Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants, native to tropical regions of the Americas and Africa. The species include both herbaceous plants and shrubs growing to 0.5-2 m tall.
They are widely cultivated for their flowers in tropical and subtropical environments and (as an annual plant) in temperate climates. Some species are invasive, and are considered to be noxious weeds in southern Asia, southern Africa, and Australia, with there being specialised services that you can call in to remove the plants. In the United States, some Lantana species are now naturalized in the southeast, especially coastal regions of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and the Gulf Coast where it is often known as “ham and eggs”. Lantana species are used as food plants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genera Aenetus, including A. ligniveren and A. scotti, and Endoclita, including E. malabaricus. Other Lepidoptera whose larvae feed on Lantana include Hypercompe orsa and Setaceous Hebrew Character.
Most of the plants sold as lantana are either Lantana camara, Lantana montevidensis, or hybrids between the two. L. camara (syn. L. aculeata or L. armata) is the most common species in cultivation. Numerous cultivars of this species exist, including ‘Irene’, ‘Christine’ and ‘Dallas Red’ (all tall-growing cultivars) and several recently introduced shorter ones. The shorter cultivars may flower more prolifically than the taller ones. Lantana montevidensis is known as Trailing Lantana. The species gives blue (or white) flowers all year round. Its foliage is dark green and has a typical odor.
Lantana’s aromatic flower clusters are a mix of red and orange florets. Other colors exist as new varieties are being selected. Lantana berries are poisonous. Lantana flowers and berries are attractive to insects and birds.
Some cultivars grow to as much as 5 to 6 feet tall, forming large, bushy mounds while others stay low and spreading, reaching up to 4 feet wide, but only 1 to 2 feet in height. Some cultivars are more compact.
Lantana growth rate
Lantanas generally grow rapidly. Some cultivars, such as ‘Miss Huff’, are extremely vigorous. If plants outgrow their assigned space, they tolerate trimming back well during the growing season.
Lantana ornamental features
Lantana is valued for its long season of reliable bloom. Many cultivars display multiple colors within each two inch wide disc shaped flower head. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Foliage is coarse, lightly toothed and rough to the touch. Crushed leaves have a pungent scent, so you may want to locate where the plant it will not spread across walks if the odor offends you.
Lantana landscape use
Use lantana as annuals or perennials in flowerbeds or containers. Spreading cultivars are attractive as groundcovers or trailing over containers and walls.
Grow lantana in full sun. Lantana is tolerant of all soil types provided they are well drained and slightly acid. Lantana is tolerant to salt and is an excellent choice for plantings near the beach.
Lantana prefers warm soil. Plant lantana in spring, at least 2 weeks after all danger of frost is past. Hardy lantanas will typically show no growth in the spring until soil and air temperatures are quite warm.
Water: Newly planted lantanas will need to be kept moist for the first few weeks until the roots have spread into the surrounding soil.
While established lantanas are drought tolerant, performance, bloom, and growth rate will be reduced if they are too dry for a long period. During their blooming period, give them a thorough watering once a week if they do not receive an inch of rain that week. Avoid overhead watering. Overly frequent overhead watering can make plant more susceptible to diseases and root rot.
Pruning: Prune lantana periodically during summer by lightly shearing the tip growth to encourage repeat blooming. Plants that have become too large for their allotted space may be pruned back by up to a third of their height and spread. Water and lightly fertilize newly cut back plants and they will return to bloom quickly.
Prune perennial lantanas back hard in spring to remove old growth and prevent woodiness. Cut back to about 6 to 12 inches from ground level. Avoid hard pruning in fall as this can cause reduced cold hardiness.
Fertilizer: Lantana requires little fertilizer. A light fertilization in spring will usually be sufficient. Vigorously growing plants may be fertilized again in mid summer, provided plants are not water stressed. Excessive fertilizer may reduce flowering and make plants more susceptible to disease.
Although lantana is generally a very low maintenance plant with few problems, some may occur, especially in improper growing conditions.
Lantana is susceptible to powdery mildew if grown in shade. Sooty mold, causing a blackish discoloration on the leaves is usually caused by infestation by whiteflies.
Root rot can be a problem if soil is poorly drained or plants are watered too frequently.
