Gardening with Laurie: Lantana good performer for South Texas
By By Laurie Garretson
March 29, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 28, 2012 at 10:29 p.m.
To really test the hardiness of a particular plant here in our part of the world, just take it for a "test drive" during the middle of August. Growing well during the summer months in our part of Texas says a lot for a plant, especially when it can take full sun, bloom and is drought tolerant.
Lantana is a plant that has proved itself worthy to handle the harsh summer conditions all over the state. A member of the verbena family, lantana is native to South America. Lantana is normally considered a warm season annual in the northern part of the state, but it is a hardy perennial, once established, in the central and southern parts.
Lantanas include trailing forms as well as compact and more upright varieties. You will find several color variations to choose from.
Lantana will grow best if planted in areas that receive at least seven to eight hours of full sun a day. A south to southwestern exposure would be a perfect spot for this plant.
Good drainage is a must for lantana. If planting in compacted clay or gumbo soils, it will be best to prepare raised beds that you have amended with lots of compost and some organic fertilizer. Lantana can grow in containers that drain well, preferably made from clay, wood or concrete. Plastic pots will hold moisture.
As with all plants, water lantana thoroughly after planting. Fertilize lantana once a month during this first summer to really encourage blooms. Lantanas that are stressed can be susceptible to spider mites.
Regularly spraying the plant with liquid seaweed will prevent this pest. Seaweed can be used along with your regular organic fertilizer. Keep a good layer of mulch over the entire root system to reduce water needs and keep out weeds.
Once established, lantana will be very drought tolerant. If unsure when to water, check the soil's moisture content by sticking a finger in the soil. Water when the top inch or two of soil is dry.
Low-growing varieties of lantana make beautiful garden additions when planted in front of taller perennials. Red or blue salvias planted in back of a mass planting of white low-growing lantana would not only attract lots of attention, but also would make a beautiful butterfly garden. Trailing forms of lantana also make nice hanging basket plants.
Lantanas will fit in with any type of other sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants and provide months of color and beauty. With all the different lantana varieties that are now available, there is sure to be one for your garden. Be sure to check out this sun-loving beauty.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.