One of my favorite summer blooming plants is lantana. It’s such a great, drought-tolerant plant – something that is more and more important because of the summer droughts.
Even when we have gully-washing rains, it continues to perform well. It produces mounds of flowers from early May until November or even sometimes December, with peak bloom in August. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and is resistant to deer browsing, which is important for many of you.
Lantana performs best when it is planted a couple of weeks after the danger of frost has passed. This normally means waiting until about mid-April or a little later since it will not grow well until the air and soil temperatures have warmed. Obviously this year has been an exception with the abnormally warm weather. I think at this point, the prospects of a late frost are slim to none.
Lantana will perform in shallow, dense, clay soils and doesn’t need special care once it is established. However, you can enhance its performance by using good flower bed preparation techniques. Adding organic matter to the garden or plants is especially helpful. Even though lantana is drought tolerant, it will look better if it gets some periodic watering during drought periods.
Two applications of general purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or an organic equivalent works well. Early May and mid-June applications will ensure rapid growth the rest of the season.
Although lantana is generally a very low-maintenance plant with few pest problems, some might occur, especially in improper growing conditions. It is susceptible to powdery mildew if grown in more shade. Sooty mold, causing a blackish discoloration on the leaves is usually caused by infestation of white flies. Lantana lace bugs cause leaves to appear grayish and stippled or to brown and drop. Mites can also be a problem, especially if plants are very dry. Poor blooming is usually caused by too much shade and excessive fertilization. Plants that set berries may decline in bloom.
With insect or disease problems, or when they begin to set berries, I have found that pruning them back (about a third to halfway) during late summer, will encourage new growth and flowering that will look good up until frost. You may also need to prune them if they grow too large for their allotted space. But even if you don’t cut them back, you will still have plenty of flowers until frost.