Texas Living

Lantana: A Texas powerhouse

By Leslie Finical Halleck 5.6.13

As a professional horticulturist, I’m often asked questions like “what can I plant in a full sun location that is perennial, blooms all the time, tolerates bad soil, and never needs water?”

To this I usually offer up my standard finger-wagging lecture about how plants are living things that need proper placement, care, and attention in order to thrive. Shame inducing, I know. Yet, to this question there are actually a handful of Texas-tough plants that can meet almost all of those demands. Lantana, a powerhouse of the Texas summer, is one of those rare, tough beauties.

A native to South America, Lantana urticoides (L. horrida) has made itself right at home here in Texas. Some consider it a “native,” but I’ll defer to the term adapted.

Great for Poolside Plantings

This species of Lantana, and many others, will grow quite happily in many types of soils through the entire state. It’s most prolific along the coastal areas. It prefers poor, sandy soils in hot dry areas with a full sun exposure, making it the perfect solution plant for planting along:

  • Hot concrete pools
  • Driveways
  • Easements that don’t receive much irrigation.

Lantana is a tough perennial that will die back or lose much of its foliage during winter, except in the very southern areas of the state. Once temperatures get hot, Lantana will burst into bloom and continue to do so into the fall season.

Butterflies love it too

If you’re looking to attract butterflies to your garden, there’s not a butterfly around that can resist the mix of tubular red, yellow, and orange blooms; many birds enjoy the berries that follow.

While this adapted species is particularly tough, there are any number of cultivated Lantana hybrids that sport bigger flowers and more unusual color combinations. Most Lantana are mounding in form, but you can also select low-growing and trailing types. Once establish, all Lantana are low maintenance and rarely thirsty. But I’ll leave you with one tiny finger wag: New plants always need supplemental watering to get established.