Caring for Lantana Plants

By Anna Graizbord , last updated March 23, 2011

Lantana shrubs are native of the warmer regions of the American continent, thriving best in warm and sunny environments, though this plant can be treated as an annual in colder locales. Lantana flowers grow in tight clusters of mall pink, purple, white, and sometimes red or yellow blooms, and are fairly easy to maintain. They're also a great plant if you're looking to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.

Planting, Location & Soil

You'll want to plant your lantana in a well-drained location in your garden in which it will be exposed fully to the sun. Otherwise, lantanas do just as well in hanging baskets and other containers, which might be a great choice if you live in a colder region and will need to bring your plant inside over the winter anyway.

You can either propagate lantanas by seed or from stem cuttings. If you're starting with seeds, planting is best in the early spring or late winter. Make sure to soak seeds in hot water for 24 hours before planting and that you bury them in holes about 1/8 of an inch deep and six feet apart in soil with a high peat content. The germination period often lasts anywhere from 42 to 60 days. Generally, your soil should be on the acidic side, with fertility at about an average level. Avoid soil that is heavy in clay. Don't worry about planting near the ocean, as lantanas are pretty tolerant to salt.

If you're planting from stem cuttings, you can plant them in the mid-summer to fall. Make sure the stems are semi-ripe, about a three inch cut off of non-flowering shoots, and that there are no leaves. Submerge the ends in a hormone rooting medium, and as with seeds, make sure you're planting them in a peat-heavy soil, though sand or perlite is okay as well in containers first. Now, you can cover each container with a plastic bag in a location with bright natural light. Roots should start to form in about two to three weeks, though if you see some new growth, you can do away with the bags and start to fertilizer every two weeks. Once there is about two to three inches of growth, pinch off the tips and re-pot the next spring.

Watering & Fertilizing

You'll need to water your lantana a lot when you first plant, keeping soil moist on a consistent basis about twice a week for the first two months. Once they're established you won't need to water them as much, though if they don't receive at least one inch of rainfall, you should water once a week. When you're applying water, make sure to do it directly on the soil so as not to make any of the foliage wet. If you're growing lantana as a container plant, just be sure to get the top half inch of soil wet.

A well-balanced 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer is best for lantana. If you're growing outside normally, apply first just after planting in the spring, and after that, just once a year. For container lantana, apply fertilizer once a month just during the spring and summer seasons. If you want, though, you can do a second application around mid-summer, making sure that it's being watered appropriately as well.

Pruning & Winter Care

One of the most attractive advantages in growing lantana is how little maintenance they need, especially with regards to pruning. Generally, you should prune lantana tips over the summer, somewhere around up to one-third of their total height and spread. Even if you don't deadhead them that much, you'll still get a decent amount of blooms.

In warmer climates, you need not need any special winter care, though if you live in a more temperate climate, you should take care to mulch (shredded bark is best) your lantana over the winter and heavily prune in the spring. In colder areas, lantana should be treated as an annual, as it will not sustain itself over cold winters. If you'd like to keep your lantana in this case, you should either grow it in a container or dig it up and pot it before the first sign of frost, letting it survive indoors until that last frost has gone. Make sure to place it in an indoor area that gets a lot of natural sunlight. Be aware though, that it may not produce blooms until it's back outside in nice weather.

Pests & Diseases

Common pests include whiteflies, spider mites, and lace bugs, the latter of which causes leaves to turn gray or brown and fall off. Powdery mildew can develop if your plant is not getting enough sunlight.

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