There is a lot of good to be said about lantana, but now more than ever, it deserves a round of applause. Through the present heat wave, lantana has held up like the champion garden flower we knew it to be. Hot sun all day. Heightened temperatures deep into evening. Neither seems to wear out lantanas as they bloom on and on.
While some gardeners might argue for the various salvias, I believe lantana is the top choice for hot and sunny and even dry places, all difficult positions for garden flowers.
There used to be limited choices in lantana colors and most kinds simply sprawled. But today a wealth of colors await the gardener, from soft and pastel to hot and bright. The choice in shape is broader too, from the trailers suited for ground covers and hanging baskets to tall, bushy forms that can grow into a loose hedge.
Most gardeners, I think, choose their lantanas for the color they provide to the hot, sunny places where they thrive. The warm-colored kinds include Miss Huff, whose multicolored flowers include pink and orange on a shrubby plant that can reach 5 feet after a few seasons of growth. Miss Huff is hardy to minus 5 degrees, putting up fresh growth as soon as the air and soil warm up in spring.
But its colors are not right for everyone, and here is where the newer lantanas fill the bill. Mozelle is a beautiful combination of pink and yellow with a touch of red. It is shorter, about 2 feet tall, but it spreads much wider. It has proven to be hardy in recent winters. New Gold is a beautiful solid golden yellow that rises only 12 inches and spreads 18 inches, making it suitable for a ground cover or edge of your flower bed.
Other good choices include Patriot Popcorn, which is also short and bears yellow and white flowers.
Perhaps you are wondering if you have missed out on adding these plants to your flower beds this year. You have not. Because they are so tolerant of heat, they can go into a blank space in your flower bed now or fill a hanging basket recently vacated by pansies. However, you must pay attention to watering them frequently in the first few weeks after planting.
Lantana likes light soil, so add compost to clay soil. Little fertilizer is needed, but a dose of all-purpose liquid fertilizer should help the roots get established well.
The plants will grow and bloom through summer and autumn.
As you are contemplating lantana in garden centers, also consider salvias that are in good condition. They are almost as good as lantana for difficult hot spots, but the color range is different – largely blue and violet, with some pink and red available as well.