Caring For Lantana Plants [GROWING TIPS]

Lantana is a pretty perennial shrub with beautiful clusters of fragrant flowers and handsome berries, prized by gardeners for being attractive and requiring very little maintenance.

Unfortunately, the fact that it thrives in a wide variety of climates and soil conditions, and propagates readily by spreading and by seed, has led to it becoming an invasive species in many parts of the world, reducing biodiversity and harming delicate natural ecosystems .

butterfly attracting flowers of the Lantana plantPin

Lantana seeds are toxic to many animals, and it should not be cultivated where grazing animals may have access to it.

What Is The Plant’s Origin?

Lantana is native to Central and South America. [1]

How Is The Name Pronounced?

The name is pronounced “lan-TAN-uh”.

Where Did The Name Come From?

The lantana plant is named after the Viburnum lantana tree, with flowers that closely resemble lantana camara.

What Is The Plant Related To?

Lantana is a member of the verbena family, and is related to the herbs known as verbena or vervain.

How Many Species Are There?

There are about 150 species in the genus lantana.

What Is The Botanical Name?

The most common lantana is Lantana camara.

What Are The Common Names?

Lantana camara is also known as big sage, wild sage, red sage, white sage, and tickberry.

Growing The Lantana

Size and Growth

Lantana is a dense shrub that can grow to around 6 feet in height, and forms dense thickets.

Flowering and Fragrance

The lantana produces dense clusters of small flowers, which change color after they are pollinated, to produce a pleasing variety of shades of color depending on the cultivar. As a member of the verbena family, the foliage has a mild, herbal, citrus-like scent, but the flowers are not usually scented.

Light and Temperature

Lantana can be grown as a perennial in USDA zones 8 and higher, but in colder climates they are often treated as annuals.

Watering and Feeding

After the lantana is established, it can withstand long periods between waterings, and readily grows wild in drier environments. It does not require feeding.

Soil and Transplanting

When established, lantana is tolerant of poor soil, drought, salt, and even fire.  However, it should be planted in a sunny spot with well-drained soil and deeply watered about once a week until maturity.

Lantana can be transplanted to a container and overwintered indoors, but does not thrive as a houseplant, and should be returned to the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Lantana roots excrete chemicals that inhibit the growth and development of surrounding plants, so it should not be placed near other desirable garden plants.

Maintenance and Grooming

Deadheading throughout spring and summer will encourage reblooming. It is also best to snip off and discard the poisonous seeds as they form, to prevent accidental ingestion and also to prevent the spread of this invasive species. Lantana can be pruned if you want to control the shape, but it is not necessary.

How To Propagate A Lantana

Lantana can easily be propagated from seeds, but the resulting offspring may not be similar to the parent plant. To grow lantana from seeds:

1.    Harvest the blackberries when they are fully ripe, and remove the seeds from the berries.

2.   Allow the seeds to dry in a cool, dry environment for a couple of days, then place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

3.  Six to eight weeks before you intend to plant them outdoors, take the seeds from the refrigerator and soak them in warm water for 24 hours.

4.    Prepare small pots with seed starting medium and lay 1-2 seeds in each pot.

5.    Lightly cover the seeds with 1/8th of an inch of soil.

6.    Place the pots in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.

7.    Keep the soil moist and at a constant temperature between 70-75 degrees day and night.

8.    Seeds may take a month or more to germinate, so be patient.

Lantana can also be propagated easily by cutting, and cuttings produce offspring that are identical to the parent plant. It’s a great way to ensure that your lantana survives cold winter temperatures and can grace your garden again in springtime. To propagate lantana from cuttings:

1.    In the spring, take cuttings from healthy new growth.

2.    Cut 4-inch tips of lantana and remove the lower leaves.

3.    Fill a small pot with seed starting mix or a combination of peat moss and perlite.

4.    Dampen the soil in the pot and create a 2-inch hole.

5.   Dip the lower two inches of your cutting in rooting hormone.

6.   Place it gently in the prepared hole, and firm the soil around the cutting.

7.  Place the pot in a space where it receives bright but indirect light, and the cutting should root within 2-4 weeks.

8.   Transplant outdoors when all danger of frost has passed.

Caring For A Lantana

When established, lantana plants are highly tolerant of poor soil and drought conditions. However, to start a new plant and make sure it thrives, plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Lantana prefers warm conditions, so new growth may be slow to start in spring. Water it deeply once a week.

For the best blooms, do not over-fertilize a lantana plant, and prune it well in spring.

Lantana Pests, Diseases, Or Problems

Lantanas are hardy plants, and not susceptible to many pests or diseases. However, if it is overwatered or given inadequate light, it may come down with diseases due to excess moisture.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew can occur when lantana plants do not get enough light, and when moisture is allowed to accumulate on the foliage. Powdery mildew distorts new growth, and can be recognized by its distinctive, white or grey fuzzy or powdery coating on the leaves and stems of the plant. Control powdery mildew with neem oil, and prevent it by ensuring your lantana has good natural light.

Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight is also known as grey mold, and is another fungal disease associated with excess moisture in the lantana. It causes brown spots on the leaves that are then covered by a grey mold. Control botrytis blight with a fungicide, and prevent it by giving the lantana adequate light, and not allowing water to accumulate on the foliage. Water the plant at the roots and give it plenty of sun.

Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions About The Lantana

Lantana is hard to kill, but will not bloom nicely in inadequate conditions. To ensure the best blooms from a lantana:

  • Prune back to about 1/3rd in late winter or early spring
  • Give it plenty of spring sunlight and warm temperatures
  • Deadhead throughout the blooming season

When grown in a pot, it blooms best when slightly pot-bound, so do not put it in too large a container

Best Ways To Use Lantana In Design

Lantana is a member of the verbena family, and is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Planted near vegetables (but not too near), and in a place with good visibility, it will attract pollinators to the garden. It can also be used as a durable ground cover.

Buying Tips

Choose a lantana with deeply colored foliage, and inspect it carefully for pests or discoloration before bringing it home.

What Are The Most Popular Lantana Species And Varieties?

Lantana cultivars are available in nearly every shade of the rainbow. One of the beauties of lantana is that the flowers change color once they are pollinated, as a signal to pollinating insects that adds dimension and lasting interest to the garden.

If you are using lantana to attract bees and pollinators, consider shades of blue and violet, and trailing lantana variety “Lavender Swirl,” or the fun flower clusters of “Lavender Popcorn.”

Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to more vivid shades of flowers [2] and “Lantana New Red” has all the vivid red, yellow, and orange shades of sunset, while “Patriot Dean Day Smith” has gentle pastels from lavender and pink to yellow and creamy white.

Summary

Lantana is recognized as an invasive species, and spreads easily into disturbed environments, with negative consequences for natural plants and delicate ecosystems. It is also toxic to animals. However, it is hardy, attractive, and blooms with a pleasant fragrance. Grow lantana with care for surrounding plants, and enjoy it wisely.

[1] https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/land-management/health-pests-weeds-diseases/weeds-diseases/invasive-plants/restricted/lantana

[2] https://www.nwf.org/en/Garden-for-Wildlife/Wildlife/Attracting-Butterflies