After spring blooms have faded and true summer begins, lantana (Lantana camara) is just getting started. And when the intense heat of August and September shrivels verbena and zinnias, lantana is getting its second wind.
A true heat lover, lantana is very drought tolerant when provided with organic, well-drained soil and weekly watering - even in the most extreme temperatures. It can be grown from nursery transplants that become available in early spring and it is an excellent source of color throughout the summer months.
Lantana is happiest in full sun but it will tolerate filtered afternoon sun. According to Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening (Second Edition), lantana and its hybrids typically grow from 10 to 36 inches high and wide, but specimens larger than five feet have been seen. Trailing varieties include "Gold Mound" and "New Gold," which are both yellow, and "Silver Mound," which is white. A bush form of lantana comes in a large variety of colors, including "Confetti," a mix of yellow, pink and purple, and "Radiation," which combines red and orange for a bright summer show. Sperry recommends regular pruning to maintain a compact habit; however, pruning too frequently will limit bloom.
Most lantana varieties are considered annuals but many will survive mild winters. Cut dead canes to the ground in mid-winter; if the plant has survived, small sprouts will emerge from the base of the plant in early spring.
Whether in a border or as a mass planting, lantana will provide long-lasting color and variety. Choose between trailing or bush forms, pick the color you like, then plant, sit back, and enjoy the colorful show.
Amy Moser, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
My wife and I moved back to Tyler in January 2006 after a 36 year hiatus. We lived in Wilson County, Texas, about 25 miles Southeast of San Antonio, from 1993 until our return to Tyler. In the small community of La Vemia where our 3-acre "spread" was, the predominant soil is deep sand somewhat similar to parts of Smith County. We were blessed with wild flowers, e.g. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and Crimson Clover in addition to other wild flowers and much wild life including turkeys, deer, owls, hawks, the ubiquitous squirrel and such.
In addition, we had many "volunteer" lantana plants just about anywhere we looked on our property. I tried transplanting some "volunteers" and found them to be very easy to grow. When I dug them up, to my surprise and chagrin, the sand would fall off the root system completely. Fearful that they might not survive, I nevertheless dug a hole with my post hole digger wherever I wanted some color and dropped them into the hole and backfilled with loose sand and compacted it slightly and kept the plant moist for a week or ten days and crossed my fingers. Surprisingly the root system began to "take root" and "voila" the plants started showing signs of life.
Lantana is a very hardy plant which requires very little maintenance and is quite drought tolerant. It has a beautiful flower and blooms throughout most of the spring and summer. There is a plethora of different varieties to complement your flowering garden or shrub bed. It is a perennial which should survive Smith County winters with a covering of 3 to 4 inches of mulch. However-- it, like Crepe Myrtle and most flowering plants, requires a very sunny location. You should cut them back to ground level before covering them with mulch after they begin to go dormant.
I heartily recommend you try them if you have a spot in your yard for a very hardy, beautiful, almost maintenance-free perennial.
David E. Pierson, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service