How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Lantana Plants
Lantana is a sun-friendly plant that has a variety of different uses. From border plantings to flowerbeds, these colorful flowers can brighten up any garden space. In this article, gardening expert Natalie Leiker walks through how to plant, grow, and care for Lantana in your garden.
Filling in areas of your landscape beds or garden that see the hottest parts of the summer sun can be tricky. Finding plants that can withstand high temperatures can be challenging. Lantana is a great option to fill in those tricky areas. It thrives in warm weather and loves as much sunlight as it can get.
Lantana is often seen in containers or patio pots, but can make a great ground cover or accent in full sun landscape beds. It blooms consistently all growing season in a range of colors and attracts loads of pollinators and is even deer resistant!
If you are considering planting Lantana this season, there are a few things to consider before getting started. Lantana isn’t very picky when it comes to its growing space, but can be tricky if not planted correctly. Let’s dive into all the details of growing lantana in your garden!
Lantana Plant Overview
Common name Lantana
Botanical Name Lantana camara
Plant Type Flowering Annual
Species Camara, trifolia, urticoides
Exposure Full sun
Soil Fertile, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral 6.0-8.0
Water Requirements Low
Hardiness Annual zones 1- 8, perennial in zones 9-11
Spacing 18-24 inches
Growth Rate Moderate to Fast
Plant With Full sun plants, drought tolerant plants
Don’t Plant With Plants that require shade or a lot of moisture
What is Lantana?
In northern climates, Lantana is primarily used as a container or landscape accent. It is often seen in roadways or woody areas in tropical states such as Hawaii and Texas where it is a native.
For many climates, it remains a flowering annual. It produces bright and colorful blooms that pollinators and other beneficial insects love. It is quite resistant to certain pests and diseases.
This heat-tolerant plant blooms all season long, and most of the year in climates where it is perennial. Lantana is usually seen as a ground cover or low growing plant, but there are some varieties that grow upright as well.
Native Growing Regions
Lantana is native to the Southern and Tropical regions of the Americas. It grows natively in tropical states where the weather is warm all year round. It grows as a perennial shrub in these areas.
In its native area, Lantana forms a woody shrub-like plant and is almost considered invasive. It grows in roadsides and woody areas where it reseeds itself and grows rapidly.
Since it is native to warmer climates, it is very drought and heat tolerant and loves the sun. It thrives in hot conditions, poor soils, and requires little to no nutrients.
Lantana is a flowering annual that generally spreads to about two feet, but there are some varieties that grow two feet tall or more. It has deep green leaves and is slightly prickly.
The flowers are small round clusters and usually have multiple colors in shades of pinks, yellows, and orange. These flowers attract bees and other insect pollinators.
Most varieties of Lantana are slightly aromatic, especially the foliage. Some varieties are stronger than others, of course this is subjective. The scented and pubescent foliage keeps them from being eaten by critters such as deer and rabbits.
At the end of it’s blooming period, it will form seed pods which appear as small dark berries. This allows it to reseed itself in conditions that allow it, or an opportunity for seed harvest.
Cultivation & History
Lantana was first discovered in South America and was brought to Hawaii in the 1800s. It quickly spread throughout the islands and has been cultivated over the years to become the plants we see in garden centers and in nurseries.
It is identified as invasive in some Southern states and Hawaii given its habit of spreading rapidly and its ability to take over. In Northern states it is widely used as an accent ornamental or small shrub.
Many of the varieties we see today are modified versions of the native Lantana. Most of us will find Lantana as a bright and colorful annual, but in regions where it is perennial, varieties that resemble the true native can be found.
How To Plant
While Lantana can be grown as seed, it can be challenging depending on your climate and resources. It is generally transplanted from nursery containers, which are usually available in spring and throughout the warm months.
When it comes to propagation, the most common methods are plant propagation via seed or cuttings. You can also purchase starts at a local garden center, as starter plants are very commonly available for transplanting during the growing season. Let’s take a deeper look at lantana propagation.
At the end of its blooming period, Lantana will produce dark colored berries that are home to the seeds. Allow these berries to mature and ripen, then the seeds are ready to harvest.
Pick the berries, break them open and separate the seeds from the brown goo inside – this step can get kind of messy. Place the seeds on a napkin or paper towel and allow them to dry out before storing them.
Many varieties you will find available for purchase are hybridized versions of the native Lantana. This means that if you harvest seeds, they may not produce identical plants of the original.
Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant. Take 3-4 inch cuttings from new growth and remove the lower leaves from the cuttings.
