Lantana (Lantana spp.) is a tropical shrub native to Central and South America. It is sensitive to frost and cool temperatures, and in most parts of the United States, it is grown as an annual. Some varieties, however, are less sensitive to cold and can perform as a perennial in warm climates.
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is, as its name suggests, the most common species grown by gardeners. The plants produce colorful, multiflowered flower heads through much of the growing season, in general from July until first frost, and their leaves are coarse and produce a strong odor when crushed. Some cultivars are large and shrubby, reaching a height of 5 to 6 feet, and others have a low, spreading habit.
In general, common lantana is cold-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 11. Its roots may survive the winter in USDA zone 9, however, even though cool temperatures will cause the plant's above-ground growth to die back, and the plant may regrow from the roots in the spring. The 'Miss Huff' variety (Lantana camara 'Miss Huff') is a cultivar noted for its hardiness.
Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) is a low-growing plant, often remaining under 2 feet high, and it has a vinelike growth habit that makes it well-suited to container growing. It is heat- and drought-tolerant and can grow in either full sun or partial shade. It is also usually has a longer blooming period than other varieties, often blooming continuously from spring to fall. It is somewhat more cold-hardy than common lantana and may be perennial in USDA zones 8 to 11.
Lantanas are robust, and they tolerate extreme heat, drought and poor soils. Their toughness makes them easy to grow in the garden, but it also means that they can spread widely if they're allowed to escape the garden. In warm regions where the plant is reliably perennial, it can naturalize and establish dense clumps that crowd out native vegetation. Consequently, common lantana is considered an invasive species in many parts of the southern Unites States, including South Florida and Southern California.
The leaves and berries of lantana contain several toxic compounds and are poisonous if ingested by either people or animals; the toxins are particularly concentrated in the berries while they're still green. Contact with the leaves may also cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in those who are especially sensitive.
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