Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lantana: Tough but Beautiful

Now and then I get tired of one of my old stand bys and go looking for new untried varieties. This is true of vegetables, perennials and annuals. A year ago we took a long weekend trip to Cooperstown NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Farmer’s Museum. At the Farmer’s Museum, along the walk to the parking lot they had whiskey barrels full of gorgeous plants with deep green foliage and flowers that were budding out yellow and deepening through orange to red.

 I’m a sucker for this hot color range and use it to dress up the vegetable garden and surrounding area usually choosing Marigolds, Zinnias or Nasturtium. But I didn’t recognize this plant. It sort of reminded me of Verbena or a Viburnum shrub. I didn’t remember ever having seen it in a local nursery. I didn’t even know if it was annual or perennial.

 Not to worry, I thought, when the spring catalogs arrive I’ll probably be able to pick it out. Sure enough I did. It was the annual Lantana. And not surprisingly, it is related to both Verbena and Viburnum. The annual Lantana is actually a tender perennial. In an annual application it is very tough and hardy. It is said that it thrives on heat and neglect. 

 Perfect! That’s just what I needed for my own whiskey barrels and pots which are in full sun and which I seldom bother to water or fertilize. I have a long list of annuals that have failed in these tough spots including Portulaca, Calibrocha, Wave Petunias and Nasturtium, and I’m getting tired of replacing them halfway through the season. Since I’d never noticed it locally, I asked my friend Sandy if she carried Lantana in her nursery, and she said she would have some. I also found a second local source on my greenhouse prowls.

There are many color pallets to choose from. The ones I had to choose from were Red, Cherry, Pink, Yellow and White. It also comes in Rose, Peach, Orange and probably a few more. If you can’t find it locally, several mail order nurseries will ship it. Red was my choice although the Cherry was very close. I bought a white one for a hard to fill spot in our front landscape.

 Then I found them in hanging baskets at a local grocery which fit beautifully in one of my old chair pot stands.

A month or so after first planting my furthest afield whiskey barrel, I pulled out some tired and unhappy Nasturtium in the wash basin planter and put some small Lantana in there.

 They quickly filled out and as a bonus, when the seed heads mature, they are a lovely blue. Who knew?

Ripening Seed Pods


The season is almost over and I have a new standby for container plantings. Butterflies and Hummingbirds are attracted to it. It is true that the plant loves hot spots and is not insulted if you forget to water it although the overcrowded commercially potted hanging basket did require regular attention. I’ll plant just one plant in a pot there next year which should make it as low maintenance as the rest.

I like Lantana just as much as I thought I would.  It's here to stay.


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