Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Lantanas continue to grow in availability offering a wide variety of colors and sizes among hybridized cultivars. For this post, we will look into the shrub forms originating from the species Lantana camara. Another form, Lantana montevidensis, offers a ground cover form that will be discussed in another post. Some plants have been crossed by both species offering the best of both worlds. All Lantanas present a showy flower display all through summer, a pleasant treat in drought tolerant gardens.
Considered evergreen, winter is not their favorite time of year. After all, they are native to North, Central, and South American tropical regions. When cold persists, most of these woody shrubs will loose their leaves and look quite barren, categorizing them as semi-evergreen and even deciduous. In other parts of the country, Lantana is used as an annual or as houseplants. In temperate California microclimates, Lantana is one of the first species to reemerge in spring and begin blooming once again. Flowers are born on nearly flat clusters, and despite their minute sizes, display bold accents in the garden. The colors wildly vary, including mixed colors on the same flower cluster, such as orange, yellow, and pink. If some of the colors are too strong, look for hybrids in pastel ranges.
The species can reach up to six feet tall and wide, lending itself to training as a standard. Most of the time, nurseries will have broad availability from these tallest versions to dwarfs, used in containers, hanging baskets, and of course, in the landscape as accents, ground cover, or as part of perennial borders. Its diverse landscape uses in dry California is what makes this species so desirable.
Generally, Lantana requires little maintenance if used in the right location, meaning I see them planted in landscape areas that are too small for particular cultivars. When this occurs, it could be due to limited availability or a lack of specificity by the landscape designer. If a named cultivar is not identified, landscape contractors will look for whichever variety is available, regardless of color, size, and growth habit. This can be a problem if for example the planting space is only 3' wide but the installed plant will reach 6' wide, meaning excessive pruning will a necessary maintenance practice. This is why I am including the following lists of series, hybrid, and cultivar lantanas; designers should specify individually named varieties for their projects that will meet size requirements, color, and form.
Oh, and note that a couple in the series are nearly sterile; meaning they will not reseed or produce excessive fruit requiring additional pruning and removal. In perfect conditions, Lantana can reseed, prompting inclusion in the California Invasive Plant Council's watch list.
The following use is for reference only and does not assume current availabilities by local growers and retail nurseries.
Series: Plants in this collection can be further delineated by color but have been bred for consistent forms, sizes, and tolerances. To learn more, research individual series for desirable qualities.
Bandana®: Compact mound to 24" tall and wide
Bandito™: The photo below of the lantana next to a cobalt blue pot is from this series called 'Bandito™ Orange Sunrise'. The series are dwarf plants reaching about 18" tall and wide, although this one has remained this size, about 12", or several years.
Bandolero™: Compact mound to 24" is apparently well-suited for container growing in cooler climates, meaning it may still be considered an annual but is fast growing and prolifically blooms. It would be interesting to understand how they would perform in warmer climates.
Bloomfly™: A series "sterile certified" will bloom longer because it is not redirecting energy to fruiting. One of the smallest dwarfs reaching 12" tall and wide.
Landmark™: Appears to have a high tolerance for variable conditions from heat and drought to humidity. Compact size to 20" tall by 24" wide.
Little Lucky™: Dwarf similar in size to the Bloomfly™ series, about 12" tall and wide. Although not sterile, this series will set more blooms with fewer seed maturations.
Luscious®: Wide range of trade marked varieties with mounding, compact forms to 2' tall and wide.
Patriot™: Varying sizes within the series, from 15" to 5' tall and wide, featuring multi-color within each flower cluster on a plant.
Named crosses, cultivars & hybrids: Crossbred species are developed by combining L. camara and L. montevidensis.
'Cream Carpet' (PP01841): Hybridized by Conrad Skimina on July 14, 1958 will reach 3' tall by 8' wide. White flowers with yellow centers.
'Dwarf Yellow': A cultivar specific to L. camara will reach up to 4' tall and wide.
'Gold Rush': Possible former name L. camara 'Munol' with bright yellow flowers only 2' tall but spreading up to 6'.
'Irene': Another multi-color similar to Confetti™ but does not spread as wide, 3' tall and 4' wide.
'Miss Huff': Perhaps the largest L. camara may reach 10' tall and wide in mild regions but more likely 3'-6' where freeze can still occur. Flowers bright orange to pink. Noted to be more cold hardy, which might support its larger growth.
x 'Moni' (Confetti™): Multi-color (yellow, pink, magenta) with spreading habit to 3' tall and 8' wide.
x 'New Gold': Another yellow reaching 3' tall but spreading as much as 6'.
'Variegata' (Lemon Swirl®): Conflicting information: Sunset states 2' tall by 3' wide, but Monrovia claims 4'-6' tall and wide. Both reference the variegated leaves as a background to showy yellow blooms.
'Radiation': One of the more brilliant bloomers with orange flowers turning red with age. About 5' tall and wide.
From Clemson University, South Carolina, horticulture extension agent Millie Davenport provides a great overview that also includes Lantana montevidensis for comparison. For California, we should consider location and any frost concerns.
Botanical Name: Lantana camara
Lantana: Latin, is actually the name for another species, Viburnum, as in Vibrunum lantana. The genus was adopted because both species have similar flower structures. However, this explanation still does not explain the meaning of lantana.
Camara: South American vernacular name
Common Name: Lantana; common lantana; yellow sage; red sage; shrub verbena
Family Name: Verbenaceae
Origin: Tropical Americas
Positioning: Foreground for dwarf varieties, middle ground elsewhere, potted
Garden Themes: Pool, courtyard/patio, butterfly/pollinator, cottage, sub-tropical, tropical, Mediterranean, drought, rock, desert
Uses: Accent, border, mass, container
Type: Evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub
Form: Round, mound, spreading (see individual named varieties for specifics)
Size: 12" tall and wide dwarfs to 6' tall and wide species
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Stem: Green and pubescent when young becoming light tan and fissured with age.
Arrangement: Decussate to opposite
Color: Dark green
Surface: Pubescent, rough (directional hairs), slight fragrance when crushed
Flower: Summer to Autumn. Tiny, tubular flowers with star-like opening in umbels, wide range of colors pending cultivars. Several colors may occur on the same plant within umbels. Showy
Fruit: Autumn. Pending cultivar may be present or not exist. Drupe, green turning blue-black when ripe resembling blackberry.
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 8-10, 12-24; H1, H2
USDA Zones: 7-11
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low
Texture: Sand, loam, clay, well-composted
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
Tolerances: Deer, drought
Problems: Moderate toxicity
Branch Strength: Weak
Insects: Spider mites, white flies
Disease: Mildew (if in too much shade)
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Extension Gardener. "Lantana camara." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on October 20, 2021, from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/lantana-camara/.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Plant Finder. "Lantana camara." Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis. Accessed on October 20, 2021, from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=287443.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on October 20, 2021.
All photos by TELCS