- Everything You Want to Know About Growing & Using Lantana
- Lantana Variations & Cultivars
- Tips on Planting Lantana
- Care for Lantana Plants
- How to Use Lantata Plants?
- Deadheading Lantana Plants: Removing Spent Blooms On Lantana
- Should I Deadhead Lantana Plants?
- When to Deadhead a Lantana
Everything You Want to Know About Growing & Using Lantana
The name of the large genus Lantana may be more commonly known to most people as verbena. The genus comprises more than 150 species, make it a versatile and plentiful group of plants to choose from when selecting perennials for a garden or landscape. In fact, there are so many varieties of verbena that is can be difficult to navigate the sea of colors, growth heights and blooming patterns of the group. Fortunately, we’ve captured all the basics here for you, so read on to learn more about this lovely and prolific genus.
Lantana Variations & Cultivars
Lantanas are available in a rainbow of colors, and more are being introduced all the time. Varieties may grow low to the ground as a plant or get a little taller like a shrub. Some of the common shades are red, white, blue, yellow, orange, and even blue, but many plants feature blooms that change hue as the season progresses. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular varieties and their characteristics:
- Lantana camara: Also known as Spanish Flag, this is the most widely available varieties of lantana, and there are many cultivars within this species such as Dallas Red and Irene. In fact, when a lantana plant is label simply as “Common Lantana,” it’s extremely likely it’s a camara cultivar.
- Lantana montevidensis: This variety often is referred to as trailing lantana or shrub verbena. It comes in many different colors and can bloom year-round in tropical climates. It’s often used ornamentally in flower gardens.
- Lantana depressa: The name says it all for this variation, which spreads like ground cover and features small, colorful blooms.
- Lantana strigose: Rough Shrubverbena earns its name from its “hairy” leaves. The blooms, however, are identical to those found on common lantana varieties.
- Lantana involucrate: This variety loves tropical areas and also may be called buttonsage or wild sage because of its fragrance.
Tips on Planting Lantana
Lantana is widely considered a perennial in tropical regions of the globe, but it also grows fairly widely as an annual. Plants thrive in the southeast part of the United States but also can be found in Ecuador, Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. They are so prolific in Australia that they are considered an invasive species and efforts are made to control their growth. If you are considering planting lantana in your garden or landscape, here are the guidelines to follow:
- Zones: In the United States, lantana does best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 and above. In the cooler regions it is an annual; in warmer areas it can bloom all year. It also commonly is used as a houseplant thanks to its long blooming period and bright, cheerful colors. If the plant is in a pot on the patio during summer, it should be brought inside when temperatures drop to around 50 degrees.
- Sun exposure: Lantana like bright sunlight for at least six hours per day in order to maintain their profuse flowers. However, although you can grow them in full sun, they appreciate a bit of afternoon shade so try to plant them in places where they will get a few hours of part sun.
- Soil: Lantana grow best in moist, well-drained soil, that’s slightly acidic, but they can survive in drier conditions. Drainage is important as they don’t live as long with wet roots. Lantana thrive in pots but need some sort of moisture source. If you will using lantanas as houseplants, place the pot over a plate with water and rocks for moisture. They are quite easy to grow indoors as long as they have enough sunlight each day. Remember to rotate the planter weekly so they don’t start ‘leaning in’!
- Timing: Lantanas come into home and garden stores usually in the early spring before the bloom. Once they have flowered, the bloom should last at least into the early fall. In zones 7 and above, plant lantana in the fall and enjoy the colorful blooms late into the winter months. If you are using a variety that can survive in Zone 7, we recommend mulching heavily in case of a prolonged freeze.
- Landscaping: This is an extremely popular genus for landscape plants. You can plant the lower-growing versions along walkways, on ledges or near riverbanks. The trailing varieties in particular make ideal container plants, especially when combined with the bright green of sweet potato vine. The shrub varieties, which grow taller, can be used throughout a landscape design where foliage and prolific pops of bright color are needed. They fill a corner spot well but also get along with most other garden plantings. Some people even choose to create a lantana tree. This involves starting a shrub lantana variety in the spring and carefully pruning it as new growth appears. The stem should be supported with a bamboo stick until the plant is strong enough to stand on its own. With timely pruning and transplanting, a tree shape will appear, and the plant can bloom continuously if brought into the house starting in the fall.
Care for Lantana Plants
Lantanas are not a fussy bunch, but they still have their needs and vulnerabilities. In the garden they require basic maintenance, and as a houseplant they need trimming and light in order to sustain their flowering habit. Here are some guidelines for how to keep your lantanas happy and healthy no matter where they are planted:
- Blooms: In tropical climates, lantanas can bloom nearly year-round. In the southern United States, they serve mostly as annuals, showing flowers from spring into fall. The range of colors lantanas may take is nearly unlimited. Red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple flowers are easy to come by. One of the most endearing traits of lantanas is that their blooms change color as the season progresses, so a yellow flower might eventually morph into an orange or reddish bloom, sometimes with more than one shade on a single petal. The cheerful colorations that lantanas offer is the chief reason it is so popular among gardeners across the United States.
