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by Valerie (May 12, 2000)
revised August 11, 2003
lantanaAlthough the summers here in the South are rather unbearable, there are definitely advantages to the mild winters. One is that we can grow flowers like common lantanas (Lantana camara) and they are perennial because they won't freeze out completely. Some varieties die back to the ground with even a light frost but others seem to weather short freezes if they are protected, thereby starting the new season a bit more advanced. This past winter we had lantanas blooming all winter. lantana

Lantanas have small bouquets of blossoms that often change color as each individual flower opens then ages. Color combinations include white and purple, yellow and pink, yellow and orange, and pink and magenta. There are also some that are all one color such as the yellow and the white varieties. purple trailing lantana

Several advantages to growing these flowers are: 1. The spreading varieties are easy to propagate and grow from any stem that has touched the ground and produced rootlets, 2. They bloom all season long, 3. They are fairly drought resistant, and 4. They bloom in both sunny areas and shade. The one big disadvantage is the bizarre odor produced by the foliage of some varieties. I find it slightly unpleasant but some people are nauseated by it. At least it is only noticeable when the plants are being pruned or thinned out. The trailing purple species (Lantana montevidensis) seems to be the most odoriferous.

The beauty of the small blossoms is only evident when seen up close. I am especially taken with the wonderful symmetry of the buds just before they open.

Lantanas are members of the verbena family (Verbenaceae) and have another common name: polecat geranium (probably because of their weird odor). After blooming, they produce bluish-black berries which are poisonous, but look interesting. I've tried numerous times to germinate the seeds from these berries but without success.

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