Your USDA hardiness zones determine the way you must grow lantana outdoors.

How to Grow a Lantana Plant Outdoors

by Amelia Allonsy

Lantana (Lantana spp.) packs a colorful punch when it blooms from midsummer through fall because each pompom-like flower cluster features two colors, including red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white. Species range in form from spreading ground covers to upright shrubs. The perennial growing range for lantana is U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 12. Light frosts in USDA zones 8 and 9 kill foliage, but the plant re-sprouts from its roots in spring. Hard freezes kill lantana, so it must be grown as an annual in cooler climates.

1 Remove all plants and weeds from the planting site. Select a site that receives full sun, or at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.

2 Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches, using a rototiller or hand digging tools, such as a shovel, mattock and hoe. If you have poor soil with few nutrients or drainage, mix in up to 50 percent organic matter, such as finished compost or aged manure. Lantana tolerates poor soil, but prefers well-drained, nutrient-rich soil.

3 Dig a hole in the planting area that measures two to three times the diameter and the same depth of the lantana root ball. Plant the lantana in the hole so the top of the root ball is even with the surrounding soil grade. Back-fill the hole with the reserved soil up to the height of the root ball and surrounding soil.

4 Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of bark chip mulch around the lantana plant. Cover the bare soil in the growing zone, but do not push the mulch directly against the plant stems. Mulch is especially helpful as insulation in USDA zones 8 and 9 because it keeps the soil and roots warmer, which can make the difference between the lantana dying back to the ground for winter or dying at its roots and never growing back.

5 Water the lantana about once weekly to keep the soil evenly moist. Increase watering frequently during periods of drought. After the first year, when the plant becomes established, water only in extended dry periods.

6 Apply a low-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, in spring and again in midsummer, at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water. Lantana is especially sensitive to over-fertilization and excess nitrogen and might not flower as well with too much fertilizer. Spread finished compost as mulch around the lantana if you prefer to use organic methods.

7 Trim back individual stems throughout the summer to control long, unruly stems. Use this pruning style for trailing, ground cover lantana species or for shrub-form lantana (Lantana camara). Alternatively, use hedge shears to shear a lantana shrub if you desire a more formal shape.

8 Push stakes into the ground and drape frost cloth, burlap or blankets over the stakes if a hard frost is predicted in USDA zones 8 or 9. You can put up the cover only during freezing weather or keep it up until the danger of frost has passed.

9 Prune perennial lantanas that do not die back -- those grown in USDA zones 10 through 12 -- in late winter before the new growth season begins. Cut old wood back to the ground to encourage new growth, removing no more than one-third of the total stems each year. Cut any remaining old wood or leggy stems to within about 12 inches of the ground. Prune the rest of the stems to shape the plant.

Items you will need

  • Spade
  • Rototiller
  • Hand digging tools
  • Organic soil amendments
  • Shovel
  • Bark chip mulch
  • Low-nitrogen fertilizer
  • Bypass pruners
  • Hedge shears
  • Pot
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Stakes
  • Rubber mallet
  • Frost cloth

Tips

  • Collect seeds from the lantana in late summer after they finish flowering and the seed pods develop, if you prefer to start the plants from seed each year. When starting lantana from seed, you must plant them indoors about six weeks before the last expected frost and move the small plants outdoors in spring. Another option is to sow the seeds directly on the ground, but you must wait longer for the lantana to develop. Plants grown from seeds will not necessarily be the same as the parent plant from which they were harvested, so cuttings are the best way to grow a larger plant and keep the same variety.
  • Lantana may be considered invasive in some areas.

Warnings

  • Lantana is considered a toxic plant that can cause stomach irritation and vomiting, especially if the berries are eaten by small children and pets. Keep an eye on children and pets when outdoors and, if possible, plant lantana where children and pets don't play. As an extra precaution, remove the berries as they develop on the plant following the flowering period.
  • Lantana can also cause skin irritation. Wear gloves when working with it if you're sensitive to it.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images