The Q&A Archives: Making a tree out of ground cover

Question: I want to make a

Answer: There are two commonly grown types of lantana - the upright shrubby kind, and the creeping groundcover kind. A shrubby lantana can be trained into a tree form because it naturally develops woody stems as it ages; a groundcover lantana will not develop a stem thick enough or strong enough to support a canopy. My suggestion is for you to purchase an upright or shrubby type lantana for your project. Purchase the youngest plant you can find (4 or 6" pot is best, but a one-gallon containerized plant will work). Find the strongest upright stem on the plant and prune away all the rest. Leave all the lateral stems and the foliage attached to this upright stem for the time being and stake the stem so it continues to grow upright. Wait a few weeks for the plant to recover from the pruning process and then remove the lowest stems and leaves from the main stem so you have only a topknot of growth. Your plant will need enough leaves to support healthy growth so be sure to keep the topknot large enough that it occupies the top third of the entire height of the stem. As the stem grows, it will produce a woody bark (the trunk) and you'll only need to clip the topknot so it remains about one-third of the entire plant. As shoots or leaves emerge along the trunk, rub them out. In time, your tree will grow upwards and the canopy will grow up and out. Keep everything in proportion and you'll have an attractive lantana tree.

Best wishes with your project!

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