Lantana - Colorful and Drought Tolerant

Robert J. Souvestre  |  6/24/2011 1:27:32 AM

One of the plants showcased in LaHouse’s sustainable landscape is Lantana New Gold. Once established, it is drought tolerant and requires limited care yet provides continuous season-long color.

Lantanas continue to be one of the most popular herbaceous perennials for Louisiana landscapes. Many varieties – some old and some new – offer a multitude of growth forms and flower colors. Lantana comes in an array of color combinations including pink, red, yellow, orange, and white. They are great plants for the sunny border as they thrive in the heat and bloom all summer until frost.

Lantana growth habits include trailing, mounding and upright.

Trailing types typically reach a height of 18 inches. Foliage texture is finer and flower colors are white, lavender and purple. Common older varieties of this type are Trailing Purple, Imperial Purple, Trailing Lavender and White Lightnin. Trailing-type lantanas are normally evergreen in Louisiana. They also flower in late winter and early spring when you wouldn’t expect lantanas to be in bloom. Trailing lantanas don’t set fruit like the mounding and upright varieties.

Mounding lantanas reach 30-36 inches in height while upright growers, including the old “ham and egg” type lantanas, can reach 4-5 feet in height in one growing season. Mounding and upright growers are reliably perennial, as are the trailing types. You need to occasionally prune these varieties to encourage repeat blooms and discourage fruit (berry) formation.

Older lantanas include the mounding varieties New Gold and Gold Mound with gold-colored flowers, Silver Mound with white flowers and Lemon Drop with yellow flowers. An older upright variety is Dallas Red with red flowers, but Irene is still one of the all-time favorites with its multi-colored flowers.

Newer groups of lantanas include the Patriot series, which come in about 15 varieties and are broken down into even more diverse growth habits. You also can find Landmark, Lucky and Bandana series lantanas at many garden centers. All of these are introductions from the last five years or so.

The Lucky series has always performed very well in LSU AgCenter landscape evaluations. The new Bandanas also excel and have flower colors not found in smaller-growing mounding types. My favorite is Bandana Lemon Zest with flower heads of pure white in the center surrounded by bright yellow flowers. The Sonrise, Sonset, and Sonshine lantanas from Mississippi also are great plants.

Lantanas are great landscape plants and also do well in containers. They perform best in full sun. Lantanas are very drought-tolerant. Irrigation is needed only in very droughty situations. Fertilize these plants often to encourage growth – once at planting and again in late summer in a landscape bed.

The only problem lantana gets is lace bugs which can cause severe damage during the growing season. Symptoms are speckling, and mottling on the leaves as the insects feed on the sap. Their dark tar-like droppings may be observed on the underside of leaves. Adult lantana lace bugs are small, brown, elongate- oval bugs. Insecticidal soap, carbaryl and permethrin are labeled for lace bugs.

If you have old lantanas that are stagnant in their growth or are not blooming well, prune them back about halfway and fertilize them. New growth will produce new flowers.
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