LANTANA – A WEST TEXAS FLOWER

Carol Siddall, Master Gardener

Lantana consists of more than 150 species.  They are mostly natives of the Tropics.  In some regions, Texas included, lantanas grow wild as weeds, chiefly spread by birds that are very fond of their juicy fruits.  Neil Sperry of McKinney, Texas says  it grows in various types of soils throughout our state.  It grows best in poor, sandy soil in hot, dry areas, in full sun. Lantanas thrive in almost any soil as long as they are never waterlogged.  That has been my problem with growing them. Neil Sperry also says that in all but the very southern part of our state, its branches die back in winter and emerge again in spring.  Where it does not die back, its stems should be cut back after frost.  Lantanas flower profusely with the start of hot weather.  In frost free climates, lantana will grow all year.  I have read that it can be invasive, especially in frost-free areas.  Lantanas bloom on new growth, so keep them nourished with nitrogen. Butterflies especially love them, and hummingbirds are attracted to them.

Strains of dwarf varieties have become popular as bedding plants.  They are very free-flowering from spring until frost.  They also are good for containers and the trailing types make very good hanging basket specimens.  The older varieties are tall and lanky and set a big crop of berry clusters, but are showy in  hot weather.  The newer varieties are dwarf, spreading, bushy, and are available in a much wider color range. Greg Grant says that “often the older outer flowers of each cluster are of a different hue than the younger, inner ones”.  I am going to look for that.

Greg Grant has also stated that the best improvement that has been made is sterilization.  Several new varieties bloom profusely but NEVER form berries.  This new development insures that the plant will be a continuous blooming plant.

Lantana is a great landscape plant which is very adapted to our area provided they are grown in a sunny location.  When they get established, the plants are very drought tolerant, and will produce bright and pretty blooms in the hottest of summers.

Neil Sperry advises to trim your lantanas off an inch above the ground line, the morning after the first freeze kills their tops.  Then mulch for the winter. They should re-sprout in April if things work as planned.

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