Lantana urticoides (lan-TAN-a ur-tih-KOY-deez) is a plant member of the Verbena (Verbenaceae) family.
It has many names, and you may hear it referred to as:
- Lantana horrida var. latibracteata
- Lantana urticoides var. hispidula
- Lantana hispida
- Lantana horrida
- Lantana scorta
- Lantana notha
The plants’ common names are Texas Lantana or Calico Bush. Although most members of this plant family are tropical, Calico Bush is a Texas native. It also grows wild in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico.
This perennial, compact (2’ to 6’ feet high and wide) spreading shrub grows naturally in woodlands and brushy areas. However, this highly adaptable plant can grow happily along roadsides, gravelly settings, open fields, thickets, and swamps.
Texas Lantana’s squarish stems and twigs are covered with flaky grayish-brown bark. Older plants develop thorns.
The plants’ leaves and young stems are aromatic and a bit furry, and like its multiple verbena cousins, this plant produces abundant fragrant clusters of tiny flowers in shades of yellow, orange, and red.
The bloom time is mid-spring through mid-autumn. Blooms transition into clusters of dark bluish-black berries in the fall.
How Do You Grow Lantana Urticoides?
Texas Lantana is easy to grow, and unlike many of its relatives, it does not pose a threat in terms of invasive behavior.
This rugged, cheery plant thrives in a wide variety of soil types but prefers gravelly, sandy, poor soil.
For this reason, it is an excellent choice for areas at risk for erosion. It can also be used as a border plant, a focal point in a pollinator garden, a container plant, and much more.
Refer to these 5 tips when growing Lantana urticoides:
1. Provide Lots Of Warmth And Sun.
The calico plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 and above. It grows enthusiastically in bright, hot, full sun or light shade.
The plant grows well all year round in desert and tropical areas that never freeze. However, it dies in the winter and happily returns in the springtime in settings with cooler winters.
2. Encourage Growth And Blooms With Smart Pruning.
It’s a good idea to help the plant by cutting the branches back after the first frost. You may also wish to prune periodically throughout the growing season to control size and growth, provide shape and encourage blooms.
Flowers form on new wood. The blooms are very attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds and provide a source of nectar.
Wear gloves when handling and pruning this plant because its sap can cause a skin rash. Wash up thoroughly after you finish pruning.
Pruning and deadheading will also help prevent flowers from transitioning into berries. Although the berries of this plant are edible to birds, they are toxic to other wildlife, pets, livestock, and children (as are the plants’ leaves and stems.)
Preventing berry formation can reduce the risk of accidental poisoning and unintentional spread of the plant. Birds tend to distribute the berries widely.
Although birds and pollinators are attracted to this plant, deer, rabbits, and other potential garden nibblers dislike it. Unfortunately, it also tends to repel garden insect pests.
3. Water As A Wildflower.
This plant has minimal water requirements and will do well when watered deeply and then left to its own devices until the soil is nearly dry.
4. Provide Excellent Drainage.
Whether you plant your Calico Bushes in containers, raised beds, or directly into the landscape, be sure the soil is light and well-draining. Containers should have ample drainage holes.
5. Feed Sparingly Or Not At All.
These plants do wonderfully in poor soil, so fertilizing is not necessary. When you prepare your soil before planting, amend it with organic matter, such as compost. Add some fine gravel or coarse sand for drainage.
In areas with cold winter temperatures, provide a layer of mulch or unfinished compost when you prune the plant for winter. This will protect the plant’s roots and provide nourishment as it breaks down through the winter and springtime.
Propagation Of Texas Lantana Is Easy
This plant spreads on its own by simply producing and dropping seeds. However, as mentioned, birds distribute seeds far and wide.
If you wish to go to the trouble, you can allow the plant to go to seed, gather the seeds, dry them and save them to plant; however, propagation by division is easier and provides better control.
To propagate Lantana urticoides by division:
- Wait until after you have performed your fall pruning.
- Divide and relocate large clumps at this time.
- Give your new transplants a mulch covering to protect them through the winter.