Lantana lace bugs cause leaves to appear grayish and stippled or to brown and drop. Caterpillar damage also can occur. Mites can be a problem, especially if plants are very dry.
Some cultivars produce small blue-black fleshy fruit. The fruit can be poisonous, especially if eaten in quantity. Fruiting can be avoided by growing sterile cultivars. Sterile cultivars which are available include ‘New Gold’, ‘Samantha’ (‘Lemon Swirl’), ‘Miss Huff’, ‘Mozelle’, ‘Patriot Deen Day Smith’, ‘Patriot Marc Cathey’, ‘Weeping Lavender’ and ‘Weeping White’.
Poor blooming is usually caused by too much shade or excessive fertilization. Plants that set berries may decline in bloom. Trim plants back to encourage new growth and flowering.
Lantana speciesand cultivars
Sterile cultivars are desirable since they do not produce seed, and so stay reliably in bloom throughout the summer. Some of these cultivars may set a limited amount of fertile berries.
Common Lantana Cultivars
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is the most widely grown species, with numerous cultivars. Plants tend to be large and mound shaped, although some have spreading habit. Many cultivars are hybrids with trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis). In addition to cultivars listed, there are many others, and new cultivars frequently appear on the market.
‘Athens Rose’ is a new cultivar that appears likely to be hardy throughout South Carolina. It forms an upright mound up to 3 feet tall. The flower buds are magenta, opening to deep rose-pink and yellow.
‘Clear White’ is a low spreading cultivar with pure white flowers.
‘Miss Huff’ is one of the most reliably perennial lantanas, even in the Upstate. It is a vigorous, tall plant, forming an upright mound up to 5 to 6 feet tall in one season. Flowers are a mix of orange, coral and gold. Sterile.
‘Mozelle’ is similar to ‘Miss Huff in size and hardiness, but the flowers are much softer in color, varying from pale yellow to peach and soft pink. Sterile.
‘New Gold’ is very similar or the same as ‘Gold Mound’. It is generally reliably hardy on the coast, and frequently overwinters in the Columbia area. ‘New Gold’ is a vigorous spreading plant, reaching 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. This cultivar is very heavy blooming, with deep gold flowers. It is a sterile cultivar that does not produce berries.
‘New Red’ is very similar or the same as ‘Texas Flame’ and ‘Dallas Red’. The flowers are orange, yellow and crimson. This cultivar is the reddest lantana available.
‘Patriot Cowboy’ is one of the smallest lantanas available, growing to only 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The blooms begin as orange buds that open bright yellow and change to bright orange.
‘Patriot Deen Day Smith’ is a newer variety with pastel colors of rose pink, canary yellow apricot. This is a vigorous growing mounding type, that will attain a height and width of up to 5 feet in one season. Sterile.
‘Patriot Desert Sunset’ has an upright mounding form, growing 3 feet tall and wide. Flowers are orange, gold, pink and coral.
‘Patriot Honeylove’ is a compact spreading cultivar up to 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide with pale pink, butter yellow, and ivory flowers Plants are slightly mounded with gentle weeping habit that is suitable for growing over walls or in hanging baskets.
‘Patriot Marc Catheyâ€™ is a tall white flowering variety. The flower centers are clear lemon yellow. This is a vigorous growing mounding type, that will attain a height and width of up to 5 feet in one season. Sterile.
‘Patriot Popcorn’ is a small weeping cultivar, growing only 12 inches tall by 24 inches wide. Flowers are mixed white and yellow on a profusely blooming plant.
‘Patriot Rainbow’ is one of the smallest lantana available, growing to only 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide. This cultivar is very similar or the same as ‘Confetti’. It is extremely free flowering, even more so than typical lantanas. The flowers open chiffon yellow, then change to orange and fuchsia-pink.
‘Radiation’ is a tall upright cultivar growing 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Flowers are orange-red.
‘Samantha’ has dark green and chartreuse variegated foliage with bright lemon yellow flowers. It is very similar or the same as ‘Lemon Swirl’. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. ‘Samantha’ is a sterile cultivar that does not produce berries.
‘Silver Mound’ is a spreading cultivar with creamy white flowers with a gold eye. It is very free flowering and does not usually produce berries.