- Leaves: The leaves of lantana species are fairly small and medium green with a serrated spear shape. Many varieties have a fuzzy hand feel (see strigose, above), but some are smooth. The leaves are one of the first indicators of poor plant health. Changes in coloration or spotting likely are signs of an infestation.
- Trimming: Lantanas respond will to trimming both indoors and out. Pruning of outdoor plants should take place in the spring. Gardeners may cut back about a third of the growth. Deadheading spent blooms can keep the plant looking attractive all season long, but it is not vital to its health. Indoor plants should be trimmed periodically to keep them at a size that’s appropriate for the indoors. If you are thinking about getting an indoor plant then you might want to see this website here on how to help them grow further. Tree-trimmed specimens require routine pruning to help maintain their shape.
- Fertilizing: Although it is not crucial, some gardeners prefer to fertilize their lantana plants. Use a balanced fertilizer of about 10-10-10, and be careful not to overdo it. Too much fertilizer can burn and kill the plant.
- Pests: There is a common belief that the leaves of lantanas are poisonous to many herbivores, but there are some bird species that consider them to be quite tasty. It is believed that their rampant growth in Australia might be due to its undesirable taste among some animals. They also might be dangerous for pets if eaten routinely.
- Disease: Though hardy, the lantana genus has its share of natural threats. Insects such as lace wings or white flies can attack the leaves, making them turn black. There some molds that might make their home in lantanas as well, including powdery mildew or sooty mold. These, along with the insect problems, may be treated with chemical sprays formulated for plants.
- Propagation: Stem cuttings are the easiest way to propagate lantanas, though some people use start them from seeds as well. To take grow a stem cutting, snip three inches of a nonflowering shoot and dip the ends into root hormone, carefully avoiding any low-growing leaves. Plant the cutting in a mix of perlite and peat moss and place the tray in a plastic bag situated next to a window that has filtered light (such as through a sheer curtain). After a few weeks, roots should have formed, and the plants may be removed from the bag and placed into larger individual pots.
- Berries: Lantanas produce berries that often are blamed for sickening people or animals that consume them. However, there are humans who routinely make pies out of the ripe berries or eat them while hiking if they find them along the trails. The general rule is to avoid unripe berries entirely and use caution if eating ripe versions.
- Attractants: Another lantana selling point is the fact that the plants attract butterflies to the garden in many parts of the United States. Hummingbirds, also, are frequent visitors to yards that have lantanas as part of the landscape. If you want to attract hummingbirds and butterflies near your home so you can observe them through your window, plant lantana varieties in hanging pots placed near the windows. Certain birds also like to harvest the bright flowers of lantana plants to decorate their nests and attract mates.
- Bees: Because honey bees create distinct varieties of honey depending on what types of plant from which they are gathering nectar, some people plant large swaths of lantanas to get lantana honey. This is mostly common in areas where large meadows of the plant grow freely.
How to Use Lantata Plants?
Despite the plant’s reputation for being poisonous in some cases, there still are plenty of people who consume parts of the plant or use it for various other purposes. Here are some of the ways in which lantanas are used for more than just pretty garden plants.
- Wood: Tribal cultures in India use the wood stems of the plant to make furniture that resists rain, sun, and termites. For them it is readily available and much less costly than bamboo.
- Extracts: Distilled extracts made from the plant may be an effective insecticide for other plant species such as cabbage. There is a particular type of aphid that can be terminated using the extract.
- Oil from leaves: Commonly called “verbena” when used as a scent ingredient, the oil from lantana leaves is lightly citrusy and quite strong. Candles, body lotions, and room fresheners may include fragrance oil for lantana.
- Medicinal: By far the most popular and varied use the lantana plant aside from landscaping is its touted medicinal use. The oil may be used to treat skin rashes and sooth cuts, abrasions and stings. Some people allow the leaves to steep in a water bath, and soaking feet or elbows in the water may help alleviate the pain of rheumatism. Brewing the leaves into a tea is a traditional treatment across the globe to help with cold symptoms, headaches, fever, and indigestion. Other people inhale the steam from the hot tea to address respiratory ailments. Even the roots of the plant may be pressed into service. After they are dried, they are brewed and consumed to allegedly treat flu symptoms and cough.
- Repellant: The highly fragranced leaves often are dried and burned. The smoke is said to repel mosquitos and other pesky insects.
- Culinary: As mentioned above, it is not unheard of for people to harvest ripe berries from lantana species and use them in cooking. In Ecuador, residents make them into jams, pies, and beverages regularly. Still, the debate about their toxicity continues.