Place cuttings in a light seed starting or peat based soil mix – keep cuttings moist and in a humid environment if possible. Once the cuttings have rooted to the edge of the pot, they are ready to transplant.
Cuttings provide a better chance of producing matching plants to that of the original.
It is crucial to harden off your started seeds or cuttings before transplanting them into their outdoor location.
Place your plants outside for small periods of time each day, increasing the time and sunlight each day. Once it is fully acclimated to the outside climate it can be transplanted.
Already started bedding plants are available as transplants at local nurseries and garden centers in spring all throughout the growing season. These transplants are a quick and easy way to acquire Lantana plants and are often available in more varieties than you’ll be able to find in seed.
Plant transplants into their new location when the danger of low night temperatures has passed. Lantana is very sensitive to low temperatures. The plants might require a higher amount of moisture directly after transplanting, but once established they will benefit from being kept on the dry side.
When To Plant
For those of us in chillier climates, it is best to transplant in late spring when the weather has officially warmed up. It can be planted at any time during the warm months.
If you are growing from seed, it will need to be started indoors or in a greenhouse. Once the roots are well formed and surrounding the edge of the pot, the hardening off process can begin.
How To Grow
Lantana is very easy-going once planted and established. It loves hot, warm weather, and can withstand drought and even attract pollinators. It can be planted in those areas of the yard that get constant sun and fill in as a hardy ground cover if need be. Add it to planters or pots for a pop of color.
This warm weather perennial is considered very low maintenance. It can be hassle free to grow if placed in the right location and given its preferred growing environments. Sunlight, watering, and temperature are some of the things to consider when transplanting your Lantana.
Lantana grows best in full sun, and requires this amount of sunlight to flower regularly – the more the merrier. If it’s planted in a location that receives shade the plants will become leggy and not produce flowers.
Plant in a location that will receive sun all day. It should have enough room to reach about two feet wide, staying low to the ground. Keep in mind that it is a low-growing plant, so be sure to plant it in an area that won’t be shaded out by other nearby plants.
Planting on the South or Southwest side of the house where sunlight is very prominent would be ideal. Open areas that receive sun all day are also good places for Lantana.
Upon transplanting, water regularly to help the roots get adapted. Once the plant is established, the amount of water it needs will decrease drastically.
Allowing your soil to dry out in between waterings is crucial to your plants health as Lantana does not like to be kept moist. It can handle humid climates, but the soil should dry out pretty well before you water again.
Well-draining, fertile soil is ideal for growing Lantana, but it can tolerate sandy or rocky soils as well. Soils that are high in clay tend to stay moist, which can negatively affect plant growth.
An all purpose potting soil will be perfect for planting in containers or hanging baskets. Lantana prefers average to slightly acidic soil, which shouldn’t be too tricky as most garden soil tends to be around 5.5-6, which is average.
Climate & Temperature
As a native to warmer regions, Lantana grows best when temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is very sensitive to cold temperatures.
If temperatures dip below freezing, the plant will become damaged and possibly not survive. It loves hot and humid climates but grows well in warm and dry climates as well.
Fertilizing isn’t necessary as it doesn’t use many nutrients from the soil. If you are planting with other plants and you need to fertilize, the Lantana might grow a little quicker, but it won’t have much effect.
Lantana is a very low-maintenance plant and requires no upkeep once established. If you live in an area where it is a perennial, it might benefit from an early spring pruning to help maintain the shape and keep it from going gangbusters.
Their flowers last for a very long time, so deadheading isn’t really necessary either. Once the flowers begin to dry out, they will also produce seed pods, and this simply means the plant has reached the end of its life cycle.
There are many varieties available for purchase in garden centers. Some have an upright growing habit while others will trail and hang over ledges or out of pots. Keep this in mind when deciding what you’d like to plant near your Lantana.
Since it’s treated as an annual in most zones, a lot of garden centers cater to this and sell varieties that do well in small spaces or containers. There are certain species and varieties that are hardier than others, but as a general rule of thumb most Lantana plants are only perennial in warm climates where the zone is 9 or higher.
Luscious camara ‘Marmalade’
Marmalade is a bright orange variety of Lantana that grows to about two feet wide and stays fairly low-growing. It makes a nice accent plant in planters or as an accent in landscape borders. Marmalade blooms are clusters of different shades of orange, which pairs nicely with other bright flowers in the summer months.
