Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Need a colorful ground cover that is also drought tolerant? Consider Lantana montevidensis. Unlike its sibling, Lantana camara that grows up to six feet tall and wide, L. montevidensis maxes out at two feet but can spread up to six feet, lending itself to massing, spilling over retaining walls, or even placed in containers with occasional pruning. Because of its ease, we often see drifts of purple in commercial landscapes, but other colors are becoming more readily available, such as orange, yellow and white.
Like its sibling, trailing lantana hails from tropical regions. More specifically, we can pinpoint where it was found, Montevideo, Uruguay, hence the species epithet. Montevideo is a coastal city, but at the time of this posting, it is unclear where the species was found...along the coast? Inland? That information could help us understand its cultural needs. Thankfully, we do know that lantanas perform well in temperate California, providing winters are not severe.
'Alba' or 'Trailing White': Similar in form but white.
'Confetti': Shown below, with yellow, pink to purple flowers.
'New Gold': Yellow flowers
The following video is not filmed in California but is from the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center and still provides an informative overview.
Botanical Name: Lantana montevidensis
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.
Montevidensis: Refers to Montevideo, Uruguay
Common Name: Trailing lantana; pole-cat geranium; Sellow's lantana; trailing shrubverbena; weeping lantana; wild verbena
Family Name: Verbenaceae
Origin: Tropical Americas
Positioning: Foreground, potted
Garden Themes: Pool, courtyard/patio, butterfly/pollinator, cottage, sub-tropical, tropical, Mediterranean, drought, rock, desert, hillside
Uses: Accent, border, mass, container/hanging baskets, spill over planters/retaining walls, ground cover, erosion control
Type: Evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub
Form: Mound, spreading
Size: 2" tall and up to 6' wide
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, traditionally purple but new cultivars are adding colors such as white, orange, and yellow. 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 montevidensis." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on October 20, 2021, from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/lantana-montevidensis/.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Plant Finder. "Lantana montevidensis." Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis. Accessed on October 20, 2021, from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=287465.
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.