Lantana (Lantana camara)
Lantana 'Rose Glow'
Lantana camara is native to South Texas and tropical America. It grows well in dry, sunny locations, and provides landscape color over a long period. Lantanas will grow in sandy soils near the coast where most other plants are severely damaged by the salt. In northern parts of our region, lantanas should be treated as annuals. In zones 9 and 10, as well as parts of 8, frost-damaged wood is removed, and plants are cut back and shaped each spring. The cultivar 'Miss Huff' is capable of surviving a few more degrees of cold than most other cultivars.
Flowers of L. camara come in bicolor mixtures of yellow, red, pink, white, and orange. They resemble small verbenas in size and form. Native types seem to be more cold-hardy and reliably perennial than most of the hybrids. 'New Gold' is a particularly popular golden-yellow flowering cultivar that is semi-trailing in form, and re-blooms well during the growing season.
L. horrida is sometimes known as Texas Lantana or Orange Lantana, and has naturalized over much of Texas. Flowers are yellow-orange, and appear from spring till frost. L. Horrida grows well in dry soils, and is effective in mass plantings and as a ground cover in sunny areas. L. Macropoda is similar, but flowers are pink and cream.
Lantana trifolia, another species of lantana native to Mexico, Central and South America is sometimes available. Its common name is "Three-leaved lantana", and usually appears as an upright, compact shrub with pale, 2" lavender-pink blooms and seeds. It is said to be attractive to butterflies, and is more frost-tender than the common lantanas. This plant often multiplies from seeds shed near the parent plant. Two named cultivars are 'Fruity Pebbles' and 'Lavender Popcorn.'
Lantanas are grown from cuttings or seed, and do best in sunny areas having well drained soils. Frequent tip pruning during the growing season promotes more flowers. Fertilizer should be used sparingly, with one light application each spring usually being adequate.
L. montevidensis is a lavender, trailing form that is also native to South and Central Texas. As with all the lantanas, the foliage is aromatic. Trailing lantanas are useful as ground covers in dry, sunny areas. They are also attractive in hanging containers and spilling over edges of retaining walls and flower boxes. This trailing species is sometimes listed as L. sellowiana. An all-white form is also available.
The berries of all lantanas are reported to be poisonous. Lantanas are excellent plants for attracting butterflies to the garden. All lantanas are especially useful along the Gulf Coast. Occasional pruning helps to keep them neat and in flower for many months.