12 August 2011

Flora Focus: Lantana

It's been a while since I've shared our latest planting efforts. That's partly because we haven't been planting anything new since it's gotten so hot (I think the high yesterday was one hundred eighty-five...or something like that), but also because I've been waiting for the last few plants to get over the shock of planting and get ready for their close-up. So, without further ado....

Lantana is a really common flowering plant in Austin because of its heat-hardiness and its drought tolerance. Compared with azaleas, hydrangeas, and other lush blooming plants that are common farther north, lantana may not look like much, but I've grown to love the delicate little bursts of color on its tiny blooms (each little bloom-let is about the size of a pencil eraser):

That's Chapel Hill lantana, which I was thrilled to find as a replacement for the orangey New Gold variety that our landscape plan had specified. (New Gold is one of the biggest and best-growing lantanas, but its color didn't appeal to us at all.) We planted two Chapel Hills, two Trailing Whites, four Lemon Spreaders, and two Lemon Drops (both Lemons are white with yellow centers) around the crape myrtle in the backyard.

Here's Chapel Hill again (the best grower so far):

Lemon Spreader:

Lemon Drop (the only difference seems to be larger leaves):


They have already grown a lot, and they should fill in the area around the pink crape myrtle with a flurry of sweet yellow and white flowers. I love how, when the little flowers start to come in, they look like little bowties:

Oh, and a fun thing about the whites? I don't know if it's a hybrid or what, but purple started coming out in some of the flowers:

As for real purple lantana, we have a couple of those along the front walkway in the dry creek bed area.

And a row of yellow-and-pink Lucky, Bandana Cherry, and Bandana Rose in the front bed along the grass:

They've been the slowest to grow and bloom since being planted, but a couple of them are starting to show some color. That one is one of my best triumph-over-black-thumbness stories -- before I planted them, I somehow missed watering that guy above until it was on the verge of death. Swift action once I noticed the problem saved its life, and now it's flowering better than any of the others.

And they're kind of the gift (to myself) that keeps on giving (to myself). Some lantanas, such as the white, are sterile, but many others have berries after they bloom (one berry per little mini-flower).

Most of the berries are eaten by birds before they ripen, but when I spot purple berries, I harvest them to save for seeding experiments next year. It's been a perfect use for all of the baby food jars that we accumulated back when Dash was
so, so sick and we were hand-feeding him for months on end. (I saved them because I just knew I was going to be able to make use of them. And the labels? Cut so neatly -- and quickly -- with my new paper cutter.)

So there you have it. Lots of lantana at the Green House. And lots of baby food jars.


  1. Let me tell you, lantana are my favorite plant, like, ever. And it was actually in the actual Chapel Hill I first became familiar with them. (I don't remember any at SBC, do you?)

    When we moved in here, we planted a row of seven of them along our fence inside the backyard. They're the yellow/pink and the yellow/orange/pink similar to yours, and wow. They're IMPOSSIBLE to kill. Every year we trim down the dead branches around April to almost nothing, and every year they're up over my head by September. Full of flowers and bumblebees and butterflies and hummingbirds. They love the heat and sunshine, don't need much water.

    I freaking adore lantana.

  2. That's nice to hear, Lindsey. I always feel like Texas-friendly plants are an acquired taste -- acquired by necessity since what we would prefer to grow won't survive here -- so I appreciate knowing that someone who doesn't have to settle for Death Zone plants still finds them appealing. But I think even for lantana, what we can grow is quite different from what you can grow -- I've never seen any around here taller than about knee height. (Regardless, it looks lovely in clusters in tiny vases around the house. Can't wait to have enough to do that.)