By Gerrie Blackwelder
Extension Master GardenerVolunteer
SALISBURY — Now in its second year, the lantana study trial is under way and looking quite beautiful at the Agriculture Center on Old Concord Road.
The demonstration plot is arranged in four quadrants, each featuring mounding, trailing and compact varieties in an abundance of colors. Plants were selected from local providers so that they are easily available locally. Considered a lazy gardener’s favorite plant, lantana originated in Texas in the hot, dry desert areas and is guaranteed to grow well in our summer heat. Minimal care is required of all of the lantana plants in our study and some are sure to be among Rowan gardeners’ favorites.
Small, potted lantana plants should be set out in late spring after the soil has fully warmed and there is at least eight hours of full sunlight daily. Among the study group is the perennial Miss Huff which has performed beautifully. As a hardy lantana (perennial), the Miss Huff is shrub-like and can reach up to 5 feet or more. In subsequent years, the plant can spread an equal size in one growing season. Miss Huff is well loved due to the fact that, like most lantanas, this plant produces an abundance of tiny flowers in a variety of colors including pinks, oranges and yellows through the first frost.
Samantha is another that was a favorite among the Master Gardener planting team. The mounding yellow flowering plant is featured in the trial garden in both dark green and variegated foliage types. Both types are expected to maximize growth at 10 to 16 inches and are perfect for spot color in container gardening. Variegated plants tend to develop more diseases, but lantanas are extremely resistant to diseases and insects.
Several South Beach series plants were chosen and are on display. The Compact Hot Pink, Cocoanut, Mango, Bullion and Red are all planted in the upper right quadrant and are appealing for many assets. Compact performers reach a mature height of 18 inches. Mango is especially interesting in the two-toned red and orange florets. Hot Pink is a two-toned yellow and pink which is dramatic and delightful. The South Beach series is designed for extremely dry, sunny areas and are well adapted to containers. This series does well in combination plantings, as the colors are designed to complement each other and entertain in a garden setting.
Scattered in the garden are several plants from the Bandana series. These are characterized as compact, as well, and reach a diameter of approximately 23 inches. The Bandana plants are full of color drama and the Hot Pink and Cherry plants are well conceived to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bandana Cherry is mounding type lantana developed for container plantings.
Chipotle Lilac Pink from the Chipotle series is very showy and provides startling pinkish blue color; the stunning Chipotle Gold is a bright, clear, dark gold. Oddly, these plants were hybridized in Italy where the climate is humid and hot just as Carolina summers. The Chipotles are prostrate lantanas and have slightly smaller florets. They are robust and very tough in dealing with rains and winds. Repeat bloomers throughout the summer months as all lantanas, these are also acceptable in gardens or containers.
Lantanas are cast iron plants with brittle stems but adorned with highly dramatic flowers. Trailing varieties such as the Purple Trailing can grow to 15 inches, spreading 6 feet. They are adapted well as grown covers while the compacts are more suited to smaller installations.
The largest of the plants in the study is Mozzell, a Clemson propagation plant, brought to the university from Texas. This perennial has a 2- to 5-foot height growth annually and up to 4-foot spread. Yellow blooms become either lavender or pink as they mature. The lavender and yellow mounding Mozzell is in the lower right quadrant of the study.
Lantanas have very few cultural requirements. They have basically no insect or disease problems. However, many cultivars are considered annuals in North Carolina in cold winter months. It is important to wait until the new growth begins in spring and cut back at that time. Those that survive the winter will continue growing and re-bloom.
Gerrie Blackwelder is a 2012 Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with Cooperative Extension in Rowan County.