Lantana pests and diseases

Lantana Pests

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Lantanas are ornamental plants prized for cold hardiness, bright blooms and a degree of drought tolerance. Although lantanas are generally quite resistant to pests and diseases, a handful of pests may negatively impact this plant. Proper cultural practices will help to limit the severity of an attack, and early detection and identification of a pest will speed up the treatment and recovery process.

Lace Bugs

Lace bugs are the most common lantana pests in many regions. Lace bug populations grow most rapidly when temperatures approach 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This insect feeds on the undersides of leaves, causing the top of the leaf to develop yellow, brown or white specks; heavily infested leaves turn yellow or brown and may drop early. The adult lays eggs on the leaf underside and secures them with a noticeable brownish substance. To treat heavy lace bug infestations, prune out severely damaged potions of the lantana and treat the plant with a systematic insecticide like acephate or imidacloprid. Provide adequate water and nutrients to ensure lantana recovery.

Lantana Leafblotch Miner

The lantana leafblotch miner feeds on the interior of the lantana leaf, leaving a whitish trail or blotch. The adult is a small, shiny black fly and the feeding larvae is yellowish white. Although leaf miner damage can be noticeable, plants can tolerate a fair amount of injury before health is affected. Control this pest by pruning and destroying infested branches and encouraging healthy growth with proper cultural practices. Many regions also have parasitic wasps that help control leaf miner populations. Additionally, several insecticides contain active ingredients capable of leaf miner control.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are small, white insects that have a fine, powdery wax body covering. Immature whiteflies, located on leaf undersides, are tiny, flat, oval and somewhat translucent. Both adult and young whiteflies feed on the lantana, leaving yellow leaf spots. A severe infestation can cause leaf drop. This pest can be controlled with horticultural oil, insecticidal soap and a number of different insecticides.

Aphids

Several aphid species may feed on lantana, sucking sap from the plant and excreting a sticky substance known as honeydew. This pest is a small, soft-bodied insect that can be found in a variety of colors. Aphids generally group together on buds, leaf undersides and on growing tips. Heavily infested plants can experience leaf yellowing, leaf drop or curl and wilting. Most insecticides are labelled for aphid control.

Mites

Spider mites are tiny, eight-legged pests found on the undersides of leaves. The presence of these pests is indicated by a silken webbing and yellow to gray stippling on leaves. Mite damage is most severe during hot, dry periods, and a severe infestation can cause leaf drop. Mites can be controlled with horticultural oil, insecticidal soaps and a number of insecticides.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are one-fourth inch long, soft-bodied insects that can be found on stems or the undersides of leaves along veins. Mealybug damage may resemble that of aphids. Mealybugs lay their eggs in clusters covered with cottony white material. Mealybugs can be treated with a 50-50 spray of water and isopropyl alcohol, horticultural oil, insecticidal soaps or a number of different insecticides.

Lantana

Lantana is commonly grown as a sun-loving flowering annual in South Carolina. A few cultivars are reliably perennial throughout much of the state. More are perennial near the coast. All are tough, resilient plants that thrive in hot weather and bloom profusely from spring until frost.

Lantanas are very attractive to butterflies. This is ‘Mozelle’ lantana (Lantana camara).
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Height/Spread

Some cultivars grow to as much as 5 to 6 feet tall, forming large, bushy mounds while others stay low and spreading, reaching up to 4 feet wide, but only 1 to 2 feet in height. Some cultivars are more compact.

Growth Rate

Lantanas generally grow rapidly. Some cultivars, such as ‘Miss Huff’, are extremely vigorous. If plants outgrow their assigned space, they tolerate trimming back well during the growing season.

Ornamental Features

Lantana is valued for its long season of reliable bloom. Many cultivars display multiple colors within each two-inch wide disc-shaped flower head. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Foliage is coarse, lightly toothed and rough to the touch. Crushed leaves have a pungent scent, so you may want to locate where the plant it will not spread across walks if the odor offends you.

Landscape Use

Use lantana as annuals or perennials in flowerbeds or containers. Spreading cultivars are attractive as groundcovers or trailing over containers and walls.

Grow lantana in full sun. Lantana is tolerant of all soil types provided they are well drained and slightly acid. Lantana is tolerant to salt and is an excellent choice for plantings near the beach. Lantana prefers warm soil. Plant lantana in spring, at least 2 weeks after all danger of frost is past. Hardy lantanas will typically show no growth in the spring until soil and air temperatures are quite warm.

