Lantana Plant and Flower
Turn up the heat, and lantana plants will turn up the flower power. These tough-as-nails tropicals fill the summer garden with outstanding color that just gets better as heat and humidity build. Lantana is native to tropical regions of Central and South America, and it is a summer stand-out in every region in this country.
Northern gardeners typically grow lantana as a seasonal annual, while gardeners in Zones 9 and 10 may treat it as a perennial. In Zones 7b and 8, lantana plants often behave as tender perennials, dying to the ground if temperatures tumble into the mid-20s. Roots remain alive, and lantana resprouts in spring, ready to fill summer scenes with decadent blooms.
Lantana flowers feature a remarkable trait: Each blossom head frequently showcases multiple hues, creating a kaleidoscope of color. Lantana flowers measure 1 to 2 inches across and are comprised of numerous smaller blooms arranged in a sphere. Blossom shades vary, including lavender, orange, red, rose, pink, gold and white.
Versatile in the landscape, lantana plants tolerate a range of growing conditions. Ideally, they want full sun, well-drained soil and medium moisture. But this beauty is drought tolerant, so once plants are established, they can get by on minimal water, although you’ll see more lantana flowers when plants receive regular moisture.
Lantana withstands salt and sandy soil, making it a common plant in seaside landscapes. Include lantana in a butterfly garden for its nectar-laden blooms, and use it in plantings that feature deer- and rabbit-resistant plants. Lantana leaves are sandpapery and have a strong odor that critters dislike. Leaves have been shown to make pets and livestock ill when consumed.
Some species of lantana are invasive and have escaped home gardens to populate natural landscapes. Lantana camara or common lantana has strong invasive tendencies. If you grow a lantana plant that produces black berries and you live in Zones 8 to 10, it’s a good idea to remove spent flowers from plants to prevent berry formation. You can do this easily by lighting pruning lantana after flowering. Some states that consider lantana invasive are Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Arizona and South Carolina.
Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) opens lavender flowers with yellow throats. It has trailing stems that spread up to five feet—and more. Many homeowners use this lantana plant as a ground cover or planted atop retaining walls where stems can trail gracefully. Also known as purple lantana, this species is a good choice for erosion control on slopes.
In regions where lantana isn’t winter hardy, treat it as an annual. Many lantana hybrids exist with a variety of flower colors and plant sizes. Some lantana plants are bred to stay short and stocky; others tend to branch more freely. Check pot tags carefully to make sure you’re buying the kind of lantana you want.
Lantana adds strong color to container gardens filled with a commercial soil-less mix developed for container use. In pots, lantana plants need regular watering due to the confined quarters. Use a bloom booster fertilizer to encourage strong flowering.