Lantana plants are evergreen shrubs or stemmed perennials that are members of the verbena family. There are over 150 varieties of lantana that are native to the warmer areas of the Americas and Africa. They are perennials in zones 9b to 12 but are often grown as annuals in colder zones. Lantana requires full sun to thrive and is known for its prolific blooms and the bees and butterflies it attracts.
When to Plant
Regardless of whether they are being grown as annuals or perennials, lantana thrive in heat and should be planted in the spring at least two weeks after any danger of frost has passed. Once planted, they often will not grow or bloom much until the soil warms up considerably. It is important that lantana plants have adequate time to establish their root systems if they are being grown as perennials. Otherwise, they will not survive the winter.
Care and Maintenance
Lantana are hardy plants that require very little care and maintenence other than a sunny, hot location and some deadheading to prolong blooming. In some areas, lantana grows so effortlessly that it is considered a noxious weed. This is not only because it can grow invasively but because all parts of the plant are poisonous.
Despite this bad rap, lantana is a mainstay in the garden because it blooms prolifically yet needs very little attention. The plant is drought hardy, requiring only weekly watering when it is blooming. Occasional trimming back encourages a bushier plant and more blooms. After trimming, a light application of fertilizer can help lantana continue to thrive.
If lantana is being grown as a perennial, do not cut it back hard in the fall, as this will compromise its ability to survive. Save hard pruning for spring, when plants should be cut back to 6 to12 inches above ground level and all dead growth and woodiness should be removed.
Problems of Lantana
Powdery mildew is the most common lantana disease; it can be prevented by making sure lantana is planted in full sun. Too much shade will also result in poor blooming.
Too much water, poorly draining soil and overhead watering can cause root rot, so care must be taken to avoid these factors.
Lantana are susceptible to whitefly infestation, mites and lantana lace bugs. Inspect plants frequently for leaf damage or drop. If present, remove affected foliage and apply a commercial insecticide and or fungicide to prevent infestation or infection from spreading.