Lantana may be a showy plant but it is pleasingly easy to grow and care for. Drought tolerant, this summer flower is also pleasingly robust. Depending on the USDA zone you are growing in, lantanas can be grown as either an annual or perennial.
Its colorful verbena-like flowers are a magnet for butterflies, hummingbirds and various other garden creatures. These fascinating flowers are all the same color when they first emerge. However as the flowers age the flowers change to different colors, allowing you to enjoy interesting, multicolored blooms. Happy to grow in beds, baskets or as part of a container garden if you want to add lantana to your garden this guide will tell you everything that you need to know.
Once you learn to recognise these distinctive flowers you will instantly recognise this plant everywhere. Coming in a range of single colors, or combinations of colors, they can add interest and color to borders and containers.
Lantana can be toxic to both cats and dogs. The berries are also toxic to humans. If you have pets or small children plant sterile varieties. These won’t produce berries and are a safer choice.
Varieties of Lantana
There are many different recognised varieties of this plant. However, many of these are best suited to tropical and subtropical climates.
There are two types of lanata that are commonly grown in cooler climates and gardens. Lantana montevidensis is a trailing species. It reaches between 18 to 24 inches in height and has a spread of 4 ft.
Lantana camara is a shrub variety. Reaching up to 4 ft in height, shrub varieties have a spread of 1 to 3 ft.
Shrub varieties will fill flower beds and containers. But for something more interesting trailing varieties will grow in not only containers but can also drape attractively from hanging baskets.
Lantana is considered hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11. In zones 8 and 9 the plants top growth will die back in the winter. If the winter isn’t too harsh, some varieties will re-emerge in the early spring.
Starting Your Lantana Plants
Lantanas can be started from seed. However they are most commonly purchased as young plants and transplanted into the garden.
Starting from Seed
Soak seeds for about 24 hours in warm water before planting. This softens the hard shell of the seed and helps to encourage germination.
Seeds can be sown up to 8 weeks before the last local frost date.
Fill a small container with seed starting medium. Moisten the medium and place one or two seeds in the center of the container. Cover with a thin layer of soil. If both seeds germinate, the weakest one can be pricked out. Alternatively you can sow seeds in a modular cell tray. Sow one seed in each module.
Sow seeds as thinly as possible. Germinated seeds that are too closely clumped together can be thinned out once a couple of true leaves have emerged. Sowing one seed in a container or in modular cells will prevent seedlings from becoming too compacted.
Keep the soil moist until germination occurs. The temperature should constantly be between 70 and 75 ℉. Sealing the containers in a plastic bag will help you to moderate temperature.
Keep the containers away from direct sunlight.
Germination can take over a month to occur.
Following germination, the seedlings grow until they become young plants.
As the last local frost date approaches you can begin hardening off the plants in preparation for transplanting into the garden.
How to Grow Lantana Plants
These plants prefer sunny positions and well-draining soil. While they prefer a slightly acidic soil, lantana will grow in most soil conditions. They will also tolerate salty soil. This makes them a great choice for coastal gardens.
Prepare the soil by digging it over thoroughly. This will break up mounds of earth, helping to improve drainage.
Once the last local frost date has passed you can plant your lantanas. However, these plants prefer to grow in warm temperatures. If you plant in early spring, new growth will be slow to emerge.
Prepare the soil properly before planting. Enriched, well worked soil will help young plants quickly establish themselves. It will also help the plants to ward off disease.
How to Plant
Dig a hole in the soil large enough to comfortably hold the plant’s root ball. When placed in the hole the top of the root system should sit just above the soil level. When you are happy with the position of the plant, fill in the hole being careful not to overly compact the soil.
Water the plant thoroughly. After watering apply a 3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as homemade compost, to the soil. This helps the soil to retain moisture. It will also reduce weed growth.
For the first 3 weeks after planting you will need to water the plant regularly. Don’t allow the soil to dry out too much. Providing plenty of water helps the plant to establish itself. Harvesting your own rainwater enables you to keep your plants happy whilst also saving on your water usage.
