Beautiful Lantana

July 3, 2011 lawanda Newspaper Columns

About this time last year I took a lackadaisical trip through the leftovers in the garden center at Fleet Farm. No matter how good the care given these plants, it is almost impossible to keep a flower in a tiny plastic pot looking good into July. Everything was pretty sad-looking.
Then, the prettiest yellow flower I have ever seen caught my eye. It was actually a flat cluster of many tiny light yellow flowers with darker yellow centers, altogether measuring about 1 ½” across. The leaves were a healthy dark green with slightly toothed edges. It was by far the best looking plant in the place.
I picked it up and found that the soil in the container had completely dried out, which didn’t bode well for its survival. Normally I wouldn’t buy a plant in that condition, but it was deeply discounted and it was just so beautiful!
The tag said ‘Lemon Cream’ lantana. I loved the name too!
I took it home and submerged the entire flimsy plastic pot under water for a few hours. Then I planted it in a nice terra cotta pot and placed it in the sun. It flourished all summer long, producing two flowers for each one I cut off as they finished blooming. Butterflies and hummingbirds were as attracted to the flowers as I was.
When fall came, I moved it indoors to a sunny window. It did okay for a few months, but then lost all its leaves and looked like a dead multi-branched stick. In spring I decided to see what would happen if I re-potted it in fresh potting soil, cut it back a bit, and moved it back outdoors.
I was rewarded for my faith and efforts with lush new leaves and soon new buds will burst forth with flowers.
This year, I discovered lantana “Bandana Cherry Sunrise.” The blooms on this plant are yellow, light pink, dark pink and deep purple, sometimes mixed within one flower cluster. It is gorgeous in a container with light purple trailing bacopa.
Lantana is a perennial plant, but is not hardy in our area, so in Wisconsin it is grown as an annual, or brought indoors over winter as I did. You won’t find it in the inexpensive multi-packs of annuals, and you won’t find it at all garden centers, but it is worth the search and the few dollars you will pay for individual plants.
Lantana needs full sun and does well in pots, but in the ground, given fertile soil and good drainage, it can grow to small shrub size in a single season. In the ground, give it a good watering once a week if rain doesn’t do the job for you.
Little fertilizer is required. A light fertilizer in spring or a time-release fertilizer in the pot is all it needs.
Lantana cultivars vary in height and spread and there are a wide variety of colors, so read the label to make sure you are buying a plant that will fit the location you plan to put it.


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