Master Gardener Volunteer Program team member
Lantana checks off all the boxes that make a plant popular. Colorful? Check. Drought tolerance? Check. Handles sandy, salty “soil”? Check. Holds up to direct sunlight? Check.
So, what’s not to love about lantana—Lantana camara, to be precise?
Plenty, as it turns out.
Origins, spread and control
L. camara came to us from the West Indies. It has naturalized throughout most of Florida, and readily established in forests, citrus groves, and pastures.
This weed produces berries which birds ingest and scatter, helping lantana spread and crowd out other plants and grasses. These berries are toxic to some animals, though, causing liver damage and possibly death in livestock. Consuming unripened L. camara berries can even kill a human.
Weeds like L. camara easily invade areas made vulnerable by burns, clearing, mowing, and other actions. In small areas, uprooting, combined with removal of blooms before seeds form, will help to control the spread. However, this method is not practical for large areas.
UF/IFAS recommends defoliating caterpillars, the seed-destroying fly, and the lace bug as lantana controls. However, because L. camara is so popular in the greenhouse industry, the release of biological control agents is controversial.
Alternatively, mowing followed immediately by spraying is the easiest control method. As a benefit, this method also requires the least amount of herbicide application.
UF/IFAS lists L. camara as “invasive.” Further, UF/IFAS recommends against planting L. camara in Florida. Despite that, it is still sold in garden centers and remains a popular landscape plant. And, garden center shoppers might come across L. camara sold under the New Gold, Gold Rush and/or Banana Yellow trade names.
It also seems there are many lantanas sold as Florida natives, though they decidely are not. Florida has just three native Lantana species in our state: L. canescens (hammock lantana), L. involucrata (wild sage), and L. depressa, the latter, a bushy shrub endemic to Florida.
Through diligent research and experimentation, UF/IFAS has developed three sterile Lantana cultivars: Bloomify™ Red, Bloomify™ Rose, and Luscious® Royale Red Zone. If you want the beauty, durability and other characteristics of lantana for your lawn or landscape, look for one or more of these cultivars at a reliable nursery of choice.
- UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Lantana
- ‘Bloomify Red’ and ‘Bloomify Rose,’ Two Infertile Lantana camara Cultivars for Production and Use in Florida
- UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Lantana camara
- Florida Native Plant Society
- Florida Invasive Species Council
- FLIP – Florida Invasive Plants: Lantana camara
About the Author
Karen Clark is a UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, a graduating member of the Class of 2020. Karen moved to Englewood from Michigan in 2009, a change that has both provided the opportunity to expand her education and to make her “curiouser” as a gardener.