding. It grows about 1 foot tall and up to 6 feet wide with lavender or white flowers. Most lantanas sold today are hybrids or selections of these two species.
Lantana, shrub verbena
1–5 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide
All growing season
Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Purple, White
Zones 6–11 (USDA)
South America, Central America
Toxic to humans; Toxic to dogs and cats
Lantanas are treated as annuals in most of the Upper and Middle South, as perennials elsewhere. Where they overwinter, prune back hard in early spring to remove dead wood and encourage vigorous new growth. Unpruned plants may become large, woody shrubs. Feed and water lightly, as too much fertilizer and water will reduce bloom.
Lantana thrives in full sun. Plant this prolific bloomer in a sunny spot that will receive at least 6 hours of sunshine every day. It can tolerate some shade, but at the cost of reduced blooms.
Lantana does best in well-draining soil, because it won’t tolerate excessive water. Soil should be neutral to slightly acidic.
Keep newly planted lantana watered for the first few weeks while the plant is becoming established. Lantana will quickly become drought tolerant, but if a drought period occurs, water once a week at the base of the plant.
Temperature and Humidity
Lantana will grow well in Southern climates as long as it receives enough sunlight. But if the temperatures drop below freezing, and they do in the Upper South, lantana won’t make it and should be treated as an annual. This plant originated in tropical heat and humidity and does best in similar environments. It also grows well near the shore.
Feed and water lightly, as too much fertilizer and water will reduce bloom and make the plant susceptible to disease and will decrease bloom production.
Types of Lantana
You can choose from a bevy of lantana in just about every shade but blue. Most popular are the low-growing, spreading types, which are great for using in hanging baskets, cascading over walls, or massing in large sweeps. Unfortunately, most nurseries sell lantanas by color, not by name. Still, it's worth looking for these specific types.
'New Gold': yellow flowers; low, trailing habit; seedless; profuse bloomer.
'Pinkie': pink and cream flowers; low, trailing habit; seedless.
'Silver Mound': cream blossoms with yellow centers; grows up to 2 feet tall and wide; attracts butterflies.
Landmark Hybrids: dense, mounding habit; up to 11⁄2 feet tall and 2 feet wide; orange, gold, white, peach, pink, or rose blooms; uniform growth; great in borders.
'Lemon Swirl' ('Samantha'): yellow flowers and yellow-edged leaves; seedless; grows 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
'Dallas Red' ('Texas Flame'): orange, yellow, and red blooms turn deep red; mounding habit; grows up to 3 feet tall.
'Patriot Rainbow': compact; grows up to 1 foot tall and wide; gaudy yellow, orange, and fuchsia flowers.
Every March, you’ll want to prune perennial lantana back to 6 to 12 inches from the ground. Removing the old growth prevents lantana from becoming a woody shrub. Do not prune lantana in the fall. If you’re growing lantana as an annual, no pruning is necessary.
Spring is the best time to propagate lantana cuttings. Here’s how to propagate lantana.
Prepare a small nursery container with seed starting mix or equal parts peat and perlite. Moisten the mix with water, then using a pencil or your finger, make a hole in the growing medium where you’ll put your cutting. The hole should be about 2 inches deep.
Using sterile garden shearers, cut a 4-inch tip from your lantana plant’s new growth. Remove the lower leaves on the cutting. Leave the top couple of leaves.
Coat the cut end of the lantana with rooting hormone and put it in the hole in the nursery pot. Firm the soil around the cutting so it stands up.
Place the nursery pot in a plastic bag and seal the top. This will help the cutting retain moisture as it takes root. Expect it to take a few weeks before you see new growth. At that time, remove the pot from the bag and ready the plant for the garden.
How to Grow Lantana From Seed
To grow lantana from seed, soak the seeds for 24 hours in warm water to soften the seed coat. Fill small nursery pots with soilless growing medium, then moisten the medium with water. Plant one or two seeds per pot and cover with ⅛ of the medium. Set the pots in plastic bags and close the bags to retain the moisture. Keep the bag out of direct light during this time. It might take a few weeks for a seedling to emerge. When it does, remove the pot from the bag. If both seeds emerge, cut the weaker seedling with scissors so the stronger seedling has a better chance.
Where they overwinter, prune back hard in early spring to remove dead wood and encourage vigorous new growth. Unpruned plants may become large, woody shrubs.
Common Pests & Diseases
Lantana needs well-drained soil and will succumb to root rot if the plants are watered too frequently or sit in water. When grown in the shade, lantana is susceptible to powdery mildew. If you see a blackish discoloration, commonly known as sooty mold, on the leaves, it’s usually caused by whiteflies. Other insects that might bother your lantana are lace bugs, which appear gray to brown, caterpillars, and mites.
How to Get Lantana to Bloom
Generally speaking, you won’t have problems getting lantana to bloom. Poor bloom can be caused if lantana isn’t receiving enough sunshine or is fertilized too much. It can also happen if the variety of lantana sets berries. To increase flowering, trim the lantana back. This will encourage new growth and blooms.
Frequently Asked Questions
My lantana is producing a small fruit. Is it safe to eat?
No! The fruit can be toxic so do not eat it. If you’re worried about exposing little people or pets to this potential toxin, choose a sterile cultivar. Some include: ‘New Gold’, ‘Samantha’ (‘Lemon Swirl’), ‘Miss Huff’, ‘Mozelle’, ‘Patriot Deen Day Smith’, ‘Patriot Marc Cathey’, ‘Weeping Lavender’ and ‘Weeping White’.
Do lantana attract butterflies?
A lantana garden is butterfly heaven; no flowers do a better job of attracting them.
Can lantana grow indoors?
Lantana is not recommended as an indoor plant. It is best grown outdoors as a perennial or annual depending on the climate.
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