Butterflies love lantana, so expect to see them in your yard.

How to Prepare Soil to Plant Lantana

by A.J. Andrews

You can grow tropical lantana (Lantana camara) in most climates. It grows as a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, where it's evergreen. In cooler climates, the upper portion of the plant dies back to the ground at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but the roots survive and sprout when it warms up again. Lantana blooms year-round in tropical climates, and blooms in summer and fall in areas where it dies back from the cold. Lantana is considered invasive in some areas, but some non-invasive varieties are available.

1. Starting Inside

1 Soak 1/3 gallon of coarse sphagnum peat moss in water for one hour, three to four months before the last estimated frost date for your area. Add 1/3 gallon of sterilized loam to a clean bushel basket.

2. Starting Inside

2 Squeeze the water from the sphagnum peat moss and place it in the bushel basket. Add 1/3 gallon of perlite to the bushel basket.

3. Starting Inside

3 Pour just enough water, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup, to make mixing the growing medium ingredients easier.

4. Starting Inside

4 Add small amounts sphagnum peat moss if the growing medium feels sandy between your palms. Add small amounts of perlite if the medium feels sticky in your hands. Continue adding small amounts of perlite and peat moss to the medium until it feels loose in your hands.

5. Starting Inside

5 Pour the growing medium in 4-inch pots until it reaches about 1/4 inch from the tops. Soak the lantana seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Plant two or three lantana seeds, about 1 inch apart, in each pot. Grow the lantana indoors until the threat of frost has passed.

6. Growing Outside

1 Test the soil pH in an area that receives full sun at least six months before planting lantana. Lantana does well as a bedding plant, as a wall-side border, and when planted on slopes and banks that get full southern or western exposure. You need about 3 square feet of space for each lantana, depending on the cultivar.

7. Growing Outside

2 Sprinkle elemental sulfur or dolomitic lime over the soil if the pH tested above or below 6.5 to 7.5. Apply 5 to 6 1/2 ounces of limestone per 10 square feet to raise the pH of sandy soil 1 pH point. Apply 11 to 12 ounces of limestone per 10 square feet to raise the pH of loamy soil 1 pH point. Apply 12 ounces to 1 pound of limestone to raise the pH of clayey soil by 1 point. Distribute about 1 ounce of sulfur per 10 square feet to lower the pH of sandy soil by 1 point. Distribute 2 1/2 ounces of sulfur per 10 square feet to lower the pH of loamy soil by 1 point. Distribute 3 1/2 ounces of sulfur per 10 square feet to lower the pH of clayey soil by 1 point.

8. Growing Outside

3 Cultivate the sulfur or limestone into the soil 8 to 12 inches deep, using a spading fork or rototiller.

9. Growing Outside

4 Pull all the weeds from the planting area and spread 3 to 4 inches of compost over it if you have sandy soil. Spread 2 to 3 inches of compost over the planting area if you have a lot of clay in your soil. Spread 1 inch of compost over the planting area if you have fine, silty soil.

10. Growing Outside

5 Work the compost into the soil 4 to 6 inches deep, using a spading fork or shovel.

11. Growing Outside

6 Dig one hole for each lantana, about twice as wide as the pots and just as deep. Space each hole at least 3 feet apart from the next hole and at least 3 feet away from other plants.

Items you will need

  • Coarse sphagnum peat moss
  • Sterilized loam
  • Bushel basket
  • Perlite
  • 4-inch pots
  • Soil pH test
  • Elemental sulfur or dolomitic lime
  • Spading fork or rototiller
  • Compost
  • Shovel

Tips

  • Select a noninvasive variety of lantana or a less invasive variety if you live in USDA zones 8 through 12 to help keep its growth in check.
  • Thin out the weakest lantana from the pots you started inside, allowing only the healthiest seedling to remain, after you dig the holes in spring. Slide the mass of growing medium from each pot, keeping the lantana seedling and its root system intact. Place one lantana in each hole and backfill it with the excavated soil to plant.

Warnings

  • Lantana is poisonous to people and pets. Warn children about the dangers of eating their glossy, attractive berries.
  • Lantana can cause skin irritation. Wear gloves if you get a rash when handling it.
  • Wear chemical-proof gloves, safety goggles and a respirator when working with lime or sulfur.
  • Nursing and pregnant women should wear garden gloves when handling lantana, compost and soil.
  • Never transplant a lantana from the wild and plant it in your garden or yard.
  • Spikes emerge from lantana stems as they grow.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images