The lantana plant (Lantana Camara), once fully bloomed, produces beautiful multicolored flowers. These plants are of the broadleaf variety, with emerald leaves that are coarse to the touch. Its vibrant flowers grow in tiny, round yellow, orange, red, purple, lavender, pink, or white clusters. Some varieties change color as the plants mature, which offers a pleasant surprise to gardeners.
Apart from being visually stunning, their scent is also known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The lantana plant’s aromatic flowers and leaves can also ward off common garden pests and diseases.
Depending on the type of lantana and the region, these flowers can be either annual or perennial. They are also relatively low maintenance and can flourish on their own.
Where To Get Lantana Plants
Lantana plants are native to tropical regions in Central and South America and Africa. People first cultivated them in Europe in the late seventeenth century. They are also widespread in Australia, the Pacific Islands, and India as an introduced species.
Outside these areas, you can easily purchase different varieties of lantana plants and seeds from garden centers or online — from the bright sunny Sundancer variety to the Patriot Hot Country with shades of pink, yellow, and orange. Some stores also label them as “verbena bushes.”
Types of Lantana Plants
The lantana plant belongs to the verbena family, and it can be quite challenging to distinguish between the two at first glance. But it’s essential to familiarize yourself with which one you have, as each species has different hardiness zones, growth habits, and toxicity levels.
There are over 150 different species of lantana plants resulting from the constant rehybridization amongst the different types. It’s essential to distinguish one from the other to determine the type of lantana that best suits your gardening needs. Here we list the most popular:
These are shrubs that grow upright to a maximum height of six feet and grow much faster than other lantana plants. A young seedling can grow up to five feet in just one season, giving gardeners the chance to experience the lantana’s colorful blooms right away.
These lantanas come in striking color combinations of yellow, red, orange, and coral pink, all set against a lush backdrop of emerald-green leaves.
Instead of growing upright, this lantana follows a trailing growth pattern and will only grow a maximum length of 18 inches. Left on its own unsupported, it can grow up to five to 10 feet in width and makes a gorgeous ground cover.
Unlike the shrub lantana, which produces different colored flowers, the trailing lantana’s blossoms only come in purple and lavender hues with a touch of white in the center of each flower.
Unlike the first two varieties of lantanas mentioned, the centerpiece of this variety isn’t clusters of flowers. Interestingly enough, people cultivate popcorn lantanas for their fruit clusters. Its ornamental fruits resemble small bunches of grapes or berries. Because of this, its two main cultivars are “Lavender Popcorn” and “Fruity Pebbles.”
It is also known as the three-leaved lantana with leaves that grow in groups of three.
This variant grows up to three feet tall and is native to Central and South America, which means they thrive most in warm weather.
General Tips For Growing Lantana Plants
Lantana plants are generally non-fussy, resilient, and low maintenance. They don’t require frequent checking and can take care of themselves once established, even with poor soil quality. If you happen to live near the sea, you’ll be happy to know that they tolerate salt spray quite well, too.
While they’re young, though, they need to be kept in moist soil for the first few weeks until their roots are nice and sturdy.
Here are a few more general tips for successfully growing lantana plants.
Lantana plants are best planted in spring, as soon as winter is over (about two weeks into the season is the most optimal). They thrive best under lots of sunlight and in warm temperatures. You may notice they initially take some time to sprout, but lantanas grow abundantly and beautiful once the weather warms up enough.
As tropical plants, they do not do well in the cold. When the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, lantanas need to be moved indoors to a warmer, controlled environment; otherwise, they will die.
Lantanas are hot-weather plants that bask in both full or partial sun. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day for them to maintain their beautiful blooms. Lantanas can tolerate a little bit of shade but will generally flower less often if kept in a shady location.
These plants are okay with most soil conditions, but they generally prefer slightly acidic, well-draining soil. To increase the acidity level in the soil you have, you may want to mulch it with pine needles/straw. This treatment will help add plenty of nutrients for your lantanas and will also keep the soil warm. Use a garden fork to mix your soil with the pine needles. Doing so will further help with oxygenation.
