Lantana plants have a unique vine-like appearance of their shrubby branches, making them popular to grow in outdoor hanging pots that allow their branches to spill over the sides. Lantana plants are known for their rounded clusters of small, brightly colored flowers that may be yellow, orange, white, red, pink, blue, or purple. Often these almost fluorescent colors are mixed within the same cluster, creating a bicolored effect. Other types have only solid-colored flowers. Leaves have a sandpaper-like texture. This fast-growing plant can be planted any time as a perennial or in the spring as an annual. Lantana is toxic to animals.
|Common Names||Lantana, shrub verbena|
|Botanical Name||Lantana camara|
|Plant Type||Perennial in zones 8-11; otherwise annual|
|Mature Size||6 ft. high and wide (as a perennial)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||Slightly acid|
|Bloom Time||Year-round in frost-free climates|
|Flower Color||Mix of red, orange, yellow, blue, white, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||8-11 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Warmest regions of the Americas and Africa|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Lantana plants are considered invasive in many areas without frosts, including in 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.
Most people dislike the sharp, citrusy smell of this plant. But the aroma of their foliage qualifies them as fragrant plants. We may not like the fragrance, but some pollinators do. The flower's nectar attracts several species of butterflies including the spicebush swallowtail.
Lantana plants are evergreens of the broadleaf variety. Although they may act a little like vines, they are classified by botanists as shrubs. Lantana's colorful blooms make good specimens 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 are commonly found growing in hanging baskets. The purple variety (L. montevidensis) is even more vine-like than the rest, and, consequently, makes a better hanging plant.
Lantana plants like full sun or partial 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 slightly acidic soil.
Water the lantana plant thoroughly, about 1 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 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.
Lantana plants do not require much fertilizer when the plant is in the ground—once in the early spring should suffice. 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.
Types of Lantana
- Trailing Lantanas (L. montevidensis): These have longer 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 horrida): Found in Texas, these have especially pungent leaves.
- 'Spreading Sunset' (Lantana x 'Monet'): This cultivar has a flower head with gold centers surrounded by orange. This orange color later fades to pink.
If you are growing lantana as a perennial, then pruning is important to promote branching and flowering, as well as to remove the plant's fruit to keep its aggressive growth in check. Lightly shear lantana after flowering to encourage future blooms on bushier branches. You can cut stems in the spring 6 inches to a foot from the ground, which also encourages branching and blooming.
If your perennial lantana plant produces berries and you do not want the seeds to drop and spread, prune lantana after flowering. This may prevent berries from reforming.
How to Grow Lantana From Seed
Seeds for planting lantanas as annuals in cooler zones are readily available commercially. But if you are successful harvesting seeds from perennial plants in warmer zones, you can grow more lantana if you don't mind their aggressive growth. When the plant's blackberries are ripe, they will have seed pods that you can remove. Plant seeds six to eight weeks before you want to plant them outdoors and follow these steps:
- Pop seeds out of the pods, then clean and dry them for a couple of days.
- Store dried seeds in a sealed container placed in a refrigerator until you are ready to put 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 consistently 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.
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. Yes, they can be overwintered inside, but they do not thrive as houseplants. It is better to try placing them in an unheated room for the winter and keeping them in a dormant state, providing just minimal light and water (about a 1/2 inch of water per week) until you replant. The temperature of the room should not dip much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lantana can survive most pests, but watch for the following insects that can cause the plant problems if the infestation becomes severe. The four most common pests to lantana will be aphids, lace bugs, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. Use an insecticidal soap to eliminate pests or use a method more specific to the insect to save lantana plants.
Is lantana easy to grow?
It's one of the easiest plants to grow as an annual or perennial. It's tough and drought-tolerant, which makes it literally maintenance-free.
Does lantana grow fast?
Lantana is a fast-growing and profuse bloomer, especially as a perennial. Even as an annual, lantana can potentially grow into a bushy bloomer that's 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 perennial, depending on where you live.
What's the difference between lantana and verbena?
Lantana plants 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). They are both part of the Vebenaceae family, and they both attract butterflies, but lantana's blooms are smaller in tighter clusters, and are more shrubby than verbena.
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.