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 part of 8, frost-damaged wood is removed and plants are cut back and shaped each spring.
Flowers of L. camara come in bi-color 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 probably the most popular cultivar available. Golden yellow flowers occur prolifically from late spring to late fall. It has a low mounding form reaching about 18" tall and 2' wide. One reason ‘New Gold’ reblooms so profusely is because it rarely sets seed. It is semi-trailing in form.
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.
L. trifolia is a rather tender plant with lavender flowers and 1 to 2" long clusters of lavender berries. It can be easily recognized by the three leaves emerging from the same node on the stem. Use this plant as an attractive annual in all but Zone 9 areas.
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 in some references. The berries of all lantanas are reported to be poisonous. All lantanas are excellent plants for attracting butterflies to the garden, and are especially useful along the Gulf Coast. Occasional pruning helps to keep them neat and in flower for many months.