Verbena vs. Lantana: 5 Key Differences

Written by Jennifer Hollohan
Updated: July 29, 2023
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These beautiful flowers are both members of the Verbenaceae family. The family includes a diverse range of plants, including shrubs, trees, and herbs. Among the over 1,100 species spread throughout 30 genera, you will find approximately 150 species of flowering plants.

This article explores two of these species, Verbena (Verbena officinalis) and Lantana (Lantana camara). You will discover just how unique the two are.

Verbena vs. Lantana: Comparison

It is helpful to break the characteristics of verbena and lantana into categories to understand how they compare. The chart below explores these categories to highlight how the plants are similar and how they differ.

Verbena (Verbena officinalis) and lantana (Lantana camara) plants are both perennials in warmer climates and members of the Verbenaceae family. But that is where their similarities end. They have distinct differences in the origin, size, leaves, flowers, and growing requirements. Below, we will explore each of these categories in greater detail.

VerbenaLantana
Scientific ClassificationVerbena officinalisLantana camara
Common Name(s)Tall verbena; vervainLantana; shrub verbena
OriginsThe true origin is unknown, with sources varying widely.Tropical Central and South America
SizePlants are 2 to 4 feet tall and 1.5 to 3 feet wide at maturity.They develop a 1 to 3 feet spread and grow 3 to 6 feet tall.
LeavesLeaves grow tightly together to form a roughly 1-foot-tall clump. They are dark green, lance-shaped, and serrated. And they grow up to 5 inches long.The leaves are long and dark green. They grow up to 4 inches, are toothed, ovate, and slightly wrinkled in appearance. Also, they are highly aromatic if bruised.
FlowersThe flowers bloom in June and last until frost. They are rose-violet or lavender in color. The flowers are attached to 4 angled stems that protrude up from the clump of leaves. They grow in clusters of tiny flowers. The flowers bloom in July and last until the first frost. Colors include white, yellow, orange, red, and purple, often mixed in the same cluster. 
Growing RequirementsWinter hardy in Zones 7-11. It needs full sun and medium water. It is a low-maintenance plant that grows rapidly.Perennial in Zones 9-11. Lanta needs full sun. It is drought-resistant, low maintenance, and can overwinter indoors in colder environments. Relatively free from insect or disease problems.
Fun FactsVervain attracts butterflies. It has been used in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes since the 4th century.This lovely plant is favored by butterflies.

Verbena vs. Lantana: Origins

The true origin of verbena is a bit murky. Some sources point to the Mediterranean region as its native home. Others suggest it originated in Europe, western Asia, or northern Africa. And yet another source believes verbena is native to the Americas. 

On the other hand, Lantana is known to be native to tropical areas of Central and South America. However, it has spread and become naturalized in parts of the southeastern US, including Florida.

Verbena flowers close up

The origin of verbena is unclear.

©NeCoTi/Shutterstock.com

Verbena vs. Lantana: Size

While verbena and lantana can have similar spreads, their height is drastically different. Verbena tops out at around 4 feet tall. But lantana can grow up to a surprising 6 feet tall.

Verbena vs. Lantana: Leaves

Verbena officinalis leaves grow together in a relatively short, squat clump. They develop tightly together and form a lovely base below the stalks that showcase their flowers. The leaves are long, reaching up to 5 inches, and lance-shaped. Additionally, they are dark green and serrated. 

While the leaves of Lantana camara are also dark green, that is where the similarities end. Lantana leaves grow slightly shorter than verbena leaves, coming in around 4 inches maximum. They are ovate, toothed, and slightly wrinkled. But they do come with a bonus. If you gently bruise lantana leaves, they will reward you with a highly aromatic scent.

Verbena vs. Lantana: Flowers

The lovely flowers of both plants bloom at similar times. Verbena blossoms will show up around June, while lantana blossoms arrive a month later. Both stick around until the first frost. But the flowers themselves vary greatly.

Verbena flowers will treat you with a gorgeous lavender or rose-violet display. Clusters of tiny flowers appear at the end of long, 4-angled stems that protrude from the clump of leaves. 

In contrast, lantana flowers come in a broader color range. You may find them in reds, whites, yellows, oranges, and purple. And even better, some of the flower clusters have a mixture of colors that truly delight the senses. Lantana flowers have five lobes, and their dense clusters can reach up to 2 inches in diameter.

Lantana flowers close up

Lantana flowers often feature multiple colors in each bunch of blossoms.

©galitsin/Shutterstock.com

Verbena vs. Lantana: Growing Requirements

Verbena needs well-draining soil kept evenly moist and full sun. The soil quality is not as important since it can thrive in less-than-optimal conditions. You can sow the seeds directly or start them indoors. 

Lantana plants need well-draining soils, full sun, and have moderate watering requirements. It prefers soil with a clay or sandy consistency and a neutral pH.

If you have a favorite plant, you can take a cutting and propagate next year’s plant from it. Lantana is typically grown as bedding or ground cover. But you can grow them in containers if you would like. Just be prepared to prune your plant regularly.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alex Dmr/Shutterstock.com


Sources

  1. Missouri Botanical Garden, Available here: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a523#:~:text=Lantana%20camara%2C%20commonly%20called%20lantana,grows%203%2D6'%20tall
  2. CABI.org, Available here: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/56184
  3. Missouri Botanical Garden, Available here: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a111#:~:text=Verbena%20bonariensis%2C%20commonly%20called%20Brazilian,%2C%20clump%2Dforming%20tender%20perennial
  4. North Carolina State University, Available here: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/lantana-camara/
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About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is verbena good for?

The above-ground parts of verbena, known as vervain, are traditionally used in herbalism. It is used to treat depression, mild gum disease, and swelling in the nasal passages.

What family is verbena in?

Verbena is part of the large Verbenaceae family. There are 32 genera and 800 species within the Verbenaceae family.

Is lantana toxic to humans?

Yes. Unlike its relative, verbena, all parts of lantana are toxic to humans. Use caution if you have kids or pets that hang out in your garden.

Does lantana smell good?

That depends on who you ask. The plant does not have a distinguishable aroma when it is undisturbed. However, when you brush against them or gently bruise the leaves, they will release a strong scent. Some say it is aromatic, but others describe it as highly unpleasant.

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