Lantana plants don’t necessarily require fertilizer unless your soil is of inferior quality. If you decide to aid their growth with fertilizer, they benefit most from light fertilization during the early spring. It would be best if you opted for a gentle, balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.
Poorly blooming lantanas are often the product of excessive fertilization, so remember not to overdo it. Overfertilization may also make your plant more susceptible to diseases.
These plants are incredibly thirsty when still young, more so when using a sandy type of potting mix. You’ll want to water your young lantana thoroughly without letting its soil completely dry out in between watering sessions. Its soil must always be moist but not soggy.
Mature, established lantana plants require less water and are drought-tolerant. Despite this, ensure your plants get at least one inch of water weekly to encourage abundant flowers and steady growth.
If you notice flower blooming has slowed down or stopped altogether, try watering the plant more. But remember that overwatering is detrimental to plant health as this may cause root rot.
Pruning and Flowering
Pruning the lantana plants in spring is preferable because you don’t want to prune the plant when you know the weather will soon turn cold. You want to give it the best chance of cultivating new blooms and leaves. Overgrown plants and dead leaves and branches can be pruned anywhere from six inches to a foot, depending on what you want.
To encourage flowering and stimulate new, better growth, cut the tips anywhere up to one to three inches.
The Dangers of Lantana Plants
Researchers found lantana plants to have medium-severity toxic characteristics because of the triterpene acids, lantadene A and B. It is highly toxic to children, household pets like dogs and cats, and other mammals, such as horses and sheep.
All parts of the plant are known to be poisonous when ingested, including its leaves, flowers, berries, and sap. Children, pets, and livestock will experience poisoning upon lantana consumption of at least 1% of their body weight.
Symptoms of lantana plant poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, labored breathing, weakness, and liver failure (more common in livestock).
Additionally, its leaves and unripe green berries can cause minor skin irritation. If you have sensitive skin, don’t touch the plant with your bare hands, as it may cause contact dermatitis; it is best to use gloves when handling them.
Caring For Lantana Plants Indoors
People love the idea of having lantana plants indoors as their vibrant blossoms make for beautiful decor. Their brightly colored flowers and attractive growing pattern can instantly brighten up any room and easily impress house guests.
If you want your lantana plants to reach their full potential, placing them outdoors where they can soak in direct sun is best. After all, they are tropical plants. But that’s not to say that you can’t cultivate them indoors.
If you do decide to grow them inside your home, they will need an extra hand. Here are some tips to help your lantana plant thrive indoors:
Place them in direct sunlight
As mentioned earlier, lantana plants thrive where sunlight is abundant. Place them in areas that get hours of direct sunlight — west-facing or south-facing windows and patios are best — although partial sunlight will also do.
Turn the plants occasionally to ensure every part of your plant gets even sun exposure.
Lantanas can tolerate spending some time in shaded areas, but they won’t bloom as well as compared to getting ample sun. If grown in full shade, your lantana plants will become susceptible to developing powdery mildew.
Make sure your room has the right temperature and humidity
As they are native to tropical regions, lantanas grow best in moderately warm climates. Ensure your lantana is in a room with an average temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also thrives in high humidity settings but will survive with moderate humidity levels above 50%. If you live in a dryer area, mist your lantana plant once in a while or purchase a humidifier to simulate tropical humidity. Keep them away from radiators, vents, and air-conditioning units so as not to dry your plant out.
Despite its preference for warm and humid conditions, this plant can live through light frost. Still, take care not to overwinter your lantana, as consistent exposure to temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit will kill it.
Choose the right container
First, take note of your lantana plant type’s maximum growth size before acquiring a container. Dwarf lantanas typically only grow up to 16 inches, while some grow as high as six feet.
