Lantana (Lantana spp.) may remain evergreen and bloom year-round in frost-free or virtually frost-free climates such as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. However, the plant will die back to the ground in USDA zone 7 and often in USDA zone 8 as well. If heavily mulched there, the most robust types -- such as 'Miss Huff' (USDA zones 7 through 11) -- should re-sprout from their root crowns in spring. Don't plant any lantana after late summer, though, if you want it to survive the winter in marginal zones.
Winter Care in Zones 7 through 11
In usually frost-free climates, lantana shouldn't require much winter care at all. If its leaves do get nipped by frost, leave affected foliage in place over winter to shield the rest of the plant. Whether or not the lantana has been damaged, cut it back severely in spring -- to encourage fresh new growth.
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A lantana growing in colder zones usually can endure light frosts, down to about 29 degrees Fahrenheit, with little damage except possibly a hint of purple in its leaves. At lower temperatures, however, its foliage will begin to die back.
After that foliage is dead, leave it in place, surrounding and partially covering it with a noncompacting winter mulch – such as 3 to 6 inches of chopped dead leaves or 6 to 12 inches of straw. If you prefer a neater look, try cutting the dead stalks back to 1 inch high before applying winter mulch on top of the resulting stubs.
Some sources caution that dead lantana stems pruned in the autumn may collect water and rot the plant's root crown. If you want to be on the safe side, postpone such pruning until spring.
In early spring, remove the mulch and watch for new growth to begin to sprout from the ground. Once you see it, cut away the old dead foliage, if you didn't do so the previous autumn.
Winter Care in Zones Lower than 7
When deciding whether or not to bring your lantana indoors, keep in mind that both its immature berries and its leaves are poisonous. The crushed foliage also emits an unpleasant odor somewhat similar to that of cat urine.
Once night-time temperatures begin to fall below 50 degrees F, pot up your lantana in a fast-draining and slightly acidic potting soil such as that designed for cacti. Shift it into the shade to prepare it for the dimmer light indoors. After the plant is well-established in the container and just before you move it indoors, mix 5 tablespoons of an insecticidal soap concentrate into 1 gallon of water and thoroughly spray the plant.
Where you place the lantana will depend on whether you want it to remain semi-dormant over winter or prefer to grow it as a houseplant. If you choose to keep it semi-dormant:
- Place it in a bright but chilly position, such as in a sun porch or garage window.
- Keep the plant at a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees.
- Refrain from fertilizing it and water it only about once a month or often enough to keep its roots from drying out completely.
Woody plants such as lantana almost always drop some or all of their leaves when moved indoors. This is a reaction to their changed situation and doesn’t necessarily mean they are dying. Should you suspect that your plant is suffering from frostbite instead, cut back its stems a little at a time to see if any retain some green at their centers. If they do, the plant is still alive.
If you choose to grow the lantana as a houseplant:
- Place it in a room where the temperature remains between 60 and 70 degrees F, lower at night.
- Position the plant on a sunny windowsill – preferably a south-facing one.
- Water it whenever its soil is dry 2 inches beneath the surface, but don't fertilize it until spring.
- The Gadsden Times: Reader Wants to Know How to Care for Lantana During Winter’s Cold Months
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Lantana
- Floridata: Lantana camara
- Floridata: Lantana montevidensis
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Lantana camara
- Daily Herald: Overwintering Favorite Plants Indoors
- University of Illinois Extension: Overwintering Tender Perennials
- Viette’s Beautiful Gardens: Get Your Tropicals Ready for Winter
- The Dallas Morning News: Lantana Made for Heat, Require Sunlight to Grow
- Bachman’s Mulches and Weed Barriers
- Monrovia: Miss Huff Hardy Lantana
- Plants Delight Nursery, Inc.: Lantana
- Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs; Michael Dirr
- Arizona State University: Lantana
A former master gardener with a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Houghton College, Audrey Stallsmith has had three gardening-related mysteries published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House. Her articles or photos have also appeared in such publications as Birds & Blooms, Horticulture and Backwoods Home.