Lantana are pretty flowering shrubs with a big hit of summertime color, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there including hot debates about whether lantana is a perennial or annual. Let’s sift through the contradicting information to discover the truth about this popular colorful plant.
Lantana: Perennial or Annual?
In short, the answer is that it depends on where you live.
Lantana is a tropical plant that can’t tolerate cold, so in its native habitats and USDA hardiness zones nine to eleven it’s a perennial not an annual. In colder climates, lantanas are mistaken for annuals because the cold weather kills them.
What Does Perennial Mean?
Perennial plants live for three years or more and come back each year even if they look like they’ve died. It’s because some perennials are evergreens but others are deciduous. Deciduous plants die back in winter and survive the cold weather as root balls beneath the soil.
Lantana is what’s known as a tender perennial because it’s perennial in warm zones but dies in cold zones.
What are Biennial and Annual Plants?
Biennal plants germinate from seed in the autumn, go dormant over winter and complete their growing cycle the following spring and summer. Biennial plants live for two years, but they’re often mistaken for plants that flower twice a year. Sweet Williams and parsley are biennial plants.
Annual plants are the shortest lived. They germinate, flower, and set seed all in one year. Annuals usually sprout in spring and die in late autumn. Bedding plants such as pansies and marigolds are annuals.
What Is Lantana?
Lantana are popular flowering plants in the Verbenaceae family. There are around 150 species and further cultivars bred by botanists to increase their hardiness and color palette. They’re native to Africa and the tropical Americas but grown widely across the world.
Lantanas are sometimes called shrub verbenas and they grow to a maximum height of over six feet tall depending on the species, although most garden-grown species stop at four to five feet.
The most popular aspect is their aromatic flower clusters in white, blue, red, yellow, and orange. As the blooms mature they change color so their flowerheads are a multitude of different shades all in one. After flowering, clusters of small black berries emerge that are toxic to people and pets.
If you’re wondering about wild lantanas (called sand lantanas) they aren’t related, but are members of the Abronia genus.
What to Do With Lantana Over Winter
In tropical and subtropical areas (zones nine to eleven) lantana is perennial, not annual, and needs very little care. Over wintering in warm zones is just a case of cutting down the stem to six to twelve inches so fresh new growth appears in spring.
If you are lucky, lantana will survive outside in growing zones seven to eight, but it may die down to its rootball and re-emerge when temperatures rise.
In zones one to eight, and the rest of the temperate world, lantanas are best grown in a container so they’re easily brought inside over winter. Aim to get lantana inside before the first frost descends or it’ll be too late!
Once indoors, lantana enjoy a sunny window-side spot until the temperature hits 55 degrees (12 degrees centigrade) again and they can go back outside.
Does Lantana Need to Be Cut Back?
Yes, lantana needs to be cut back in zones where they don’t grow year-round and when they’re brought indoors for winter. For bushy new growth in spring, cut lantana back to 6-12 inches.
Why Is Lantana a Problem?
In tropical areas, Lantana Camara is a vigorous wild shrub that outcompetes native flora and creates dense thickets that disturb ecosystems. It’s considered invasive in Florida and Hawaii where it’s been known to cover the understorey of citrus groves and reduce produce productivity.
Is Lantana Poisonous?
Symptoms of lantana poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and weakness. It’s also toxic to humans if eaten and causes the same symptoms. Because lantana has brightly colored flowers and juicy blackberries it’s tempting to children, so if you have youngsters it’s best to avoid growing lantana until they’re a bit older.
Where Is the Best Place to Plant Lantana?
Lantanas need well-drained soil with lots of sunshine and warmth because they’re tropical plants.
Lantana are not fussy about the ground and will tolerate most soils, but they do prefer acidic soil. To get the best from your lantanas use an acidic-based mulch to boost flowers. Pine or bracken-based mulch is best but you could use a liquid fertilizer instead.
Should Lantana Be Deadheaded?
Yes, lantanas should be deadheaded because removing the spent flowers encourages more flowers!
Spent flowers turn into seeds and this takes up a lot of the plant’s energy. By removing the pre-seeds the plant is forced to grow more and this leads to another flowering.
You can either snap off each dead head or take garden shears and trim the whole shrub in one go.
What Month Does Lantana Bloom?
Lantana is a prolific bloomer with clusters of cheerful bright flowers nearly all year round in warmer climates. In zones one to eight lantana will bloom for as long as the warm weather lasts, so late spring to the frosts. It’s a great plant for color-loving gardeners.
Growing Lantana From Seed
It’s easy to grow lantana from seed, but you will need patience because germination can take six to eight weeks. The good news is you can plant seeds indoors at any time of year. Simply spread lantana seed across damp seed compost, cover it with a thin compost layer, and keep it warm.
A quicker way to grow lantana is a summer cutting. To propagate lantana, snip off a 6-8 inch long stem from new growth just above a pair of leaves. Remove foliage from the bottom half and push the stem into damp compost. Keep the compost moist and it will root within a few weeks.
It’s best to overwinter new rooted lantana cuttings indoors until late spring.
Try Growing Lantana As A Perennial
Because lantana is naturally perennial not annual it will come back the following year. If you’re in a cool zone, why not bring your lantana inside for winter? This trick will save you money and effort next year.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Andre Silva Pinto/Shutterstock.com
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