Clearly, the lantana genus contains a huge variety of species, preferences, and uses. In some countries, it is considered at best a weed and at worst an invasive species. But there are still more regions in which lantana is embraces as a beautiful and prolific blooming landscaping plant that no garden is complete without.
Gardeners enjoy lantana for its relative ease of growth and wide variety of blooming colors. Those who want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to their garden spaces may plant lantanas throughout the landscape. The discussion about the toxicity of its leaves and young berries as they pertain to wild animals, pets, and humans continue to be debated, but in the ripe berries seem to relatively safe for consumption.
Truly the lantana is useful plant to have in your gardening repertoire, so don’t hesitate to consider it for your landscape, container or planting box. Bring a bit of cheerful color and butterfly beauty to your home.
Q. I have been trying to start lantana from seed and cannot seem to make anything work. What am I doing wrong?
A. Lantana, Lantana camara, is a popular shrub in all areas of the country, whether grown in the ground or in pots. The multicolored flowers can lend a rich accent to garden landscapes every-where. In Southern California, lantana is considered a year-round garden plant, but in colder areas, it is treated as an annual.
Thrifty gardeners in these colder locations often take cuttings from their lantana plants during the summer and keep the rooted cuttings indoors until winter has passed and they can be returned to the garden.
To propagate lantana from cuttings, take a 6- to 8-inch cutting from the most recent growth. You should have at least two nodes (places where leaves grow from the twig) on each cutting. Snip off any flowers and remove the leaves from the lowest node. Plant the twig with the lowest node covered by the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Lantana roots very easily in summer, so now is a good time to give this a try. The use of a rooting hormone may increase your success rate, but I have not found it to be necessary.
Lantana is also easily grown from seed, which can be started indoors any time of the year. Simply plant the seed in a sterile commercial soil mix formulated for starting seed, covering the seed lightly with the planting mix.
You should keep the soil damp but not wet while waiting for germination to take place. The ideal soil temperature for seed germination is 70 to 75 degrees. Patience will be necessary since germination typically takes six to eight weeks. Because of this long germination period, it is essential to use sterile soil mix to prevent soil-borne diseases, and water carefully to avoid rotting of the seeds themselves.
Whether you choose to grow them from seed or cuttings, your efforts will be rewarded with a supply of drought-tolerant shrubs that can provide your garden with mounds of bright color.
Q. We are doing some home improvements and had to cut back a large tree branch that was about 4 inches in diameter. It was cut off to the trunk. Should I tar the cut end of the branch to prevent any disease from getting into the tree?
A. Make sure the cut end is nice and smooth, not ragged. You don’t need to apply any tree-wound sealant because the tree is capable of producing its own barriers to decay-producing fungi.
Ottillia “Toots” Bier has been a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener since 1980. Send comments and questions to [email protected]
Contact the writer: [email protected]
Lantana becomes a large shrub in warmer areas of the country (zones 10-8).
The genus Lantana, in the Family Verbenaceae, includes more than 150 species of hairy-leaved and often prickly-stemmed shrubs and herbaceous perennials native to the tropical Americas. Most are hardy only to USDA Zone 8. All produce verbena-like flowers in stalked clusters arising from the leaf axils or at the ends of branches. Spanish colonists were interested in lantanas first for their reputed medicinal value, using them to make infusions as a tonic for the stomach or to cure snake bites. Now most interest in these plants is for their colorful blossoms that are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Lantana is attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Trailing lantana spreads more than common lantana.
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is a small perennial shrub with yellow, orange or red flowers, but as a fast-growing, profuse bloomer it (or its hybrids) this tender perennial is best treated as an annual in our area. Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) is a low-growing, spreading plant that produces a profusion of lavender, purple or white flowers which also attract butterflies. It is good for baskets or training into standards.
Flower clusters are composed of a number of small, tubular flowers.
The flowers are borne in flat-topped clusters on a long stalk. Each individual flower is small and tubular. Depending on the variety, the flowers may be white, pink, or yellow, changing to orange or red. If successfully pollinated, plants produce fleshy berry-like green fruits that become bluish black. The unripe berries are poisonous and the leaves can cause contact dermatitis or minor skin irritation in some people. (Another detrimental aspect is the leaves usually have a disagreeable odor when rubbed or crushed.) Deer and rabbits avoid feeding on lantana.
Common lantana growing as a weed in a manioc field in Fiji.
In some places lantanas are troublesome weeds, spread mainly by birds that are very fond of their juicy fruits. Lantana is considered an invasive weed in Hawaii, Florida, Texas, eastern Australia, the Galapagos Islands and other islands and areas.
This plant can be used in mixed beds or borders and is good in containers and hanging baskets. It can also be grown as a houseplant if you have enough light.
Yellow and white cultivars growing together in an ornamental bed.
