Lantana Plants Profile

A lantana plant with a deep orange flower is pictured in this image.
David Beaulieu

Lantana plants are evergreens of the broadleaf variety. Although they may act a little like vines, they are classified by botanists as shrubs. But because of the vine-like appearance of their branches, they are often grown in hanging pots, in which their branches are allowed to spill over the sides.

Plant taxonomy classifies lantana plants as Lantana camara. Various cultivars are sold, including the 'Spreading Sunset' cultivar, which has a flower head with gold centers surrounded by orange. This orange color later fades to pink.

These flowers are not native to Florida but have become naturalized there and are widespread. In fact, the shrubs are considered invasive plants there and in certain other warm regions. In more northerly zones, they are treated as annuals. 

They are known for their rounded clusters of small, brightly-colored flowers. The flowers may be yellow, orange, white, red and purple, and often colors are mixed within the same cluster, creating a bicolored effect. Most people dislike the smell of the flowers that bloom from this plant. But the aroma of their foliage qualifies them as fragrant plants. The leaves smell like citrus.

  • Botanical Name: Lantana camara
  • Common Name: Lantana plants, Shrub verbenas, lantanas
  • Plant Type: Perennials in warmer zones, annuals in colder zones
  • Mature Size: 6 feet high and 8 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained soil, but will tolerate poor soils.
  • Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Bloom Time: All year long in frost-free areas
  • Flower Color: A mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white
  • Hardiness Zones: Lantana plants can be grown as evergreen perennials in USDA planting zone 8 and higher
  • Native Areas: Tropical regions of the Americas and Africa

How to Grow Lantana Plants

Lantana plants make good specimens. They are also used as border shrubs and as a ground cover in areas with full sunshine in the South. They tolerate salt spray very well, so they are popular in yards located near the ocean. This is another reason why they are a symbol of Florida landscaping. Because lantana plants are also drought-tolerant shrubs, they are good candidates for xeriscaping. Being plants that attract butterflies, they are a staple of butterfly gardens. They also attract hummingbirds.

In the North, where lantana plants are treated as annuals, they are also commonly found growing in hanging baskets. Displayed this way, they can be used to decorate porches, decks, patios, etc. These plants are sometimes referred to as "bacon and eggs" or "ham and eggs." The flowers have an almost florescent coloring. A lot of lantana plants will have different colored petals that are growing right next to each other. This forms beautiful bright clusters of colors, combining yellow, orange, pink, and blue. Other types have only solid colored flowers.

They are sometimes called "verbena bushes", although nurseries selling them in hanging baskets often make a distinction between lantana plants and verbena (the latter also being a popular plant for hanging pots). Evergreen perennials in hot regions, they are more often grown just for the summer months in colder climates. The purple variety (L. montevidensis) is even more vine-like than the rest, and, consequently, it is a better hanging plant.

Northerners sometimes wonder if they can be taken indoors in fall and overwintered as houseplants. The answer is yes and no. Yes, they can be overwintered inside, but they do not thrive as houseplants. It is better to place them in an unheated room for the winter and keep them in a dormant state, providing just minimal light and water. The temperature of the room should not dip much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Light

Lantana plants like full sun or partial sun. The plant should receive at least 6 hours (or more) of direct sunlight every day. It can tolerate some afternoon shade but will flower less if planted in a shady spot.

Water

Water the lantana plant thoroughly and do not let it dry out. WIth sandy soil, you will likely need to water every day. If the flower blooms have stopped or reduced, try more water.

Temperature and Humidity

The lantana plants may survive in a light frost, but if the temperature dips below 28 degrees Fahrenheit or stays cold for a long time, the plant will die. The plant will thrive in temperatures 55 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The lantana plant is fine with humid weather and can even survive with salt-spray.

Fertilizer

Lantana plants do not require fertilizer. They are very low maintenance and too much fertilizer can decrease the abundance of flowers. If you want, add a balanced, gentle 20-20-20 fertilizer every month.

Full view of lantana in a planter
DigiPub / Getty Images

Varieties

  • Trailing Lantanas (L. montevidensis): These have longer branches (up to 12 inches long) and are popular in baskets or hanging displays
  • Popcorn lantana (Lantana trifolia): This type is known for its smaller and bright cluster of flowers
  • Wild lantana (Lantana horrida): Found in Texas, these have especially pungent smelling leaves
Hummingbird feeding on a lantana plant
Daniel Ripplinger / DansPhotoArt / Getty Images

Toxicity of Lantana Plants

While lovely to look at, growing these flowers in your landscaping has its problems. Besides being invasive in warm climates, lantana plants are toxic and present a danger to children and pets. The leaves can cause a rash and eating the unripe berries can be fatal.