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Flowers, Ornamental Gardens

Lantana Plant: Gloriously Bold And Brilliant Flowers


14 min read

The Lantana plant is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that can be grown as a perennial in warmer climates, whereas in colder climates, it will be grown as an annual or even as a houseplant. Trailing lantana species look spectacular in hanging baskets that can be grown outdoors for part of the year and brought indoors during the winter in areas with frost. 

Lantana plants also make a great addition to the landscape as a groundcover because of their growth habit and the way they spread. They can quickly fill in an area and suppress any potential weed growth. Lantanas are primarily grown, however, for their showy flowers. Lantana flowers are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. 

The flower colors range from red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. They produce little clusters of flowers called umbels because they are umbrella-shaped. Umbels are particularly good at attracting pollinators because they provide a large landing pad for pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds but also small individual flowers for the tinier pollinators like sweat bees, wasps, and hoverflies. 

Lantana foliage also has a pungent scent that has been described as fermented citrus or gasoline. The scent is released when something brushes against the lantana leaves. This scent will also draw in pollinators that are attracted to their flowers. Lantanas are native to tropical regions in Africa and Central and South America. For this reason, they can survive hot weather and are drought-tolerant once established. 

This makes them a great choice for xeriscaping and desert regions. There is some caution to be used, however, as many are beginning to ask: Is lantana invasive? Lantana camara is the most popular species you’ll encounter. In some areas, L. camara, because of its aggressive growth habit, tolerance of poor soil conditions, and ability to hybridize with native lantanas, is considered invasive. 

For this reason, sterile varieties are being produced as ground cover plants to prohibit the spread and destruction of native species. This is something to consider when you decide to plant lantana. 

Quick Care Guide

Lantana plant
Lantana plant produces flowers that are like little bursts of fireworks. Source: Ann HS
Common NameLantanas, shrub verbenas
Scientific NameLantana camara
FamilyVerbenaceae
Height & Spread5-6 feet tall and 4 feet wide though there are smaller dwarf varieties
LightFull sun
SoilCan survive in most soil types, prefers slightly acidic soil and well-draining soil 
WaterWater regularly until established. Established plants are considered to be drought tolerant
Pests & DiseasesLace bugs, whiteflies, spider mites,  root rot, powdery mildew

All About Lantana Plants

Mixed Lantana camara flowers
Each cluster of lantana camara flowers can have multiple colors. Source: miguelang_ldb

Lantana is native to the tropical regions of South Africa and South and Central America. For this reason, lantana thrives in hot and humid areas. There are many different lantana varieties, but their care requirements are all very similar. 

Lantana camara is the most common variety among gardeners. This perennial flowering plant puts on a show with its red, orange, and yellow flowers that are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Many choose to grow lantana flowers for the very specific reason of attracting these visitors to their yards. 

Lantana grows like a small shrub. In the warmer climates of USDA zone 7 and above, lantanas will be grown as a perennial. In other areas, people grow lantana as an annual or as an indoor houseplant. Lantana flowers don’t bloom over winter, but the plant will put on new growth at the beginning of the growing season. Many gardeners are planting lantana in the landscape for use as a groundcover because of the way it spreads out as it grows. 

Types Of Lantana

There are over 150 species of flowering perennial plants in the verbena family of which lantana belongs to.That being said, there are several lantana varieties that are quite popular. 

Lantana trifolia, also known as popcorn lantana, is known for its relatively small and bright clusters of lantana flowers. Lantana montevidensis, or trailing lantana, has branches up to 12 inches long and is popular for hanging baskets or window boxes. 

Wild lantana, Lantana urticoides, is found in Texas. These emit a pungent scent from their leaves. Lantana camara, also known as West Indian Lantana, is the most popular species which includes several varieties such as “Ham and Eggs” and Miss Huff.”  Lantana care requirements are the same for all of these types of lantana.

Caring for Lantana

L. camara
L. camara comes in an array of different shades. Source: Andres Bertens

Care for lantana is simple, though they do have a few requirements that need to be met. They are relatively low maintenance and tolerate drought once established. You can grow lantana flowers in the garden or in containers. Read on to find out how to grow lantana! 