Lantana camara ‘Luscious Citrus’
Luscious Citrus Lantana grows to about three feet tall and wide, and adds a bright pop of color in any planting situation. The flower clusters are deep red and bright yellow making a striking combination.
Lantana Chapel Hill Yellow
Chapel Hill Yellow Lantana is a hardier variety. It is a perennial in zones 7-11, which makes it a great option for gardeners in many regions of America. This yellow variety reaches about three feet wide when mature and is known for being more tolerant of cool temperatures.
Lantana Bandana Red
Bandana Red is exactly how it sounds, bright red, often with a hint of orange or yellow. This variety grows to be about 2 feet wide and tall and provides a vivid flower. Bandana Lantanas have a compact growing habit and create a mound shape.
Your climate and hardiness zone can help you determine how and where you want to plant your Lantana. If you are in a tropical or warmer region, you have many planting options. Those of us that live in Northern and cooler climates will be limited in our planting decisions.
In warmer regions, it can be planted as a small low-growing shrub in the ground, in containers, or maybe as a ground cover. It will become woody in these areas as it matures. It can make a great groundcover in landscape borders or rockwall gardens.
In cooler climates where it’s considered an annual, patio pots or containers are an ideal place to plant. Lantana does great in hanging baskets or combined with other flowering annuals in patio containers. Keep in mind the variety you are working with when deciding how to plant it. For example, ‘Marmalade’ makes a great addition to a hanging basket due to its habit of trailing.
It can be added to landscapes as borders or accents in these climates, but will not survive the winter. Plant with other full sun plants that prefer similar growing conditions such as Petunias, Zinnas, and Marigolds.
Lantana is fairly pest resistant. But there are still a few common pests you may deal with as you add this colorful perennial to your garden. Let’s take a deeper look at the most common pests you are likely to encounter.
One of the most common garden pests, aphids can be a very frustrating pest for home gardeners to deal with. They attack the undersides of leaves, and will suck the nutrients right from your plant. These tiny green bugs are sometimes hard to spot, but it is important to keep an eye out for them as they can do quite a number on herbaceous plants. If aphids are noticed in small quantities, they can be sprayed off with the garden hose. In more severe cases an insecticidal spray might be necessary to eradicate them.
One of the most commonly found pests on Lantana are lace bugs. These bugs will often appear as tiny black dots on the undersides of leaves, and grow into larger winged insects. Spray mature bugs off with the garden hose if possible.
Spider mites are generally seen in hot, dry conditions. These tiny white insects feed on the undersides of leaves, sometimes creating a yellow stippling appearance. Spider mites won’t destroy your plants necessarily, but if the infestation is severe, it is best to treat it appropriately. A spray such as pyrethrum or spinosad soap will effectively eliminate these tiny pests.
Lantana is not susceptible to many diseases, but there are a few that could possibly affect your plants in certain conditions. I like to keep an eye out throughout the season for any funky looking leaves or bugs in order to hopefully catch problems early on. Keeping your planting areas weed free will also help to prevent spread of potential diseases.
If Lantana is planted in shade or consistent precipitation has fallen and the leaves haven’t had a chance to dry out, Powdery Mildew can occur. It is normally seen in very humid climates.
This whitish gray sticky substance is found on the tops of leaves and can clear itself up if you allow the leaves to dry out. In more severe cases a fungicide application might be necessary.
Root & Stem Rot
Stems can begin to turn brown and rot if the plant is kept wet for too long. The roots will begin to rot, and will work its way up the plant causing the rest of it to die off. Allow your soil to dry out in between waterings to prevent this from occurring.
If you suspect root or stem rot on your plants, repot them into fresh healthy soil. Sometimes a fungicide application can eliminate this problem, but the key is prevention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why isn’t my Lantana blooming?
Lantana grows best in areas that receive full sun. This means that the plants should be getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Not enough sunlight is one of the most common reasons you’ll see a lack of blooms.
Do I need to deadhead Lantana?
Nope! Lantana flowers last for a long time on the plant. If you live in an area that has a long warm season, deadheading might be beneficial to keep your plant tidy, but it isn’t entirely necessary.
Is Lantana deer and rabbit resistant?
Due to Lantana’s semi prickly and scented leaves, critters like rabbits and deer do not tend to munch on them. Just remember that it’s rabbit and deer resistant, not deer and rabbit proof.
As a native to the southern parts of the United States, Lantana is a very heat tolerant and adaptable plant. It can withstand dry conditions and will provide vivid colors while attracting beneficial insects and many pollinators. Plant Lantana in pots or containers, or as a groundcover for a pop of color.