Maintenance

Water: Newly planted lantanas will need to be kept moist for the first few weeks until the roots have spread into the surrounding soil.

While established lantanas are drought tolerant, performance, bloom, and growth rate will be reduced if they are too dry for a long period. During their blooming period, give them a thorough watering once a week if they do not receive an inch of rain that week. Avoid overhead watering. Overly frequent overhead watering can make plant more susceptible to diseases and root rot.

Pruning: Prune lantana periodically during summer by lightly shearing the tip growth to encourage repeat blooming. Plants that have become too large for their allotted space may be pruned back by up to a third of their height and spread. Water and lightly fertilize newly cut back plants and they will return to bloom quickly.

Prune perennial lantanas back hard in spring (March) to remove old growth and prevent woodiness. Cut back to about 6 to 12 inches from ground level. Avoid hard pruning in fall as this can cause reduced cold hardiness.

Fertilizer: Lantana requires little fertilizer. A light fertilization in spring will usually be sufficient. Vigorously growing plants may be fertilized again in mid summer, provided plants are not water stressed. Excessive fertilizer may reduce flowering and make plants more susceptible to disease.

Problems

Although lantana is generally a very low maintenance plant with few problems, some may occur, especially in improper growing conditions.

Lantana is susceptible to powdery mildew if grown in shade. Sooty mold, causing a blackish discoloration on the leaves is usually caused by infestation by whiteflies.

Root rot can be a problem if soil is poorly drained or plants are watered too frequently.

Lantana lace bugs cause leaves to appear grayish and stippled or to brown and drop. Caterpillar damage also can occur. Mites can be a problem, especially if plants are very dry.

Some cultivars produce small blue-black fleshy fruit. The fruit can be poisonous, especially if eaten in quantity. Fruiting can be avoided by growing sterile cultivars. Sterile cultivars that are available include ‘New Gold’, ‘Samantha’ (‘Lemon Swirl’), ‘Miss Huff’, ‘Mozelle’, ‘Patriot Deen Day Smith’, ‘Patriot Marc Cathey’, ‘Weeping Lavender’ and ‘Weeping White’.

Poor blooming is usually caused by too much shade or excessive fertilization. Plants that set berries may decline in bloom. Trim plants back to encourage new growth and flowering.

Species & Cultivars

Sterile cultivars are desirable since they do not produce seed, and so stay reliably in bloom throughout the summer. Some of these cultivars may set a limited amount of fertile berries.

Unless noted otherwise, listed species and cultivars are not reliably hardy and will most likely perform as annuals.

Common Lantana Cultivars: Common lantana (Lantana camara) is the most widely grown species, with numerous cultivars. Plants tend to be large and mound shaped, although some have spreading habit. Many cultivars are hybrids with trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis). In addition to cultivars listed, there are many others, and new cultivars frequently appear on the market.

‘Miss Huff’ Lantana (Lantana camara) is hardy throughout South Carolina.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

  • ‘Athens Rose’ is a new cultivar that appears likely to be hardy throughout South Carolina. It forms an upright mound up to 3 feet tall. The flower buds are magenta, opening to deep rose-pink and yellow.
  • ‘Clear White’ is a low spreading cultivar with pure white flowers.
  • ‘Miss Huff’ is one of the most reliably perennial lantanas, even in the Upstate. It is a vigorous, tall plant, forming an upright mound up to 5 to 6 feet tall in one season. Flowers are a mix of orange, coral and gold. Sterile.
  • ‘Mozelle’ is similar to ‘Miss Huff in size and hardiness, but the flowers are much softer in color, varying from pale yellow to peach and soft pink. Sterile.
  • ‘New Gold’ is very similar or the same as ‘Gold Mound’. It is generally reliably hardy on the coast, and frequently overwinters in the Columbia area. ‘New Gold’ is a vigorous spreading plant, reaching 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. This cultivar is very heavy blooming, with deep gold flowers. It is a sterile cultivar that does not produce berries.

‘New Gold’ Lantana (Lantana camara x L. montevidensis). Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ (PP# 21,548) is a low-spreading, cold hardy lantana with medium yellow flowers. It was derived from ‘Miss Huff’ and ‘New Gold’ lantanas. It grows 16 inches tall and 2 to 3 feet wide and is a prolific bloomer. Hardy to USDA Zone 7b.

  • ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ (PP# 21,539) is a branch sport from ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ and is also a low-spreading, cold hardy lantana (to USDA Zone 7b). Flowers are solid golden yellow. It grows 12 inches tall and 2 to 3 feet wide and is also a prolific bloomer.
  • ‘New Red’ is very similar or the same as ‘Texas Flame’ and ‘Dallas Red’. The flowers are orange, yellow and crimson. This cultivar is the reddest lantana available.
  • ‘Patriot Cowboy’ is one of the smallest lantanas available, growing to only 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The blooms begin as orange buds that open bright yellow and change to bright orange.

‘Chapel Hill Gold’ Lantana is a branch sport of ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ Lantana.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension

  • ‘Patriot Deen Day Smith’ is a newer variety with pastel colors of rose pink, canary yellow apricot. This is a vigorous growing mounding type that will attain a height and width of up to 5 feet in one season. Sterile.
  • ‘Patriot Desert Sunset’ has an upright mounding form, growing 3 feet tall and wide. Flowers are orange, gold, pink and coral.
  • ‘Patriot Honeylove’ is a compact spreading cultivar up to 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide with pale pink, butter yellow, and ivory flowers Plants are slightly mounded with gentle weeping habit that is suitable for growing over walls or in hanging baskets.
  • ‘Patriot Marc Cathey’ is a tall white flowering variety. The flower centers are clear lemon yellow. This is a vigorous growing mounding type, which will attain a height and width of up to 5 feet in one season. Sterile.
  • ‘Patriot Popcorn’ is a small weeping cultivar, growing only 12 inches tall by 24 inches wide. Flowers are mixed white and yellow on a profusely blooming plant.
  • ‘Patriot Rainbow’ is one of the smallest lantana available, growing to only 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide. This cultivar is very similar or the same as ‘Confetti’. It is extremely free flowering, even more so than typical lantanas. The flowers open chiffon yellow, and then change to orange and fuchsia-pink.
  • ‘Radiation’ is a tall upright cultivar growing 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Flowers are orange-red.
  • ‘Samantha’ has dark green and chartreuse variegated foliage with bright lemon yellow flowers. It is very similar or the same as ‘Lemon Swirl’. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. ‘Samantha’ is a sterile cultivar that does not produce berries.
  • ‘Silver Mound’ is a spreading cultivar with creamy white flowers with a gold eye. It is very free flowering and does not usually produce berries.

Weeping Lantana & Cultivars: Weeping lantana (Lantana montevidensis) has low vine like stems and grows 8 to 12 inches tall by 4 feet or more wide with lavender flowers. Weeping lavender is excellent for growing where branches can trail over a wall or container edge. It is generally hardy on the coast, and may survive many winters in the Columbia area. The crushed leaves have a peculiar odor somewhere between bitter citrus and the smell of gasoline.

  • ‘Alba’ is similar to the species, but has white flowers.
  • ‘White Lightnin’ has pure white flowers and is similar to ‘Alba’
  • ‘Lavender Swirl’ is similar to the species, but has white flowers that gradually deepen to pale lavender and finally rich lavender.

Popcorn lantana (Lantana trifolia): This is an unusual species grown primarily for the highly ornamental fruit clusters. Plants grow 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, with small lavender pink disk shaped flower clusters. After bloom the metallic lavender fruit appear in elongated clusters the shape of an ear of corn.

Tough lantana doesn’t escape all problems

Q: My lantana is coated with a white, mildew-looking stuff.

M.K., Tomball

A: It could be powdery mildew, a fungal disease. A bit of this whitish-grayish substance might rub off on your hand. If you identify this as the problem, you can trim out bad areas or treat with a fungicide. Several commercial fungicides target the disease. Some gardeners use a homemade baking soda spray. Others apply a cornmeal juice: Soak 1 cup of whole ground cornmeal in 5 gallons of water. Strain the solids and spray.

Full sun and good air circulation discourages outbreaks. Water the roots, not the leaves.

However, the problem could be lantana lacebugs or spider mites.

Lacebugs feed on the undersides of the leaves, leaving black specs of excrement. They drain leaf juices, resulting in gray-blotched uppersides. The foliage turns brown, even white. When lacebugs move on to the buds, there are no blooms. To attack lacebugs, remove and destroy infested leaves. Apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, being sure to hit the leaf undersides. Check plants every few days for more outbreaks until the insects are under control.

