I know what you want. Flowers all week. Flowers all month. Flowers from spring until fall. Flowers that you never have to water, spray, or fertilize. Flowers that laugh at heat and snicker at drought. Such flowers have a name--lantana. Best of all, you can plant them now.
Native to tropical America, lantanas may be annuals or perennials, depending on where you live. Tiny flowers in tight clusters that resemble miniature nosegays appear nearly continuously in warm weather. Although some selections boast flowers in solid colors, many have bicolored clusters. A lantana garden is butterfly heaven; no flowers do a better job of attracting them.
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is a rounded, shrubby plant that you sometimes see in older gardens in the Deep South. It grows 4 to 5 feet high and wide and sports orange, red, or yellow flowers. Trailing lantana (L. montevidensis) has thinner, more pliable stems and spreads, rather than mounding. It grows about 1 foot tall and up to 6 feet wide with lavender or white flowers. Most lantanas sold today are hybrids or selections of these two species.
Great Choice of Colors
You can choose from a bevy of lantanas in just about every shade but blue. Most popular are the low-growing, spreading types, which are great for using in hanging baskets, cascading over walls, or massing in large sweeps. Unfortunately, most nurseries sell lantanas by color, not by name. Still, it's worth looking for these specific types.
This article is from the July 2005 issue of Southern Living.