Hats off to the National Garden Bureau for designating 2020 as the year of the lantana. If you are looking for a flower that gives vibrant color from late spring through frost, then the lantana is probably the plant for you. This does come with a WARNING. You will most likely have tigers, zebras and some flashy ladies hanging around your garden all growing season.
The passion for pollinators is skyrocketing and you can hardly do better than lantana. My suggestion would be to pair it with salvia the 2019 Plant of the Year and you’ll want to invite the neighbors over to not just see the beauty, but to experience the Serengeti-like activity in the garden.
The lantana is related to the verbena and, in fact, has a common name of shrub verbena; in the last decade, the number of varieties has exploded. The Garden Guy likes bold colors but you may want those a little more subdued.
The Garden Guy likes those 24 to 30-inches in height with an equal width especially since I will be combining with Rockin salvias, Blue Boa Agastache and Vermillionaire cuphea. My son, on the other hand, works with varieties that require a small chainsaw or hedge trimmer and that’s ok, too.
Today’s newer varieties have been selected for non-stop blooming vibrant colors that will make your landscape look like Carnival in Rio. I haven’t planted lantanas at my home and I can hardly wait for spring. There is, no telling what varieties your favorite garden center will have on the shelf. Most of the country grow lantana as annuals while zones 9 and warmer may choose to let them become perennials. Their incredibly long season of bloom makes them at the top of the list of value for your garden dollar.
Keep your eyes open for the Luscious series coming from Proven Winners. This group that boasts 10 colors has garnered an unbelievable 231 awards from trial gardens throughout the country. This year’s new Luscious Goldengate has already won 22 awards.
The Garden Guy is going bold and can hardly wait to get the iridescent orange Marmalade, the Berry Blend featuring shades of fuchsia with red and yellow, and Citrus Blend a shocking red, orange and yellow. These will go in the backyard with an assortment of salvias including this year’s new Rockin Blue Suede Shoes.
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Besides the ability to withstand torrid heat, and a wide variety of soil conditions the lantana seems to be a real favorite of both butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s not uncommon to go to a garden center that has several lantanas and get the feeling you are on a National Geographic photographic shoot.
Remember sunlight is a key ingredient for the real blooming to occur. While they aren’t finicky on soil, I seem to always have clay. Therefore, I like to incorporate a little organic matter to help with not only drainage but good root expansion for the new plants. Plan on spacing your pants 2- to 3-feet apart depending on your variety.
Throughout the season don’t be afraid to prune a little as needed to maintain size or shape or to stimulate new growth and more blooms especially during the August blitz of heat. Fertilizing is no big deal with lantanas but they do respond with a light application as a little pick me up in mid-summer. Those in containers being watered daily need regular fertilization.
As a pollinator lover, here is a hearty thank you to the National Garden Bureau for making 2020 “The Year of the Lantana” and from this growing season onward may we always include them in the landscape.