Lantana is a perennial vining, flowering shrub in warm zones and an annual in places with frosty winters. Fast-growing lantana produces rounded clusters of small, brightly colored flowers in yellow, orange, white, red, pink, blue, or purple and is often used in hanging baskets or ground covers. Lantana grows best in full sun conditions and requires at least six hours of direct sunlight, preferring neutral, well-draining soil and temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Lantana is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
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|Common Names||Lantana, shrub verbena, West Indian lantana|
|Botanical Name||Lantana camara|
|Plant Type||Shrub, annual|
|Mature Size||6 ft. high, 6 ft. wide|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall, winter|
|Flower Color||Red, orange, yellow, blue, white, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||7-11 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Central America, South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Here are the main care requirements for growing lantana:
- Requires full sun.
- Prefers well-draining soil that is neutral, slightly acidic, or slightly alkaline.
- Needs moist soil and likes humidity.
- Grows best in temperatures above 55 F.
- Give balanced fertilizer only once a year; once monthly if growing in containers.
- Plant as a perennial any time of year or in the spring as an annual.
Lantana plants are considered invasive in many areas, including Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii. If you live in a frost-free climate and would like to grow lantana outdoors as a perennial, check with your municipality or a local extension office to see if there are any restrictions on planting this species in your area.
Lantana plants like full sun. The plant should receive at least six hours (or more) of direct sunlight every day. It can tolerate some afternoon shade but will flower less if planted in a shady spot.
These plants thrive in well-draining soil. They will grow in most soil conditions but prefer a neutral pH range (6.0-8.0).
Water lantana thoroughly, about one inch per week, and do not let it dry out. With sandy soil, you will likely need to water every day. If blooming has slowed or stopped altogether, try more water.
Temperature and Humidity
Lantana plants grow in USDA zones 7 to 11; in this zone, they are evergreens of the broadleaf variety. They may survive a light frost, but the plant will die if the temperature dips below 28 degrees Fahrenheit or stays cold for a long time. Lantana thrives in temperatures 55 degrees Fahrenheit or more. It enjoys humid weather and can survive salt spray.
Lantana plants do not require much fertilizer when in the ground. Give it once in the early spring. They are very low-maintenance, and too much fertilizer can decrease the abundance of flowers. Feed lantana plants in containers more frequently with a balanced, gentle 20-20-20 fertilizer every month, following product label instructions.
Types of Lantana
Most lantana bushes grow up to 6 feet tall in their native climate; however, if kept as an annual, this fast grower can still get up to 3 feet tall in one growing season. The flower's nectar attracts several species of butterflies, including the spicebush swallowtail.
- Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis): These have vining branches up to 12 inches long and are popular for baskets or hanging displays.
- Popcorn lantana (Lantana trifolia): This type is known for its relatively small and bright clusters of flowers.
- Wild lantana (Lantana urticoides): Found in Texas, these have especially pungent leaves.
- Lantana pastazensis: Native to Ecuador and rarely found outside of its natural zone; listed as "vulnerable" to becoming an endangered species.
- 'Spreading Sunset' (Lantana x 'Monet'): This cultivar has a flower head with gold centers surrounded by orange. This orange color later fades to pink.
- Lantana camara 'Miss Huff': Cold hardy to Zone 7b with orange and yellow flowers.
- Lantana camara 'Bandito': Compact mounding habit with orange, red, or pink flowers.
If you are growing lantana as a perennial, pruning is essential to promote branching and flowering. Remove the plant's fruit to keep its aggressive growth in check—lightly shear lantana after flowering to encourage future blooms on bushier branches. Cut stems in the spring to within six to 12 inches from the ground to encourage branching and blooming.
If a perennial lantana plant produces berries and you do not want the seeds to drop and spread, prune lantana after flowering.
Lantana can be propagated or multiplied by growing from seed or stem cuttings. Stem cutting is more reliable since many lantana plants are hybrids, which may not come true to the parent plant when grown from collected seed. Stem cuttings, however, will be the same as the parent. Take a cutting in the fall as the weather turns wintery. The outdoor plants will die in winter weather, but you can grow them indoors in a warm room with grow lights, getting them ready to transplant outdoors in the spring. Here's how to propagate by stem cutting:
- You'll need pruners, a piece of the plant, a pot of moist seed starting mix or perlite and peat moss mixture, rooting hormone (optional, but preferred), a clear plastic bag, and wooden supports (pencils, sticks, or chopsticks).
- Take a 4-inch cutting from new growth, removing the lower leaves and keeping one or two sets of leaves at the end.
- Fill the container with the moistened potting soil, and make a two-inch deep hole with a pencil or your finger.
- Coat the stem cutting end and the spots where you removed the leaves with rooting hormone if you're using it.
- Place the cutting in the hole, and fill it with soil, tamping it down and firming around the cutting.
- Use four wooden prop sticks and place them around the perimeter of the potting container.
- Put the clear plastic bag over the cutting, with the wooden supports ensuring the bag does not touch the stem cutting.
- Keep the soil moist, check daily, and give the plant fresh air for a short period each day.
- Rooting takes about three to four weeks. Once you notice new growth or tug at the plant and feel it is hard to pull out of the soil, remove the plastic bag and grow it in a warm, sunny window until it's ready to go outdoors.
How to Grow Lantana From Seed
Seeds for planting lantanas as annuals in cooler zones are readily available commercially. Harvesting seeds from perennial plants in warmer zones is simple. When the plant's black berries are ripe, you will find seed pods inside. Plant seeds six to eight weeks indoors before you want to transplant outdoors.
- Pop seeds out of the pods, rinse them with water and dry them on paper towels for a couple of days.
- Store dried seeds in a sealed container in a refrigerator until you can put them in a small pot for germination.
- Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours.
- Fill small pots with soilless potting mix, place one or two seeds in the center of each pot, and cover with the medium.
- Place the pot with the seeds in individual and sealable plastic bags. Keep the pots of seeds moist and in an environment where the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the bag as soon as you see seedlings. This should take about a month. Plant outdoors or in an outdoor container.
Potting and Repotting Lantana
Lantana grows well in containers. Since lantana tends to have invasive qualities in warmer, tropical, and subtropical regions, it's best to grow this plant in a container to control its growth. In places where it will die back in winter, it's safer to grow in the ground without worrying about its invasive spread.
Put the plant into a container slightly larger than its existing rootball. Lantana prefers tight living quarters, so resist getting a huge container. Make sure the container has ample drainage holes. Consider placing small gravel at the bottom to assist with drainage. Use potting soil with good drainage; consider mixing in sand, perlite, or using peat moss mixture.
Lantana needs to be repotted when its roots outgrow the container; a tell-tale sign is its roots growing out of the drainage holes. Only move up to a container that is the next size larger. If you are considering a vining lantana that works well in hanging planters, L. montevidensis is more vine-like than other varieties and is a great hanging plant.
Gardeners in cold climates sometimes wonder if lantana plants can be taken indoors in the fall and overwintered as houseplants. The answer is yes and no. Lantana can be overwintered inside, but they do not thrive as houseplants unless they have warmth and strong, full-spectrum indoor grow lights.
You can also overwinter them in an unheated room that doesn't drop cooler than 55 F for the winter, keeping them dormant. Provide minimal light and water (about 1/2 inch of water per week) until you replant, or bring it outdoors in the spring when temperatures warm up.
Lantana can survive most pests but watch for the following insects that can cause problems if the infestation becomes severe. The four most common pests of lantana are aphids, lace bugs, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. Use insecticidal soap to eliminate pests or use a method more specific to the insect to save lantana plants.
How to Get Lantana to Bloom
Lantanas need full sun and consistently moist soil to bloom. If you have problems with bloom, prune off old seed pods or berries.
Lantana blooms year-round in climates that remain above 55 F. Otherwise, it remains in bloom from the spring, when temperatures are above 55 F, to the fall, when the temperatures drop below 55 F.
How Long Does Lantana Bloom?
Lantanas continuously bloom in warm weather; each flower cluster lasts several weeks, then deadhead it to encourage quicker, more profuse blooming.
What Do Lantana Flowers Look and Smell Like?
Lantanas are tiny, star-looking tubular flowers that grow as flower clusters in bright, fluorescent colors mixed in the cluster, creating a bicolored effect. The leaves have a sandpaper-like texture. Lantanas have a strong, not-terribly-pleasant citrusy smell and are considered fragrant.
How to Encourage More Blooms?
Give half-strength phosphorus-enriched fertilizer and water deeply weekly to encourage new blooms.
Caring for Lantana After It Blooms
When not in bloom, lantana is dormant, which happens when the weather cools down. If growing outdoors in a subtropical climate, reduce water to only 1/2 inch per week and withhold fertilizer.
Bring the plant inside if in a place with temperatures below 55 F consistently for the winter season; otherwise, treat it like an annual; and discard it in late fall or winter after it dies.
Deadheading Lantana Flowers
Deadhead flowers to prevent the spread of berries (and seeds) and encourage more blooms.
Common Problems With Lantana
It's one of the easiest plants to grow as an annual or shrub. It's tough, salt- and drought-tolerant, and is nearly maintenance-free.
If your lantana rarely blooms, ensure it's getting full sun, ample water, and not too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Nitrogen feeds foliage, forsaking flowers for leaves. To encourage lantanas to bloom, remove the flower heads before they make berries. The plant also puts a lot of its energy into producing berries at the expense of blooms. Pruning or trimming back plants will encourage new growth and more flowers.
Although these plants become drought tolerant once established, they still require watering at the base of the plant during hot weather—at least once a week in the summer.
A lantana's leaves may droop if it lacks necessary nutrients, such as iron, potassium, calcium, or phosphorus. Test the soil using an at-home kit or send your soil sample to a lab to check for deficiencies. Amend the soil with the nutrients the soil is missing.
Healthy soil naturally contains the nutrients a plant needs for growth; however, nutritional deficiencies occur when the soil loses nutrients due to soil erosion, runoff, or other plants depleting its nutrients. Replenish nutrients by providing fertilizer.
Does lantana grow fast?
Lantana is a fast-growing and profuse bloomer, especially as a shrub. Even as an annual, lantana can grow into a bushy bloomer several feet tall in one season.
Can lantana grow indoors?
Lantana does not make a good houseplant. This plant is better grown outdoors as an annual or shrub, depending on where you live,
What is the difference between lantana and verbena?
Lantana plants are sometimes called "verbena bushes." Both are part of the Vebenaceae family, and they both attract butterflies. Lantana's blooms are smaller, in tighter clusters than verbena. Verbena is not as drought or heat-tolerant as lantana.
How is lantana used in landscaping?
Lantana's colorful blooms make good specimen plants. They are also used as border shrubs and as ground cover in areas with full sunshine in warm climates. The plants tolerate salt spray very well, making them popular in yards located near the ocean. In colder climates, where lantana plants are treated as annuals, they grow in hanging baskets.
Negi, G.C.S., Sharma, S., Vishvakarma, S.C. et al. Ecology and Use of Lantana camara in India. Bot. Rev., vol. 85, pp. 109–130, 2019. doi:10.1007/s12229-019-09209-8
Reproductive Biology and Invasive Potential of Lantana Camara Cultivars. USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Lantana and verbena: how to combat insects and mite pests. The Texas A&M University System.