If you are planting more than one lantana you will need to space it correctly. Space plants at least 9 inches apart. Each row should be spaced at least 13 inches apart. Individual plants should have at least 11 inches of clear space all around. This provides the plant with more than enough room to healthily spread and flourish.
Properly caring and spacing for plants will help to encourage a healthy growth habit. Adopting good gardening practices will also result in plants producing lots of healthy fruit or flowers.
Planting in Containers
Lantanas can be grown as part of a container garden. Select a container large enough to hold your chosen variety of plant. The container should be clean and have drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container with a coarse potting mix that drains well. Perlite can also be worked into a general purpose soil to make a well-draining mix. Plant as above and follow the care instructions below.
Caring for Lantana Plants
Once planted and established lantanas require little regular attention.
Once established, these plants are pleasingly unfussy. Just a little regular care and attention will result in scores of pleasing blooms.
Watering and Feeding
After three weeks you will only need to water lantana plants during dry spells or after pruning the plants. Mulching the soil will help moisture retention. An organic mulch will slowly break down, adding nutrients to the soil and further boosting your plants.
Fertilize in early spring. A small dose of low nitrogen fertilizer will help to encourage the plant to grow. Don’t apply too much nitrogen based fertilizer. This can promote excessive leaf growth, at the expense of flower production. If you want to know exactly what you are giving your plants, why not try making your own plant feed? Alternatively working well rotted compost into the soil every spring will also help to boost these plants.
Deadheading old flowers will encourage new blooms to emerge. After pruning, feed and water the plants.
Removing old or damaged stems and foliage will help to prevent disease and help to keep plants healthy.
In late winter or early spring, before new growth emerges, prune woody or leggy stems back. Cut the plant down to 6-12 inches above the ground. This may seem drastic but the plant will re-emerge the following year. Drastic pruning in this way also encourages bushy growth.
Spent blooms will give way to seed clusters. These should be carefully removed and, if you do not wish to keep the seeds, disposed of. Lantana seed clusters are poisonous.
Propagating Lantana Plants
Most lantanas are hybrid plants. This means that propagating from seed is unlikely to result in new plants that resemble the parent plant.
Spent flowers will give way to seeds. These resemble small black berries. When ripe these can be harvested. Clean the seeds and allow them to dry out. Once dry the seeds can be stored in a sealed container and kept in a cool place or a refrigerator until you are ready to sow.
Propagating From Cuttings
If you want to reproduce the parent plant, you will need to take cuttings. This is easily done by taking new growth cuttings in the spring. Each cutting should be at least 4 inches long. Remove the lower leaves, only one or two leaves at the top of the cutting should remain.
Place the cutting in a small pot filled with seed starting mix. You can also fill the container with a 50-50 mixture or perlite and peat moist. Moisted the medium and make a 2 inch hole in the centre with a pencil. Dipping the cutting in some rooting hormone will help to promote propagation but it is not necessary. Place the cutting in the hole. Firm the medium down around the cutting and place in a plastic bag. Seal the bag, the sides of the bag should not touch the cutting.
Regularly check the cutting to make sure that the soil is moist. After 4 weeks you should notice new growth emerging. Once new growth has emerged remove the cutting from the bag and place it on a sunny windowsill. Allow the cutting to grow on until you are ready to transplant.
Common Lantana Problems
If properly planted and cared for lantanas are largely trouble free.
Pests such as whiteflies and lace bugs are commonly lantana problems. Regularly check your plants for signs of infestations. If not noticed quickly whitefly can cause plants to develop sooty mold. Chemical and organic controls, can both be used. Aphid infestations can be quickly dealt with by blasting the pests away with a hosepipe or an application of homemade insecticidal soap.
Powdery mildew can become a problem if the plants are growing in shady positions. If the soil is consistently too wet the plants may develop root rot.
The showy, attractive blooms of these plants are a great way to add something different to your garden. Easy to grow, these plants will thrive in a range of situations and conditions. This versatility is helping them to increase in popularity.
Lantana is a great way to add color and interest to your garden. Happy to grow in borders, containers, mix beds or baskets, this is a colorful summer plant. It will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your space.