Discover the Beauty of Lantana: A Guide to Different Varieties

Lantana Varieties

Lantanas are vibrant flowering shrubs that belong to the plant genus Lantana. With their abundant and colorful blooms, these plants are a delightful addition to any garden. Not only are they visually stunning, but they are also low-maintenance, making them a perfect choice for both seasoned gardeners and beginners alike. If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your yard or create an eye-catching hedge, lantanas are the answer you’ve been searching for.

Understanding Lantanas and Verbena

Lantanas are part of the Verbenaceae family and comprise over 150 species within the Lantana genus. However, with the creation of hybrids and cultivars, the options are nearly limitless. It’s important to note the similarities between lantanas and Verbena species, as they both belong to the same family. The main distinction lies in the growth habit, with lantanas being evergreen shrubs, while verbenas are herbaceous perennials. Furthermore, lantanas bloom year-round, unlike verbenas that only flower during the summer and fall.

Significance of Lantana Varieties

Lantanas are native to warm and tropical regions such as Texas, Florida, and Hawaii in the United States, as well as Central and South America. Due to their preference for hot and humid climates, lantanas are capable of flourishing year-round, resulting in an abundance of flowers. In cooler climates, lantanas can be grown as annuals, providing a burst of color from spring to fall.

The beauty of lantana flowers lies in their unique structure. Each tiny flower consists of tube-like corollas with five-lobed petals, which cluster together to form larger flower heads measuring 1-2 inches across. This creates the illusion of a single, larger bloom. These flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white. Additionally, many lantana species emit a pleasant herbal fragrance, reminiscent of oregano or marjoram.

Lantana Species

Ecological Importance

Apart from their visual appeal, lantanas play a crucial role in supporting local ecosystems. Their flowers provide essential nectar resources for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, making them valuable pollinator plants. Some lantana species even serve as host plants for specific butterfly species, acting as the sole food source for their caterpillars. Additionally, birds rely on the fruits of lantanas as an important part of their diet. By planting lantanas, you can create a pollinator-friendly garden and contribute to the well-being of these vital creatures.

Exploring Different Lantana Species

Lantana species are highly popular garden plants due to their showy blooms and ability to attract native pollinators. However, it’s important to note that some species can become invasive in certain regions. Make sure to consult your local invasive plant list before introducing lantanas to your garden. Generally, lantanas thrive in hot and humid climates, with many species being found in the southern United States. If your climate suits them, lantanas require minimal maintenance and can enhance the beauty of your garden.

Common Lantana (Lantana camara)

The common lantana, also known as shrub verbena, is one of the most widely cultivated lantana varieties. It can be grown as an annual in colder climates or as a container plant. However, caution is necessary in tropical areas, as the common lantana has a tendency to spread rapidly and is considered invasive in certain regions. This variety boasts a range of flower colors, including white, yellow, orange, red, and purple. Its serrated and ovate leaves make it an attractive choice for butterfly enthusiasts.

Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Trailing lantana is an excellent ground cover option, known for its sprawling growth and thick foliage. Although it can escape from gardens in the southern United States, it is less invasive compared to its cousin, L. camara. Take care when handling this plant, as the tiny hairs on its leaves may cause skin irritation. Trailing lantana produces beautiful purple, pink, and lilac flowers and attracts bees and butterflies.

Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata)

Buttonsage, a native lantana species in the United States, is a charming shrub with leaves that release a sage-like fragrance when crushed. Growing up to three feet tall, this variety produces lavender to white flowers followed by purple fruit. Buttonsage attracts birds, ants, bees, and butterflies and thrives in sun to partial shade.

Popcorn Lantana (Lantana trifolia)

Also known as lavender popcorn, this lantana variety showcases decorative fruit in addition to its picturesque flowers. Resembling pieces of purple popcorn, the fruit adds a unique touch to the plant. However, it’s important to note that many lantana species, including this one, are poisonous and should not be consumed. Popcorn lantana grows as an upright shrub, reaching heights of two to six feet. Its flowers transition from tiny lavender to pink, eventually forming spikes of lavender fruit.

Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides)

Texas lantana, also known as calico bush, wild lantana, or West Indian shrubverbena, is a favorite among butterflies and birds. Unlike its invasive relatives, this variety is an excellent choice for butterfly gardens. The Lantana Scrub Hairstreak butterfly relies on Texas lantana as its primary food source during the caterpillar stage. This spreading shrubby plant reaches heights of two to three feet and produces vibrant red, orange, and yellow flowers, often displaying multicolored blooms.

Desert Lantana (Lantana achyranthifolia)

Desert lantana is a petite aromatic shrub sometimes mistaken for a member of the mint family. Its leaves and fruit are favored by browsing animals such as white-tailed deer. The flowers of this variety open white and transition to shades of pink and purple. Desert lantana thrives in well-draining soils and moderate moisture.

Exploring Popular Lantana Cultivars

In addition to wild species, lantanas have been extensively bred to produce cultivars with robust blooms. These cultivars are available in a wide range of colors and growth habits, including shrubs and trailing varieties. Most cultivars are hybrids and variations of L. camara and L. montevidensis. Unlike species lantanas, cultivars are often sterile and can only be propagated through cuttings. It’s worth noting that cultivars generally require less pruning compared to their wild counterparts.

Dallas Red

Renowned for its ability to attract butterflies, Dallas Red features striking bundles of flowers that transition from dark orange to brilliant red. This upright shrub grows three to four feet tall and wide, adding a vibrant touch to any garden.

Silver Mound

Silver Mound lantana is a low-growing cultivar that forms dense mounds. Its small yellow flowers mature to a creamy white, creating a captivating contrast against the dark green foliage. This variety attracts native bees and butterflies and is well-suited for borders and ground covers.

Weeping Lantana

A trailing variety, Weeping Lantana is an excellent choice for butterfly gardens. Its rich purple and lavender flowers cascade gracefully, making it ideal for container plantings and hanging baskets. The foliage may develop a purple hue in cooler temperatures.

Confetti

Confetti lantana is renowned for its multicolored flowers, providing a true party of colors in your garden. This low-growing plant works well as ground cover or in containers, offering a dazzling display of yellow, pink, and magenta blooms.

Irene

Irene lantana, a stunning multicolored cultivar, features vibrant flowers that transition from yellow to pinks and magenta. With its mounding growth habit, it is an excellent choice for groundcovers and hanging baskets, providing year-round color.

New Gold

Boasting brilliant golden yellow flowers, New Gold is a profuse bloomer that adds a touch of sunshine to any garden. This low-growing lantana is perfect for containers, baskets, or trained as a shrub.

Patriot Rainbow

Patriot Rainbow is known for its ability to change flower color as it ages, creating a delightful rainbow effect in your garden. With its compact growth form, this lantana works well as a border or hedge plant.

Dove Wings

Dove Wings is a compact, low-growing shrub that displays beautiful white flowers with yellow centers. Attracting moths and butterflies, it is an enchanting addition to flower beds.

Radiation

Radiation lantana stands tall with brilliant orange to red flowers, making it an eye-catching shrub suitable for hedges or flower gardens. It attracts bees and butterflies, adding life and color to any landscape.

With so many lantana varieties to choose from, you can create a stunning garden filled with beautiful blooming bundles. Whether you opt for native species to support local pollinators or prefer cultivars for their unique colors, lantanas are sure to bring joy to your outdoor space. Even in colder areas, lantanas can thrive as low-maintenance annuals, infusing your garden with vibrant hues.

Propagating Lantanas

All lantanas are easy to grow from cuttings. Simply take a cutting of new growth during early spring, remove most of the lower leaves, and dip the bottom two inches in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a small pot with seed starting soil, keeping the soil moist by spraying it lightly daily. Once roots develop, you can transplant your new lantana and enjoy its beauty for years to come.

No matter your gardening aspirations, there is undoubtedly a lantana variety that will captivate your heart. Embrace the beauty and resilience of these plants and create a garden that bursts with color and life.