Lantana does best in full sun and hot temperatures in well drained soil. It is easy to grow and is heat, drought and sun-tolerant. Too much water and fertilizer will reduce bloom. In containers, fertilize once a month during the growing season, but plants in the ground should not need any fertilization. The plants should be deadheaded to encourage continuous bloom. You can clip the individual faded flowers, or trim the whole plant with hedge clippers.
Lantana is a good choice for hot, dry areas.
Lantana can be grown from seed or cuttings. Seedlings take a long time to bloom, however, so in our short season it is best to start with purchased plants or take hard wood cuttings in the fall to produce young plants for the following spring. Lantana is killed at 28° F, so must be protected from frosts and moved indoors for the winter if you wish to keep the plant.
Lantana montevidensis (trailing lantana) produces purple flowers.
There are many named varieties and hybrids of lantana available that are more compact, bloom earlier, produce more colorful flowers, or hold their flowers better in bad weather than the “common” type. Some new varieties are also almost sterile (rarely set seed), which means deadheading is not as important for continuous bloom and it is unlikely to become invasive (although that’s not a concern in Wisconsin). Trailing lantanas typically have the best flowering, followed by mounding types and upright types, respectively. Some common varieties are listed here (however, lantana cultivar names are numerous and sometimes confused):
- ‘Confetti’ produces multicolored yellow, pink and magenta flowers.
- ‘Dallas Red’ has solid red flowers and blooms well.
- ‘Gold Mound’ has yellowish orange flowers, flowers well, and is resistant to early fruiting.
- ‘Imperial Purple’ is a trailing plant with many purple flowers.
- ‘Irene’ is a compact variety with intense magenta flowers tinged with lemon yellow and orange that do not wash out in strong sun.
- ‘Lemon Drop’ is a trailing plant that produces lots of yellowish white flowers, and is resistant to early fruiting.
‘New Gold’ is one of the best new varieties.
‘New Gold’ is a small plant ( one foot tall and 2 feet wide) that is covered with dark golden-yellow 2-inch clusters of blooms which are produced just above the foliage. It is also completely fruitless.
- ‘Patriot Dove Wings’ is a good bloomer with white flowers.
- ‘Patriot Firewagon’ is upright growing with red flowers.
- ‘Patriot Rainbow’ is a freeblooming, compact plant with magenta flowers.
- ‘Patriot Sunburst’ flowers freely.
- ‘Patriot Tangerine’ has hot orange flowers and consistent bloom.
- ‘Radiation’ has multicolored yellow and coral flowers with orange throats on plants 3-5 feet wide and high.
- ‘Samantha’ (‘Lemon Swirl’) has bright yellow flowers and variegated foliage, with a bright yellow band around each leaf.
- ‘Silver Mound’ has creamy flowers with a gold eye, produces lots of flowers on mounded plants and is resistant to early fruiting.
- ‘Spreading Sunset’ grows upright with vivid orange flowers with a coral center.
- ‘Sunny Daze’ is a trailing lantana with bright lavender and purple flowers and
- ‘Weeping White’ is a trailing plant with white flowers.
- ‘White Lightening’ is a trailing plant with lots of white flowers.
Wild Lantana camara in bloom.
These varieties may not be readily available in Wisconsin; to get a particular variety, you may have to order from suppliers in southern states (where lantana can be grown outdoors and different types are more plentiful as perennials).
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Deadheading Lantana Plants: Removing Spent Blooms On Lantana
Lantanas are striking flowering plants that thrive in the heat of summer. Grown as perennials in frost-free climates and annuals everywhere else, lantanas ought to bloom as long as it’s warm out. That being said, you can take steps to encourage even more flowers. Keep reading to learn more about when and how to deadhead lantana flowers.
Should I Deadhead Lantana Plants?
We get a lot of questions about deadheading lantana plants. While deadheading is sometimes a good idea, it can also get pretty tedious. The basic idea behind deadheading is that once a flower has faded, it’s replaced by seeds. The plant needs energy to make these seeds and, unless you’re planning on saving them, that energy could be better devoted to making more flowers.
By cutting off the flower before the seeds start to form, you’re basically giving the plant extra energy for new flowers. Lantanas are interesting because some varieties have been bred to be virtually seedless.
So before you undertake a big deadheading project, take a look at your spent flowers. Is there a seedpod beginning to form? If there is, then your plant will really benefit from regular deadheading. If there isn’t, then you’re in luck! Removing spent blooms on lantana plants like this won’t do much of anything.
When to Deadhead a Lantana
Deadheading lantana plants during the blooming period can help make way for new flowers. But if all your blooms have faded and the fall frost is still far away, you can take measures beyond simply removing spent blooms on lantana plants.
If all of the flowers have faded and there are no new buds growing, prune back the whole plant to ¾ of its height. Lantanas are vigorous and fast-growing. This should encourage new growth and a new set of flowers.