For materials, any type of container should be suitable for your lantana plant as long as it has good drainage for eliminating the risk of root rot. It should also have enough room to avoid your plant becoming rootbound. Plant them in pots that are large enough to have some leftover space for growth.
As previously mentioned, lantanas typically don’t need fertilizer to grow well. But, if your soil condition is poor and the lantana is not getting the nutrients it needs, a gentle fertilizer may be required. A slow-release fertilizer during spring should suffice, followed by a water-soluble fertilizer added to the soil every two to four weeks.
Be careful not to overfeed your lantana, though, because while overfertilization may result in lush greens, your plants may have very few blossoms.
Make sure to water your plants deeply after fertilizing to avoid fertilizer burn.
Deadhead your lantanas regularly
Prune or deadhead — the act of cutting off dead or faded flowers from a plant — your lantana regularly to encourage more abundant flowering and new growth. Do this throughout the year, not just during spring. Deadheading with constant exposure to sunlight can keep your plant blooming for much longer.
Pinching off your lantana’s growing tips can also encourage new branching and will help stop your plant from dropping.
Pick up fallen leaves and flowers promptly
If you have small children or pets at home, make it a habit to promptly pick up fallen lantana leaves, berries, and flowers. Much of the plant is known to be highly poisonous and toxic when ingested. Doing so will help keep your home hazard-free.
As an extra precaution, you can choose to keep these plants out of reach by hanging them or placing them in high places.
Monitor your plant and eliminate pests
Lantana plants are highly susceptible to whiteflies, aphids, and other sap-sucking insects, which can cause their leaves to yellow and drop. To spot them, examine the underside of the leaf where these pests typically accumulate. These bugs quickly multiply, so eliminate them immediately.
Spider mites are another common pest to the lantana plant. These mites tend to come out when it gets hot and dry. They also reside underneath leaves and leave grayish residue and webbing similar to a spider’s web. A spider mite infestation is apparent by the appearance of grayish, yellowish, or brownish leaves and leaf drop.
Also, be vigilant of leaf miners, which attack interior leaves while leaving a whitish, worm-like trail. Leaf miners are small, black insects that lay larvae on leaves. It is these larvae that feed off your plants. They cause damage by mining away at the nutrients in your lantana leaves.
As soon as you notice any sign of infestation, it is best to isolate your lantana to avoid affecting other nearby plants.
If the stem or leaves have turned yellow or brown, it’s best to prune the stem. Give the other leaves a thorough washing to rinse off remaining pests. Then, wipe the leaves periodically if only a few leaves have bugs on them.
If you’re inclined, you may also turn to insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Just make sure to read the label first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lantana Plants
If your lantana plants are of berry-producing type, you can harvest the small berries once they’ve fully ripened. Remove the seeds and dry them out for a few days before storing them in a sealed container. Place the container inside the refrigerator. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
You can also opt to reproduce your lantana using its cuttings. Take about four inches of cuttings from new growth in spring. Leave only one or two leaves at the top and dispose of the other leaves. Cover the bottom of the cutting with rooting hormone and use soil for the surrounding areas to keep it upright when planting. Check your plant from time to time. Be patient, as rooting takes anywhere between two to four weeks.
My lantana stopped blooming and, instead of bright flowers, it formed small green pods. What are they?
Those green pods are seed pods, and your plant probably thinks it no longer needs to make any more flowers since it’s already making seeds. Plants form flowers to reproduce. If you cut off the seed pods, your plants will then feel forced to flower and reproduce.
Browning leaves are most likely the result of a watering issue. Your plant may not be receiving enough water, or a gap in the soil is barring the water from reaching your plant’s roots. Make sure the soil is filled in, and heavily water your soil every session.
For some reason, our lantana plants look lifeless this year. What do we do?
This condition is most likely the same watering issue as above. Lantanas love their water as much as their sunlight, especially when young. Make sure that your plants are getting ample water and sunlight. Ensure your soil is consistently moist between waterings.
You can also check for pests, especially if the leaves are lifeless (drooping and poor coloration).