With multi-colored blossoms against dark green foliage, lantanas not only catch our eye but are beloved by pollinators. Heat- and deer-resistant, these flowering shrubs grow vigorously in both garden beds and containers! Learn how to plant, grow, and care for lovely lantanas.
Lantana is a genus of flowering, evergreen, vine-like shrubs with about 150 species recognized. They are in the Verbena family, Verbenaceae. Native to the tropical regions of the Americas and Africa, they have become naturalized in parts of the American Southeast.
Treated as annuals in cooler regions, lantanas are perennial in USDA zones 9 to 11, with a few varieties hardy to zone 8. Lantanas thrive on neglect and like dry heat, making them ideal selections for pots, planters, and hanging baskets.
These shrubs have a colossal color impact with dark green, rough foliage, and bright flowers. The lightly fragrant flowers are in clusters called umbels at the edges of the plant. Blooms are commonly found in combinations of red, orange, yellow, pink, salmon, white, and even blues and purples. Many florets change color as they age, giving rise to multi-colored inflorescences.
Note: Lantanas have been designated invasive in Florida, California, Hawaii, and Arizona. Their perennial nature, berries attractive to birds, foliage poisonous to herbivores, and rapid growth allow them to quickly spread out of control. They are toxic to pets and people, so plant them where small children and curious dogs won’t be tempted to bother them.
Lantanas are attractive to pollinators and bring butterflies, including Swallowtails, as well as hummingbirds to the yard. Their florets are the ideal shape for nectar-gathering insects.
Lantanas thrive in warm temperatures and bright sunlight. Pick a location where they can enjoy at least 6 hours per day of sunshine. They are not picky about soil as long as it has good drainage and is neutral in pH, in the 6.0-8.0 range.
Lantana will bloom year-round in frost-free areas and can get as large as 6 feet high and several feet wide in tropical climates. Don’t worry too much about them outgrowing their home. Lantanas respond well to pruning and, in fact, should be pruned or sheared often.
They will tolerate salt spray well, making them a good choice for those looking for colorful plants whose homes are near the ocean.
When to Plant Lantanas
Lantanas grown as annuals, whether in containers or in the ground, can be planted out anytime after the last frosts. Although they like temperatures to stay warmer than about 55 degrees, a light frost likely won’t kill them and they can survive down to about 28 degrees.
Wait until the soil warms to about 60 degrees before planting in ground. If you don’t have a soil thermometer, plant them at the same time as you plant your tomatoes.
How to Plant Lantanas
Lantanas purchased at the garden center vary in size from 4 packs to 3-gallon pots. Plant them in the ground as you would other bedding plants, and water them well afterward.
Well-draining soil is important whether planting in a container or in the ground. Lantanas are adapted to drier conditions. Consistently wet soil may lead to root rot. Amend heavy soil with compost.
If you live in USDA zone 8 or cooler, your lantana will be an annual unless brought inside, so placement in your landscape is a short-term decision. Mix it up, plant a patch, or sprinkle them around the garden bed for pops of color.
Water your lantana well after transplanting and for the next few weeks. Although drought tolerant once established, they need extra support while their roots are recovering from transplant shock and putting on growth.
Lantanas aren’t fussy. Give them a warm, sunny spot and watch them grow. These easy-care plants don’t want much other than your admiration.
Lantanas prefer hot and dry conditions. Consistently wet soil can lead to root rot and inhibit blooming. Once established, water only when the top several inches of soil is dry to the touch, then water deeply. They would rather get a few long drinks than many short ones.
Although established lantanas are drought tolerant, if your lantana isn’t blooming, it is often a lack of water. Check the soil with your finger at a depth of about two inches. If the soil is dry, give your lantana a drink.
Give it frequent snipping to encourage bushy growth and flowering. Lantana is a rapid grower, so grab your scissors and trim off the meristem–the growing tip–on branches every few weeks once it has reached the desired size. It will branch out below and be a more compact, full plant.
Find a location with minimal light (not total dark).
A cool location, ideally about 55 degrees. An unheated basement or garage might be just the spot.
Do water it periodically. The death of many overwintering attempts is dehydration. While a plant may be dormant, a complete lack of water for several months is a death sentence. Keep the potting mix slightly dry but not desert dusty. There should still be a little moisture.
‘Bandito’ develops a full, mounding shape with bright orange, red, and pink blooms.
‘Confetti’ has gorgeous multi-color yellow, pink, and magenta flowers.
Popcorn lantana (Lantana trifolia) is hardy in USDA zones 10-11. Lavender flowers develop into pretty purple berries (but don’t eat them).
‘Dallas Red’ is covered in loads of uniformly red flowers.
Cultivars of L. montevidensis are sprawling or trailing and make excellent hanging basket displays. Choose offsetting colors for a visual treat, like combining purples with yellows and oranges.
Wit and Wisdom
Some Lantana species are invasive and can escape causing problems in the wild. That is not an issue if you are a northern gardener, as they will not survive the winter. For warmer frost-free climates, keeping your lantana sheared to prevent berries from maturing will go a long way toward preventing unwanted jailbreaks.
All parts of the lantana are toxic if ingested by humans or pets, which is one of the reasons deer leave them alone. If you have trouble with hoofed herbivores in your yard, lantana might be just the solution to provide some deer-resistant annual color. See more deer-resistant plants.