Lantana: A Colorful and Hardy Landscape Plant

Lantana is a widely popular choice for landscape enthusiasts. Its heat, salt, and drought tolerance make it an easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plant. With several attractive varieties available, lantana is not only visually appealing but also attracts bees and butterflies, making it pollinator-friendly.

The most common lantana variety is the non-native species called Lantana camara. Though it is easily found in nurseries and garden supply stores, it’s essential to choose the right lantana variety for your landscape. The UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants categorizes Lantana camara as invasive, meaning it is not recommended for North, Central, or South Florida. It has a tendency to invade disturbed sites and is toxic to livestock, making it a potentially harmful choice for gardeners.

Fortunately, sterile varieties of Lantana camara are now available in nurseries. These sterile plants cannot produce viable seeds or pollen, preventing them from spreading and becoming invasive. UF/IFAS has even introduced its own sterile varieties, such as ‘Bloomify™ Red,’ ‘Bloomify™ Rose,’ and ‘Luscious® Royale Red Zone™.’

Characteristics and Care

Lantana camara and its sterile varieties are perennial plants that can grow as small shrubs or groundcovers. If they start growing too large or leggy, don’t hesitate to cut them back. During the growing season, moderate trimming is recommended. However, at the end of the season, lantana can be pruned almost to the ground, leading to a more abundant bloom in the next growth cycle.

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These plants thrive in full sun and are drought-tolerant. Regular watering will enhance their flowering performance. Additionally, their tolerance for salt and heat makes them highly resilient and suitable for low-maintenance landscapes. Lantana prefers well-drained soil, particularly the “sandy loam” commonly found in Florida. Whether planted in the ground or in a container, lantana benefits from light applications of slow-release or controlled-release fertilizer to promote healthy growth.

Native Lantana

For those looking to replace invasive lantana with native varieties, Florida offers two options: Lantana involucrata and Lantana depressa. These native lantana varieties are rare even in their original coastal habitats in South Florida. To incorporate native lantana into your landscape, visit a reliable native nursery that stocks these species. Additionally, native lantana varieties are highly attractive to the native pollinators in the area.

Developing Sterile Lantana Varieties at UF/IFAS

The quest to create sterile lantana cultivars at UF/IFAS began 15 years ago under the guidance of Dr. Zhanao Deng. Dr. Deng, a renowned expert in ornamental plants, leads a dedicated research team in Wimauma, Florida. Their mission was to find lantana varieties incapable of producing seeds or hybridizing with native plants, thus creating a sterile lantana variety. After years of careful breeding and selection, Deng’s lab successfully developed a range of sterile plants that do not seed or crossbreed with native lantana.

The next challenge was to ensure that these sterile varieties matched the aesthetic appeal of their invasive counterparts. Consumers desired large flowers, compact growth habits, and lush foliage. It took several more years of breeding to achieve sterile varieties that could meet these demands.

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In 2016, Deng’s team introduced two ‘Bloomify™’ cultivars, and in 2019, they released ‘Luscious® Royale Red Zone™.’ All three cultivars feature abundant, mounding growth habits and vibrant clusters of flowers. ‘Bloomify™ Rose’ boasts multicolored blooms that transition from orange to magenta. ‘Bloomify™ Red’ and ‘Luscious® Royale Red Zone™’ also offer multicolored blooms, which change from yellow to bright red. Each cultivar showcases large flower clusters, each containing up to 30 individual flowers. With their striking colors and lush foliage, these sterile lantana varieties are equally as attractive as their older, invasive counterparts.

To learn more about lantana, contact your local county extension office. For purchasing sterile lantana varieties, visit Ames Farm Center.

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  • Coastal Landscapes
  • Deadly Plants
  • Summer Bedding Plants
  • Weeds and Invasive Plants

More from UF/IFAS

  • ‘Bloomify Red’ and ‘Bloomify Rose’, Two Infertile Lantana camara Cultivars for Production and Use in Florida
  • Lantana camara, lantana – UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas
  • Lantana montevidensis, trailing lantana – UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas

Elsewhere on the Web

  • Lantana depressa, pineland lantana – Florida’s Natural Areas Inventory Field Guide (pdf)
  • Lantana involucrata, wild lantana, wild sage – Florida Native Plant Society