Sun and Temperature

Place lantana plants in a sunny location with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day to help your lantana flower. Lantanas can also be grown in partial shade, which can be helpful in areas with extreme heat. However, you will get fewer flowers. 

Lantana is a tender perennial that cannot survive a frost, unless you’re growing lantana species in their native range. It can be grown as a perennial in USDA zones 7 and above. In colder climates, it will be grown as an annual. Otherwise, it will need to be brought inside before cold weather arrives. 

Growing lantana plants is easiest in warm climates, where temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants thrive in harsh conditions and can flourish in drier climates with very poor soil. They are a popular landscaping choice in desert climates for this reason. Some varieties of lantana are considered invasive in parts of Australia, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. 

When you care for lantana, if you have difficulty meeting its temperature requirements outdoors, fear not. Lantana can also be grown as a house plant! The trailing lantanas look especially lovely in hanging baskets. They can also be grown in window boxes which can easily be moved indoors in areas that receive frost.  

Water and Humidity

It’s best to water lantanas in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Newly planted lantanas require frequent watering, but once established, they will require little maintenance, and a good soaking once a week will be enough to keep them happy. Their watering needs will differ in areas with high humidity vs dry climates. 

In periods of extremely hot weather, and especially in arid areas, you may want to water them every other day, depending on the forecast. In areas with higher humidity, they can be watered less often. During the growing season, they will naturally need more water than they do during the winter months. 

Placing these plants along a drip irrigation line makes it easy to adjust their water needs based on the weather and time of year. They can even tolerate salt spray, which makes them ideal for planting near the ocean.  

Soil

White lantana
Even white lantana sparks visual interest. Source: Pensive glance

Lantanas are tolerant of many soil conditions. However, they do prefer slightly acidic soil. Well-draining soil is also a must. This can be achieved with the addition of amendments such as pine needles or coffee grounds. However, this isn’t necessary since lantanas are extremely adaptable. 

In particularly dry climates, mulching around the base of the plant can help retain moisture and help you go longer between waterings. This is especially true when planting lantanas in sandy soil, which is so well-draining that it has trouble retaining moisture. 

When you’re growing lantanas in containers, be sure to use high-quality potting soil. Potting soil mixes made for azaleas can be mixed with regular potting soil at a ratio of 50-50 to provide the acidity that lantanas prefer. If you’re concerned about the ph levels of the soil you can purchase a soil ph tester to help make the necessary adjustments. The ideal ph level for lantanas is between 6-6.5. 

Fertilizing Lantana

Although it isn’t required, lantana plants can be given a light dose of a balanced liquid fertilizer. One may assume that if some fertilizer is good, then even more must be better, but too much fertilizer may inhibit their overall flower production. 

Fertilize lantana in early spring before new growth appears just once to help your lantana flower without hampering the process. Lantana will do just fine, however, without any fertilizer at all. A simple top dressing of compost at the beginning of each season will suffice as well. 

Pruning Lantana Plants

Older plants can benefit from regular pruning as they may grow scraggly with thick, woody stems. Regular pruning will also encourage branching. To encourage reblooming, lantanas benefit from deadheading their spent blooms. 

Additionally, overgrown plants can be cut back by one-third to encourage new growth in the early spring. Always make sure to sterilize your pruning shears between plants to prevent the possibility of spreading disease from one plant to another. 

Lantana Propagation

Non-sterile varieties of lantanas produce small berries as the plant finishes its flowering cycle. If you allow these berries to dry on the plant, you can collect them and save the seeds inside. Lantana seeds germinate erratically, taking anywhere from 14-120 days to germinate. For this reason, the most reliable method of propagation is by taking cuttings from an established plant. 

Take a cutting just below the leaf node and remove the lower foliage from the bottom 4 inches of the stem. Place the cutting in water, and it should have notable root growth within 3-4 weeks, at which point it can be planted into soil. 

Since some varieties of lantana are considered to be invasive, there are also hybrids that are sterile and will not produce seeds. Propagation via cuttings will be your best choice with these varieties. In ideal conditions, mound layering or simply popping a fresh cutting in the earth in spring or fall will propagate the plant. 

