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Lantana Plants

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Picture of lantana plant.

Picture of L. camara.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

Plant Taxonomy of Lantana Plants:

Plant taxonomy classifies lantana plants as Lantana camara. Various cultivars are sold, including the 'Spreading Sunset' cultivar, which has a flower head with gold centers surrounded by an orange that later fades to pink.

Plant Type:

Lantana plants are evergreens of the broadleaf variety. Although they may act like vines, they are, technically, shrubs.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones:

Lantana plants can be grown as evergreen perennials in zone 8 and higher. These flowers are not indigenous to the Florida landscape but have become naturalized there and are widespread. In fact, the shrubs are considered invasive plants in Florida landscaping. In more northerly zones, they are treated as annuals, allowing us our own little piece of "Florida landscaping" -- albeit short-lived.

Characteristics of Lantana Plants:

Known for their hemispherical clusters of small, bright-colored flowers (see picture above right), lantana plants can reach 6' high (with a spread of 8') in Florida landscaping. The flowers may be yellow, orange, white, red and purple, and often colors are mixed within the same cluster. Most people dislike the smell of the flowers, but the aroma of their foliage qualifies them as fragrant plants, in my book (this opinion isn't universally held). The leaves smell, in fact, like citrus. Salt-tolerant (I've seen examples of how well they perform near the beach), they're also drought-tolerant once established.

Wildlife Attracted by Lantana Plants:

Being plants that attract butterflies, they are a staple of butterfly gardens. They also attract hummingbirds.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow in full sun. These flowers want well-drained ground but will tolerate poor soils.

Uses:

Lantana plants make good specimens. They're also used as border shrubs and as ground cover. They tolerate salt spray very well, so they are popular in seaside communities -- another reason why they're a symbol of Florida landscaping. Because lantana plants are also drought-tolerant shrubs, they are good candidates for xeriscaping. In the North, where lantana plants are treated as annuals, they are also popular in hanging baskets.

Caveat for Growing Lantana Plants:

While lovely to behold, growing these flowers in the landscape is not unproblematic. Besides being invasive, lantana plants are toxic and present a danger to pets and children. The leaves can cause a rash; and eating the unripe berries can be fatal.

More:

They are sometimes called "verbena bushes", although nurseries selling them in hanging baskets do make a distinction between lantana plants and verbena. Evergreen perennials in zones 8-10, they are more often used as annuals for hanging baskets in colder climates. The purple variety (L. montevidensis) is even more vine-like and, consequently, is a better hanging plant. For Florida landscaping proper, less invasive cultivars may be purchased at nurseries.
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