Tropical native brings color to desert gardens
Whether or not your thumb is green or brown, lantana (verbenaceae) is one plant that is a faithful grower.
Lantana is very popular here in Mohave County, since it thoroughly enjoys our climate and soil. It is a hardy, low-maintenance plant, and its only need is a good pruning in the spring.
Lantana is a member of the verbena family. It grows wild in the deep South and is considered a weed in Hawaii. The plant originated in the tropical areas of North, South and Central America and in South Africa.
Because of its origin, it will provide us with color off and on all year long. It dislikes cold and is considered an annual in cold winter climates.
In our climate, it will bounce back as soon as the heat turns on - in fact it revels in it. It is tolerant of poor soil conditions and its water requirements are moderate. Too much water or fertilizer will cut down on the blooms.
The leaves are dark green and are 3 inches or more in length with rounded tips with toothed edges and deeply veined fuzzy surfaces.
The foliage has a pungent smell when disturbed. The flowers are quite small, with dozens of blooms making up a cluster.
The color palette is great. White, pink, red, yellow, purple, orange and magenta are only the beginning. There is a lantana called Confetti, which has yellow, pink and purple blossoms in a single cluster - it is really quite outstanding.
In the fall, tiny black berries appear resembling blackberries. These berries are poisonous to us but not to birds, who are lovers of these berries.
The nectar brings in hummingbirds and butterflies, including monarchs, pink ladies and swallowtails.
There are more than 150 species of lantana, but there are two main species. Camara, which is a shrub, can grow upright to 6 feet. It can be trimmed into low hedges or foundation shrubs.
Montevidensis, which grows like a ground cover, can have branches that trail from three to six feet. This is excellent for covering banks and for erosion control.
So depending on your landscape design, there is a lantana that will accommodate your needs.
Lantana can be used in borders, hanging pots and containers, and is a great color accent amongst cacti. The only drawback that lantana has is that it can become invasive if planted too close to a walkway, since it likes to spread out.
This is one plant that will not fail to bring color in the heat of summer here in the desert. The dark green foliage along with its bright-colored flowers will at least make your yard feel a little cooler then it really is.