Troubleshooting

Lantana camara
Lantana camara really pops in the garden. Source: Fernando Sa Rapita

Lantana are relatively trouble-free, and even the most common pests tend to leave them alone, but there are some potential red flags to look out for when growing them. Read on to learn how to spot the warning signs and how to rectify any issues that may crop up. 

Growing Problems

Most growing problems arise when watering and light requirements are not being met. If your lantanas are not flowering then you may want to increase water. Similarly, if they aren’t flowering, then you may want to move them to an area with direct sun and well-drained soil. Growing lantana is easy once these two basic needs are met. Provide them with the right balance of water and light, and your lantana plants will flower for years to come! 

Pests

Common pests that affect lantana plants include lace bugs and whiteflies. Symptoms of lace insects will appear as foliage turning grey or brown and then dropping off the plant. Sooty mold is a condition that causes black discoloration on the leaves and is most often attributed to insect pests, such as whiteflies. Insecticidal soap can be used to treat both of these pests. 

Spider mites are common for lantana plants grown indoors. They prefer a warm, dry environment with low humidity. A good preventative method is to increase humidity around your houseplants. The first signs of mites will be tiny holes in the lantana leaves or small yellowish spots on the foliage. You may even notice tiny web clusters on the leaves as well. 

If these mites have already appeared, but there is little to no damage to the plant, they can likely be manually removed with a forceful spray of water or wiping down your plants with a damp cloth. If the infestation is more serious, then insecticidal soap or organic insecticides containing pyrethrins can be effective at eliminating all the spider mites. 

Diseases

Rot and mildew are the main diseases that can affect your lantana plants. The symptoms of root rot will appear as a soft mushy stem, wilting, and of course, rotten roots. This type of rot is more common in lantanas planted in containers but can also affect in-ground plants. Root rot is harder to recover from but can be remedied if there are still fresh, white roots on the plant that have not yet turned to mush. 

For potted plants, cut back the rotted roots and plant them into a pot of dry soil. For in-ground plants, cease watering and let the ground dry out completely before watering again. Then work on increasing the drainage of the soil. 

Powdery mildew will appear as a white flour-like powder on the leaves. Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that can take hold in especially hot and humid climates. Too much moisture splashed on the foliage during watering can contribute to issues with powdery mildew. To prevent these issues, always bottom water your plants. Placing them along drip irrigation makes that effortless. 

Neem oil may also be sprayed as a preventative measure to reduce the colonization of spores on the foliage. In advanced cases of this mildew, it may be best to remove and destroy the infected plant material to prevent it from spreading to nearby healthy plants. After removing infected plant material, spray neem oil or a liquid copper fungicide onto the remainder of the plants and nearby plants to reduce the risk of further spread. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Bright lantana flowers
Bright lantana flowers. Source: Pensive glance

Q: Will lantana come back every year?

A: Yes, lantana is a perennial plant. 

Q: Why is lantana a problem?

A: There are over 130 species of lantana, and most are not considered to be invasive. Lantana montevidensis has become naturalized in California, and because of its ability to spread aggressively, choke out native plants, and grow in dense thickets, it has come to be classed as invasive in Florida, Hawaii, New Caledonia, New Zeland, and Australia. 

Q: How poisonous are lantanas?

A: All parts of the lantana plant are poisonous. Avoid planting them in areas where small children and pets may come into contact with them. 

Q: Is lantana annual or a perennial?

A: Lantana is a perennial in USDA growing zones 7 and above. It is sometimes an annual plant in cooler climates. 

Q: How long will lantana last?

A: They will bloom from late spring into early fall. In frost-free climates, they may bloom later into early winter. 

Q: Is lantana poisonous to touch?

A: Yes, the hairs on the leaves can cause contact dermatitis and minor skin rash. It is best to wear gloves when working around lantanas. 

Q: Do lantana plants repel mosquitoes?

A: While the plant itself doesn’t repel mosquitos, the oils within do. Like many other plants in the verbena family, these oils give off a scent that repels mosquitoes. You would have to bruise and extract the oils and spray them in an area to ward off insects.  

Q: Is lantana poisonous to dogs?

A: Yes, it is poisonous to dogs and cats. 

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