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The gardener’s guide to lantana

Lantana camara

One in an occasional series of guides on growing popular plants. Other guides include lenten rose, peony, redbud, azalea, elephant ear, coleus, coneflower, savory calamint and rudbeckia.

The lantana is an old-fashioned, tender shrub with a single overarching virtue that has made it timeless: It seems to shrug off the worst heat and solar assault of summer while flowering continuously. The two-inch, two-tone mounded blossoms are magnets for butterflies and hummingbirds. It is a perennial where winters stay above freezing, and it can spread in mild winter states to become invasive. Check your state’s invasive plant lists before deciding to use lantana.

Size

By summer’s end, a single plant will typically reach 24 inches high and wide.

Use and placement

As long as it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, a lantana can be put to various uses: as a ground cover, an edging plant, an accent in a border, or as a container plant. The blooms come in a variety of colors, allowing gardeners to incorporate lantana in different color schemes. Hues include peach, magenta, purple, red, orange, yellow and white — a ring of central florets is usually a lighter color, but none of the colors are soft and their intensity is a match for the glare of their setting. Trailing forms have been developed, which would work at the edge of a container, atop a wall or in a hanging basket.

Planting and care

Avoid two conditions with lantanas — shade, particularly deep shade, and wet soil. In a bright, open location, they should flourish. A little soil amendment and a light mulch will help, but lantana is forgiving. Though plants endure dryness, don’t forget to water them at least weekly, especially if it turns dry. When stressed by drought, they are more likely to be bothered by spider mites and lacebugs, although damage is unlikely to be severe.

Plants should be fed two or three times during the growing season, more frequently if grown in containers.

(Shutterstock)

Remove fading flowers to keep the blooms coming. Many new varieties are sterile, making this maintenance unnecessary, though all summer annuals benefit from grooming and trimming back to promote bushiness. Keep pesticides away from these plants — they are magnets for butterflies, skippers and bees.

Varieties

Look for sterile varieties for maximum flower production. Dwarf varieties are useful as fillers in container combinations.

As they have with many popular annuals, breeders and growers have gathered varieties under trademarked series, for example, Bloomify, with sterile flowers, and Little Lucky, which is pint-size at 12 inches high and wide. Other popular series are Lucky, Bandana and SunDance.

Varietal choice comes down to preference and color combos, but include Luscious Royale Red Zone (red and yellow), Bandana Red and Lucky Red (red), Lucky Peach and Bloomify Mango (peach and yellow), Bandana Lemon Zest (white and yellow), and Lucky Pink, Bloomify Rose and Pinkberry Blend (various shades of pink-purple with lighter centers). If you want a more subdued effect, go with solid yellows or whites such as SunDance Yellow, Luscious Bananarama, Bandana White and SunDance White.

Bloomify Mango lantana. (Ball Flora Plant)
SunDance Yellow lantana. (Sakata)
SunDance White lantana. (Sakata)
Lucky Red lantana. (Ball Flora Plant)
TOP LEFT: Bloomify Mango lantana. (Ball Flora Plant) TOP RIGHT: SunDance Yellow lantana. (Sakata) BOTTOM LEFT: SunDance White lantana. (Sakata) BOTTOM RIGHT: Lucky Red lantana. (Ball Flora Plant)

Lead illustration by Washington Post Staff/Ball Flora Plant/iStock/Shutterstock. Icon illustrations by Jeannie Phan.

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