Lantana

(Family Verbenaceae)

The species are mainly of South American origin and are of interest only as the parents of the hybrid varieties which are vastly superior. The principal species used in raising the hybrids were Lantana camara which occurs with yellow, red or violet flowers, L. itivea (white) and L. irtfolia (red). L. camara grows wild on all the islands of the Dutch Fast Indies, as well as tropical South America, where infusion from the leaves is used as a tonic and a stimulant. It has the common name Surinam tea plant. I.antanas are half-hardy evergreen shrubby plants and in warm countries are often used as hedges. In the 1960s there was a lantana hedge round the swimming pool of the Nile Hilton Hotel in Cairo, which may still be there, and lamanus were also used as a screen round the garden of a cafe at the foot of ihe Acropolis in Athens.

The species already mentioned are upright in growth and bloom in the summer months, bui there is another species, L. sellou-iana, which has a trailing habit. It has lilac flowers and is more likely to bloom in ihe winter. At one time there were many named varieties of lantana such as 'Chelsea Gem-pink', 'Favourite' (yellow and red), and 'Cloth of Gold' (yellow), but nowadays plants are usually offered merely under colour of flower descriptions.

CULTIVATION

The best way to start with lantanas is to buy a plant, which will usually have been raised from a cutting taken the previous year. If the plant consists mainly of new green growth it will have been a summer cutting, but if the growth is woody it will be a cutting from the previous spring.

If necessary shorten the shoots back to two pairs of leaves, assuming that your purchase has been made in spring, to give the plant a good shape and to make it bushy. Lantanas have a tendency to make straggly

Lanlanj camera hybrids have richly-coloured flowers which change colour us the (lower develops.

growth, and any weak growths are belter removed altogether. The pruning of the plant is most important if you wish to produce a well-balanced attractive flowering plant, and if it is done in late spring you will be rewarded with more prolific flowering in summer.

Lantanas are propagated by cuttings which are taken in the spring or autumn. They are taken in the usual way by cutting immediately below a node about 3-4 in (7.5- 10 cm) from the growing tip. Remove all the leaves except the top pair and root in a suitable cutting compost using a hormone rooting powder to ensure success. Cover with a plastic dome or a polythene bag for about two weeks, and when it can

Lanlanj camera hybrids have richly-coloured flowers which change colour us the (lower develops.

Potted Lantana Plant

be seen that the cuttings have made some top growth they should be potted in 3'/t-in (9-cm) pots in compost E6 or JI No.2.

The new plants should be kept growing and need a minimum winter temperature of 50-55°F (10- 13°C). If you cannot provide this requirement it is better to take spring cuttings only, and although these will not produce flowering plants during the season, due to the necessity of stopping the shoots, they will make excellent plants the following year. After potting the rooted cuttings they should be allowed to grow three or four pairs of leaves. The process is repeated until a nice bushy plant is formed.

Although lantanas are evergreen it is more convenient when growing them as greenhouse plants to allow them to become dormant in the winter. This is done by withholding water after the end of the summer and allowing the compost in the pot to dry out, but it should not be allowed to become dust-dry. Give it a very light watering from time to time during the winter months, particularly during any sunny spells.

This drying-out process causes the plant to shed all its leaves, and in this state it can be kept in the cool pan of the greenhouse as it will tolerate temperatures as low as 35°F(2°C) without any harm.

By the end of the summer most of the stems of a spring cutting will have become woody, very similar to the growth of fuchsias, and mature plants grow quite a thick woody main stem which gives the plant a sturdy appearance.

By the end of the winter it is time to start the new season. The plants should be well watered, and as soon as tiny shoots of green growth are seen, just above the nodes, the branches should be cut back to two or three nodes, bearing in mind that the object is to build up a well-balanced shapely plant. Each plant should be treated according to its requirements by cutting out all weak growths and severely shortening branches which have made too much growth, and lightly pruning branches which have not made sufficient growth. As the new shoots develop it may be necessary to curb the growth of some, as lantanas do have a tendency to produce straggly growth.

Immediately after pruning, knock the plants out of their pots and remove all the old compost in the manner described for pelargoniums. Repot one-year-old plants in the same size of pot, which will usually be a 4'A-in (11.5-cm) pot, and three-year-old plants in

6-in (15-cm) pots. Discard older plants altogether. In all cases use compost E6 or JI No.2, and, as soon as potted, water the plants but do not put them on watering trays until the roots are well established in the new compost, which will take about two or three weeks.

The flowers of lantanas appear singly or in pairs from the leaf axils close to the growing tips and are circular in shape, made up of delicately-formed florets in richly coloured shades of pink, red, orange and yellow, also pure white. They have a delightful characteristic of changing colour as the flowers develop. The leaves are tough and brittle to the touch and emit quite a strong scent. The plants like a good light and will, in fact, tolerate full sunshine on, say, a window-ledge in the house.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

Get My Free Ebook


Responses

  • EEMIL
    How many lantana plants should i put in a 12" pot?
    5 years ago

Post a comment