By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening
For those of us who love Lantana camara for its reliable summertime flowers that bring butterflies and skippers to our gardens, it will come as a bit of a surprise that the plant has many names and a bad reputation in some places.
There is a creeping lantana which is L. montevidensis. White Flower Farm offers Lantana montevidensis Lavender Swirl that looks a lot like a creeping verbena. Lantanas are related to verbena and the trailing verbenas are also called weeping or trailing lantana.
Lantana camara’s many names include: shrub verbena; big sage; red, yellow and wild sage; Spanish flag; West Indian lantana; lava; and feston rose.
Verbena and lantana plants are easily confused; Alan Armitage said he had to use a plant lens to distinguish them.
They are considered cold hardy only to zone 9 but ours have returned for five years, becoming larger every year. The plants have no known disease or insect problems. They flower most when they are under-fertilized and under-watered. They are also deer-resistant. If you crush and smell a leaf, you will understand why deer avoid the plants.
Most Americans grow Lantana camara as an ornamental but in other cultures it is grown as a medicinal plant. The black berries that follow the flowers are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.
In the U.S., pet and livestock owners are warned to keep animals away from the berries but in Surinam (Dutch Guiana) children eat the berries without harm.
Lantana leaves are used medicinally for itching skin, flu, cough, fever and other ailments. The roots are used in the treatment of other diseases. An extract of the leaves is anti-bacterial and used to cure ulcers and respiratory infections in Brazil.
In Florida, California, Texas, Hawaii and other growing areas without a winter freeze, Lantana camara is an invasive weed, coming up everywhere and becoming impossible to eradicate.
There are 100 cultivated varieties. Here are some to consider:
• White flowers: Silver Mound, Clear White and Snowfall.
• Cream and gold flowers: Greg Grant.
• Pink to yellow flowers: Bronze and Lady Olivia.
• Pink yellow and ivory flowers: Patriot Honeylove is low growing and spreads to form a ground cover. Luscious Tropical Fruit grows 2-feet tall and is recommended for zone 9.
• Lavender: Pink Lace is upright with lavender and pink flowers. Orchid is soft lavender that sprawls and cascades. Great for window boxes, containers and wall gardens.
• Yellow, orange and pink flowers: Confetti and Patriot Rainbow
• Gold flowers: Gold Mound and Patriot Moonshine. New Gold grows 15-inches tall, spreads, flowers all summer, and is cold hardy to zone 7
• Multi-colors of yellow, red and pink: Irene and Spreading Sunset
• Butter yellow flowers: Lemon Drop and Yellow (sprawling, spreading plants)
• Orange, pink and coral flowers: Patriot Bouquet and Patriot Desert Sun
• Crimson red: New Red is an upright variety with red-orange flowers. Bandana Cherry has fuscia red flowers and grows to 2-feet tall.
• Orange and yellow flowers: Miss Huff is 6-feet tall.
• Variegated leaves: Samantha is a spreading plant with lemon-lime leaves and bright yellow flowers.
• Gold, deep orange and red flowers: Patriot Firewagon and Radiation. Radiation is low-growing.
At the Proven Winners website there are photos of 24 varieties and you can look at the color combinations to see which ones would work with your garden theme.
Lantanas are often grown as annuals and they are available at nurseries and garden centers in the spring. They can also be grown from 5-inch summer cuttings. Remove the flowers plus the lower leaves and plant them in moist perlite.
Plant seeds this winter after soaking them for 24-hours. Keep the soil temperature 75 degrees and seedlings will emerge in 40 to 60 days. Source: www.thompson-morgan.com.