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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Lantanas

If you are looking for a unique plant to add to your butterfly garden, consider the Lantana.  This plant comes in two growth habits, which includes a trailing variety and an evergreen shrub.  If you choose the trailing variety (Lantana montevidensis), consider planting it in a hanging basket or in a container garden.  Before you know it, the trailing Lantana will be overflowing down the sides of the container since it spreads six feet in a season while only growing between 18 to 24 inches in height.  But do not limit the trailing Lantana to a hanging basket instead contemplate using it as a ground cover or even plant it so that it can grow up a wall.

The evergreen variety (Lantana camara), on the other hand, only grows to a mature height of four feet while only spreading one to three feet.  If you choose this form of Lantana, consider planting it in a group of shrubs or in a mixed border.  This will allow the verbena-like flowers to really show up.  As far as the flowers, both types of Lantana produce beautiful blooms that start out small and single color.  As the bloom ages, the colors change and it is not uncommon to have several different colors on the same flower stem, which includes pink, white, orange, red, violet, and yellow. 

While this plant is a perennial in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-11, it can still be grown in other areas as an annual and/or houseplant.  If you plant the Lantana in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 9 though, the top part of the plant will dieback but it will recover the next spring.  Finally, before you go purchase this plant, check your state’s invasive species list.  Many states have deemed the Lantana as an invasive species and recommend not planting it.

While this plant does have an invasive nature, it does have a unique ability to thrive in areas that other flowering plants will not and this environment includes oceanfront landscapes.  These challenging areas are exposed to saltwater spray, which kill many plants excluding the Lantana. 

When planning on using this plant, the limiting factors are sunlight and well-drained soil.  In doing so, one will need to pick a sunny location that has a slightly acidic soil that is well-drained.  Once you have your location selected, the next step is to prepare the planting space.  To do this, one will need to dig a hole that is twice the width of the container the plant has come in.  As far as the depth goes, the hole needs to be the same as the container. 

Once the hole has been dug, do a dry run of the hole by placing the pot in the ground.  Adjust as needed.  Next, silt the container’s sides with a knife and gently remove the Lantana from the container.  Gently tease the roots with your fingers and place in the hole.  Fill in with the hole with soil and water in.  Add additional soil as needed to keep the soil level in the hole the same as the ground level.

After the plant has been planted, place a two to three inch layer of pine needle mulch underneath the newly planted Lantana.  Continue to water the Lantana on a weekly schedule for the first three weeks.  After that, only water the plant during dry spells.

When using as a container plant, you will need to first clean and sterilize the container prior to planting.  To do this, one will need to soak the pot in hot, soapy water.  Scrub the pot after it has soaked for a few minutes.  Once that is done, rinse in cool water that contains one capful of bleach.  After it has been rinsed, place the container outside in the bright sun.  This last step will provide solar sterilization, which will kill any remaining pests and/or plant diseases.

Next, place drainage material in the bottom of the container making sure that the drainage material covers the drainage holes.  After that is done, fill the pot ¼ full of an all-purpose potting soil.  Now, remove the trailing Lantana from its container by tipping it upside down, squeezing the sides and pulling the pot away from the root mass.  If this technique does not work, cut down the sides of the container and remove plant. 

Place the plant in the container so that it is below the rim of the pot by ¾ to one inch.  Adjust the soil level as needed.  Once the soil level is correct, fill in the container with potting medium and water in until moisture can be seen coming out of the bottom.

While the Lantana is beautiful by itself, it can really be a showstopper when combined with ornamental sweet potato vine.

As a houseplant, the Lantana is easy to grow.  You can simply move your plant indoors or take a softwood cutting.  Prior to moving indoors, one will need to transplant the plant into another container that has been filled with a peat moss based potting soil mix.  Next, you will need to place it in a room or windowsill that receives the brightest light possible.  If this is not an option, consider placing the plant under grow lights.

After your plant has been transplanted into its new home, the next step is to place it on a tray full of pebbles.  To these pebbles, one will need to water.  This will address this plant’s need for high humidity.

But one word of caution when displaying the Lantana anywhere and that is it is toxic to pets.  Also, while the plant’s flowers smell wonderful, the foliage does not.  In doing so, make sure to place your Lantana, inside or out, in a location where the leaves will not be crushed.  This will eliminate the stinky factor of this plant.

To keep the Lantana looking its best one will need to deadhead.  What this term means is you simply remove any spent flowers from the stem.  Do not just pinch the top off but remove down to the first set of leaves.  Performing this step will encourage the plant to bloom more often.  Also, you will need to prune the plant to keep it looking compact and full.  To do this, take the plant down so that only 6 to 12 inches remain above soil level.

The Lantana does suffer from a few pest problems but many are brought on by mismanagement.  One issue that this plant has is with powdery mildew.  This is brought on when the plant is not receiving enough sunlight.  To remedy this situation, move the plant to a sunnier location.  Root rot is another issue that has an environmental cause.  When the plant receives too much water or is placed in a pot without a drainage hole, root rot sets in.  To fix this issue, one will need to water less and/or place the plant in a container with a drainage hole. 

As far as pests, the Lantana can suffer from aphid, lace bugs, and/or whitefly infestations.

While this plant can be invasive, it is well worth planting in the landscape as a mid to late summer bloomer that attracts desirable wildlife such as butterflies and/or hummingbirds while being deer and rabbit resistant.


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