What Is A West Indian Lantana And How To Grow It

West Indian Lantana is a species of shrub verbena (Verbenaceae family of plants) that is also commonly called: 

  • Common Lantana 
  • Lantana Red Sage 
  • Shrub Verbena 
  • Umbelanterna
  • Spanish flag
  • Yellow Sage
Growing West Indian LantanaPin

Its botanical name is Lantana camara (lahn-TAHN-ah kah-MAR-ah), and in the past, it was known as Camara Vulgaris. This robust evergreen shrub is easy to grow under many circumstances and is well-known for its rambling, sprawling, and often invasive growth habits. 

It’s important to note that the name, Lantana, is Latin for “wayfaring tree.” And this woody-stemmed shrub lives up to its name with its aggressively rambling growth habits. 

You may also hear Lantana camara mistakenly called Viburnum Lantana; however, this is a different type of plant with similar flowers. 

Lantana Red Sage produces abundant blooms throughout the summer and into the autumn in shades of: 

  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Gold
  • Red
  • Pink
  • White
  • Purple
  • Lavender

The blooms attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. The plant produces dark purple/blue berries that provide food for birds but are toxic to mammals (including humans). 

The seeds are readily dispersed by birds who eat them. Mature plants can produce thousands of seeds in a season, so it is easy to see how this Lantana has quickly become invasive in many parts of the world. 

It is also important to note that, even though the berries are edible for birds, it crowds out native plants when Lantana goes wild. This can eliminate food sources for all sorts of wildlife and leads to an overall reduction in biodiversity. 

Common Lantana Is Criminally Easy To Grow

Common Lantana is native to Central and South America. It was brought to Europe in the 1800s by Dutch botanists and has been a bit of an unwanted guest in most parts of the world ever since. 

It is considered a noxious weed in settings where it can survive year-round (e.g., Australia, South Africa, and India). In these areas, it has overtaken millions of acres of land. 

West Indian Lantana can grow quite well in poor soils and challenging conditions. It will readily spring up in any disturbed land, such as: 

  • Forest Edge
  • Wasteland
  • Roadsides
  • Riversides
  • Railways

It will not ramble into dark jungles or forests unless these areas are degraded or damaged by fire, logging, or other events that knock down trees and let in the sun. When these events occur, West Indian Lantana quickly follows.

Should You Grow West Indian Lantana? 

Despite its downsides, there are some excellent reasons to plant West Indian Lantana. 

For example:

  • Because it is very drought tolerant, it can provide great color and interest while conserving water.
  • The plants’ abundant, fragrant blooms help attract beneficial insects and birds to your garden. 
  • When used as a ground cover on a slope, it can help prevent erosion. 
  • The scent of the leaves is repellent to deer and rabbits. 
  • Insect pests typically leave this plant alone.

When planted on purpose, Common Lantana is best planted in well-draining soil in a setting that offers full sun; however, it can also thrive when planted in a bed that receives partial sun, in planters, or hanging baskets, and more. 

How To Grow West Indian Lantana?

Nothing could be simpler than caring for this rugged, versatile, assertive plant. 

Follow these simple instructions: 

1. Plant it in the sun. Shrub Verbena prefers a setting that receives at least six hours a day of bright, direct sunlight. 

2. Provide good drainage. When planting in the landscape, amend the soil generously with organic matter to improve drainage. Work in fine gravel or coarse sand if your soil has heavy clay content. 

When planting in pots or planters, be sure your containers have ample drainage holes. 

3. Water it as a wildflower. When planted in the landscape, soak the soil thoroughly at ground level only when dry. 

In containers, water thoroughly when the top couple of inches of soil is dry. 

Never let your Spanish flag stand in water. 

4. Feed lightly or not at all. If you have plenty of organic matter mixed into your soil, you may not need to fertilize at all. Adding a layer of unfinished compost as mulch early in the spring can help hold moisture in the soil while slow-feeding your Common Lantana. 

If you wish to use fertilizer, apply a slow-release balanced fertilizer in early springtime only. 

5. Encourage blooming with regular deadheading of spent flowers. Deadheading will also discourage seed production, a crucial step in keeping your plant from going renegade. 

What’s The Best Way To Propagate Lantana? 

Preventing propagation is harder than encouraging it. These plants can be easily grown from seed sown directly into the soil early in the springtime or from cuttings or division. 

If you live in a cold setting, you can take cuttings late in the summertime to grow indoors during the winter so that you can have new plants in the springtime or collect and dry seeds; however, this is not encouraged. Allowing the plant to go to seed will support unwanted spread. 

Be aware that plants started and grown indoors in winter may be subject to predation by spider mites and white flies. 

Provide ample light and water correctly (avoid overwatering) to prevent the weakening of your plants. Strong plants resist pests. 

Uncontrolled Growth Of Shrub Verbena Is Hazardous

When planted in a cold climate as an annual, it grows quickly and provides lots of color and interest during the warm months of spring, summer, and autumn, and then it dies in winter. 

However, in tropical settings, Umbelanterna grows quickly and aggressively as a perennial and can quickly overtake the plants in your garden and native plants. 

When Shrub Verbena becomes naturalized in a conducive setting, it can present danger to livestock. Its rough, green, furry leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots are all toxic. The toxic element in Common Lantana is triterpene. 

When large quantities of the plant are consumed, immediate symptoms will occur, such as: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Tachycardia

If you suspect a child, pet, livestock, or other mammal has eaten Lantana, seek medical assistance immediately. 

If livestock consumes Lantana long term as part of their grazing habits, you will notice problems such as: 

  • Lack of appetite
  • Light sensitivity
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Death

This is why it is crucial to identify and eliminate Common Lantana growing in pasture settings. 

Keep kids, pets, and livestock away from the plants, and protect your skin against contact with the leaves and sap when pruning and managing Lantana camara. 

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