How to Grow and Care for Lantanas

Introduction to Lantana 

Prized for its nonstop show of colorful flowers, lantana is a tough, adaptable, and low maintenance plant. Many varieties produce an extravaganza of multicolor blooms in vibrant shades of yellow, red, magenta, and pink; other varieties have cool-toned blooms in lavender and pastel hues. All are magnets for butterflies, hummingbird, and other pollinators.

About Lantana

Lantana brings a reliable show of season-long color to mixed beds and borders, as well as containers and hanging baskets. These sun- and heat-loving plants are adaptable to a wide range of conditions and thrive in hot, dry locales where many other plants struggle. Tolerant of sandy soil and salt spray, they’re popular in seaside locales. In frost-free zones, lantana is perennial, forming shrubs reaching 6’ or more that bloom nearly year-round. In colder regions, the plants are commonly grown as annuals and bloom from late spring until frost. 

Lantana plants are adorned with 1” to 2” wide clusters of tiny, tubular flowers. On many varieties, the flowers change colors as they mature, resulting in multi-hued blooms. Although there are more than 150 species in the Lantana genus, the most common varieties are hybrids. 

Some varieties have an upright growth habit and form shrubby mounds well suited to in-ground beds and containers. Others produce spreading or vine-like growth, making them at home cascading over a wall, trailing over the sides of containers, and adorning hanging baskets.

Lantana plants, especially the berries, can be toxic if ingested; keep away from children and pets. Their leaves can irritate skin so wear gloves when handling.

Note: Lantana can become invasive in some warm-climate regions; check your state’s invasive plant list before planting. To prevent their spread, remove spent flowers before they set seed, or choose newer, non-seeding (sterile) hybrid varieties.

Growing Zones for Lantana

Most types of lantana are perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11; some can be grown in zones 7-8 with winter protection. In colder regions the plants are best grown as annuals. 

Choosing a Site to Grow Lantana 

Lantana is a reliable and adaptable plant that grows best in full sun and well-drained soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. The size and growth habit varies among the many varieties, so choose plants to match your needs. Compact varieties are ideal for containers; vining types make dramatic hanging baskets. 

Planting Instructions for Lantana

Although lantana can be grown from seed, the plants may take several years to produce abundant blooms. Also, many varieties are hybrids so the resulting offspring may not closely resemble the parent plant. For these reasons most gardeners purchase plants in spring. 

Set plants outdoors once all danger of frost has passed. Loosen soil to a depth of at least 8” and mix in some compost and slow-release granular fertilizer and set the plants at the same height as they were growing in their pots. Growth may be slow at first; once summer’s heat sets in the plants will grow and bloom quickly.

Fertilizer for Lantana

In-ground plants need little supplemental feeding; an annual application of compost usually suffices. Fertilize container-grown plants monthly during the growing season to ensure continuous bloom. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, which stimulate the growth of foliage at the expense of flowers. 

Lantana Pests and Problems

Lantana plants are generally free of pests and diseases. They’re occasionally bothered by small insects, such as aphids; these can be controlled with insecticidal soap. Plants grown in shade are prone to some diseases; grow in full sun to minimize disease problems. Avoid overwatering, which can cause root rot. The plants are resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits. 

Ongoing Care for Lantana

Although mature plants are relatively tolerant of drought, they’ll bloom more reliably if soil is kept evenly moist. 

Deadhead plants to encourage continuous bloom and to keep plants looking tidy. Deadheading also prevents seed production, which is especially important if the plants are growing in a warm climate where they can become invasive. 

In climates where the plants are perennial, regular pruning keeps plants in bounds. Lightly prune branches after each flush of blooms. To maintain a compact, shrubby shape and abundant blooms, in early spring prune the plants back to about 1’ high. During the growing season, overgrown plants can be rejuvenated by cutting them back by about a third.

In cool climates, most gardeners purchase new plants each spring. Although it’s possible to overwinter the plants indoors, the plants don’t grow well as houseplants; instead, allow them to go dormant and keep them in a cool location. 

Some popular Lantanas photos:
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