59 Lantana camaraCommon Names: lantana, shrub verbena Family: Verbenaceae (verbena or vervain Family)
Common lantana is a rugged evergreen shrub from the tropics. The species will grow to 6 ft (1.8 m) high and may spread to 8 ft (2.4 m) in width with some varieties able to clamber vinelike up supports to greater heights with the help of support. The leaves are 2-5 in (5-12.7 cm) long by 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide with rounded tooth edges and a textured surface. Stems and leaves are covered with rough hairs and emit an unpleasant aroma when crushed (smells like cat pee). The small flowers are held in clusters (called umbels) that are typically 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) across. In the tropics lantana is a non-stop bloomer. Where it is killed to the ground by frost the lantana blooms in summer and fall. Flower color ranges from white to yellow, orange to red, pink to rose in unlimited combinations, in addition the flowers usually change in color as they age. A lantana may look orange from a distance but the flowerhead is examined at close range it consists of individual white, yellow and red flowers that blend when viewed from afar.
Lantana camara is a native to tropical regions and exists as dozens of strains and varieties that are highly variable in appearance. Although common lantana it is not native to Florida, it has been naturalized in the state for centuries (I wonder how many centuries it takes before a plant is considered native?)
CultureLantana is very easy to grow and will adapt to most soil types. Too much water and fertilizer will reduce bloom. Light: Sun, part shade. Moisture: Well drained soil is preferred. Lantana is very drought resistant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Lantana is happy in both humid and dry heat. This tropical plant is killed back to the ground at 28 ºF (-2.2 ºC) but will grow back from the roots when warm weather returns. Propagation: By seed or cuttings taken in the summertime. Lantana hybrids and named selections are propagated by cuttings.
In warm winter zones use lantana and its cultivars in mixed beds and borders. Lantana will add vibrant long-lasting color to shrub groupings. This is a fast growing shrub that is quick to flower so gardeners in cold climates can enjoy this tropical plant as an annual. Lantana tolerates salt spray and can be used in beach plantings. Lantana makes an excellent container plant and several smaller sized cultivars are offered just for this use.
There are more than a 100 Lantana species and many of these are showing up in garden centers in one form or another. If you live in Zone 8-12 look for lantana varieties and hybrids at your garden center that are better behaved than the species - avoid digging naturalized lantana from the wild for your garden to avoid furthering its spread. Choose selected garden varieties instead.
Lantana is extremely easy to grow requiring little attention and is seldom bothered by pests or disease. It has low water requirements and can be used in xeriscapes and can handle the heat growing in containers and hanging baskets under sunny conditions. Lantana is a favorite species for butterflies and non-invasive lantanas should be a part of any butterfly garden.
Another lantana species that is also a popular garden plant is the weeping or trailing lantana Lantana montevidensis which is low growing trailing species that is particularly nice for hanging containers and groundcover.
Pets have reportedly become ill after ingesting lantana. The unripe berries are known to be very toxic and the foliage toxic to livestock. Lantana is listed as a Category I invasive exotic species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, which means that it is known to be "invading and disrupting native plant communities in Florida." Lantana is also invading natural areas in Texas and is a huge problem in Hawaii.
Jack Scheper 10/2/96; updated 11/16/04