Spider mites cause chlorotic stippling on the upper leaf surfaces. In bad outbreaks, you’ll see a fine webbing around the foliage. Try insecticidal soap, or ask your nurseryman for a miticide. Some gardeners dust with sulfur, but avoid getting it in your eyes and nose. Reapply after rain.

Q: Where can I find ‘Matt’s Wild’ tomato seed?

W.G., Willis

A: You can order the sweet cherry tomato from www.johnnyseeds.com, www.southernexposure.com and www.store.tomatofest.com.

Sow these in January and set transplants out in late February or March, depending on the weather.

Q: My blackberries produced like crazy and are taking over. I cut back the vines that produced, but the new ones are taller than me. Do I cut back more?

M.D., Houston

A: Both upright and trailing varieties of blackberries should be pruned after harvest.

About the time older canes bear fruit, new canes develop. Remove all but five to seven of the newer canes on each plant. On upright varieties, trim the tips of these newer canes when they’re 4 feet. Trim tips of trailing types when the new canes have reached the top of the support. This will encourage them to branch. Keep your row of berries in check by removing suckers.

Q: My trees are shedding leaves in the drought. Can I compost these?

F.S., Houston

A: Yes. You can add them to the pile – they contain carbon and nutrients. If you can find some grass clippings, add these to mix the green with the brown. Water the pile.

You also can rake the leaves, bag them and add a bit of water. Tie the bags and set them aside. Later you can amend your beds with the leaf mold.

Q: What nutrients do eggshells add to compost?

B.D., Houston

A: They add calcium, which helps boost plant cells. I like to crush the shells a bit before adding so they decompose more quickly.

Q: Do used coffee grounds enrich a plant’s soil? I have been spreading them across my azalea beds without knowing whether they are making the soil more acidic or more alkaline.

S. P., Houston

A: Coffee grounds can be added to compost piles and to soil. They contain nitrogen, help acidify the soil to some degree over time and attract beneficial earthworms.

Azaleas, gardenias and hydrangeas are best in a slightly acidic soil. Roses and many vegetables also prefer slightly acidic conditions. But the grounds can benefit most plants as our soil and water is alkaline and many plants prefer a slightly acidic soil.

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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The Edges Are Turning Brown on the Leaves of a Lantana

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Lantana is a flowering plant that puts out clumps of brightly colored flowers during the spring and summer. The flowers are framed against a backdrop of dark green leaves; if the edges of the lantana leaves start to turn brown, something is wrong with the plant that requires the attention of a gardener.

Dehydration

A lack of water in the soil, whether from drought or too little manual watering, leads to a lantana with brown-edged, yellowing leaves that eventually curl and drop from the plant. Lantanas benefit from regular rain or watering, and dried-out soil prevents the roots from transferring water and nutrients to the leaves. Water the lantana once each week to keep the soil moist, maintain the plant’s health and protect the color of its leaves.

Root Rot

Root rot is a fungal disease that results from excess water in the soil of a lantana. Poorly drained soil or over-watering lead to the growth of this fungal disease, which causes numerous problems for lantanas. As the disease progresses, it causes the leaves of the lantana to wilt and develop brown edges along. Over time, the stems of the lantana are affected as well, which leads to defoliation and drooping. Remove infected plants from the garden.

Lantana Lace Bugs

Lace bugs are a serious pest problem for lantanas. Lace bugs feed on the leaves, causing the leaves to become yellow and develop brown margins, or become a mottled gray and brown. Serious infestations lead to premature defoliation of the lantanas, which stunts the plants’ growth and may prevent the flowers from blooming. Treat lace bugs with a mild pesticide spray, and follow all directions on the package. Pinch off severely damaged leaves to prevent them from hosting diseases.

Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight, caused by species in the Botrytis genus, which includes Botrytis cinerea, is a fungal disease that causes serious problems for lantana. Signs of blight include browning and wilting at the margins of leaves, wilt and premature defoliation, rotting buds and flowers and twig dieback, according to website of the University of California, Davis. There is no chemical control for botrytis blight, but good cultural control, including cleaning up fallen leaves and avoiding overhead watering, helps stop botrytis blight from killing lantanas.

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