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Lantana just doesn't know subtle.

Lantana just doesn't know subtle

For masses of bloom all summer, it's hard to beat lantana. Buds begin to pop open with the first balmy days in spring, reach peak bloom by midsummer, and keep going until blasted by winter chill. In mild-winter regions, that means 9 to 10 months of heavy bloom a year. Even in cold-winter climates, lantana grows so fast you can plant it as an annual for bloom from late spring until cold weather.

The color range is extensive. At left you see five of the many shades available.

Which color to choose?

Most popular is the trailing lavender kind, L. montevidensis (L. sellowiana). Slightly hardier than the others, it's most likely to hold its leaves and bloom through winter. It's also the lowest growing, most trailing type, easy to blend with other plants in color and care. It weaves harmoniously in and around patches of white or purple African daisy (Osteospermum), lavender ice plant (Drosanthemum or Lampranthus), bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum), or fragrant heliotrope.

The pastels are also easy to combine with other plants, but they're slower to begin bloom in cool weather and bleach out first in intense heat. For a light combination, try alternating them with star jasmine along a wall or fence. Place a few yellow-flowered lantana plants into a ground cover of the lavender type, or cluster a light pink-flowered kind against a backdrop of plum-colored foliage such as purple hopseed bush (Dodonea viscosa "Purpurea') or flowering plum (Prunus blireiana).

The orange-, bronzy yellow-, and redflowered varieties pack a powerful punch. They combine well with flashy tropicals such as cannas and red hibiscus.

Trailing or upright?

You can choose knee-high trailing kinds, taller uprights, or lantanas trained into 4-foot-tall tree-shaped standards.

Trailing lantanas usually grow only 1 to 3 feet high unless they have a plant or fence to climb, but they often spread 6 feet across. You can use them to carpet flat or sloping ground, to cascade over walls or spill from hanging baskets.

Plant bushy, upright forms for a mass of color as shown at left, in shrubbery borders, as a lightly clipped hedge, or in patio pots. Most upright lantanas can easily be kept about 4 feet tall and wide, but left unpruned, can spurt to 6 feet.

No pampering needed

For easiest care, allow ample space for plants to spread. Loosen and amend soil as needed to provide good drainage. Water frequently the first summer; phase back to about once or twice a week in following summers. Fertilize lightly in spring after pruning.

In containers, you'll have to water more often and fertilize regularly.

Place in full sun. Space upright types at least 4 feet apart. For ground cover, put trailing kinds 2 to 3 feet apart; they'll close ranks in a year or two.

Want to plant by a walkway? First crush a leaf and take a whiff. Some lantanas have a pleasant mint smell; others are potent enough to earn the nickname skunk geranium.

In Hawaii and mild-winter California and Arizona, lantana's vigor can be pesky.

At some point you will want to prune hard to remove old or frost-damaged wood or to contain that aggressive growth. Hard pruning between late fall and frost-free weather in spring can be fatal if a cold wave zaps new growth. Selective hard pruning in late spring and summer leaves bald green patches in the sea of bloom.

The best course is to prune hard in spring as soon as frost danger is past. You can cut or shear side branches back to a few inches from the main stem, and shorten the trunk by a third to half as needed to keep plants within bounds. Then through the rest of the growing season, snip lightly for bouquets or to control size.

In colder climates, lantana usually loses its leaves at about 25|; roots usually survive to 21|. A 4- to 5-inch mulch sometimes helps plants survive colder winters.

Here are 18 choices

You can buy plants from May into fall in gallon cans or 4-inch pots.

To be sure what you're getting, buy plants in bloom. Color intensity is even brighter in spring and fall and near the coast.

Seven trailers:

L. montevidensis (L. sellowiana), lavender.

"Cream Carpet', pale yellow to off-white.

"Gold Mound', yellow-orange.

"Spreading Sunset' ("Trailing Orange').

"Spreading Sunshine' ("Trailing Yellow').

"Sunburst', golden yellow.

"Tangerine'.

Uprights waist-high and up:

"Carnival' ("Dwarf Carnival'), a mixture of yellow, pink, and lavender.

"Confetti', yellow, pink, and purple.

"Dwarf Pink'.

"Dwarf White'.

"Dwarf Yellow'.

"Irene', lemon and magenta.

"Kathleen', soft rose and gold.

"Lemon Swirl', yellow flowers with green and chartreuse leaves.

"Orange'.

"Pink Frolic', pink and yellow.

Unpruned, these reach 6 to 8 feet:

"Christine', dark rose-pink.

"Radiation', yellow, orange, and red.

Photo: "Pink Frolic': flowers open yellow, turn pale to deep pink

Photo: "Dwarf Yellow': soft pastel colors get lighter as blooms age

Photo: "Trailing Orange': red-tipped buds open gold, deepen to orange

Photo: From spring into fall, upright lantanas bloom profusely along an entry walk. She's picking blooms from 4-foot-tall "Dwarf White'; red-orange blend is "Radiation'

Photo: Trailing lantana spills from a hanging basket. Lavender L. montevidensis is the most popular
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1986
Words:866
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