Do you love the sight of butterflies and hummingbirds whirling and fluttering about your garden as summer wanes? As a long time gardener both for in-ground plants and containers, I can find nothing better and recommend lantana for your yard or patio plantings. This hardy plant will flourish and bloom from April to late fall and never grows “leggy.” Best of all, it is a favorite feeding attraction for all those beautiful bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in your neighborhood.
Originally native to Central and South America, lantana was brought to Europe and the rest of the world by those always enterprising and plant loving [remember those tulips] Dutch explorers centuries ago. Although it will grow wild in some places, the plant has been hybridized into a variety of colors ranging from white to yellow, red, pink, lavender, orange and combinations of these hues in each cluster of tiny blooms. The dome-like clusters are made up of multiple tubular flowers that replenish themselves all spring, summer and until the first frost in late fall. What is not to like?
The flowers may be tiny but they are irresistibly attractive to a wide variety of butterflies and hummingbirds. The brilliant colors of the insects and birds blend beautifully with the softer, almost pastel, shades of the lantana silhouetted against dark green leaves. As the blooms turn to deep purple seed fruits, the plant attracts other birds to feast on them well into the fall months.
As for care, these nearly indestructible plants are a gardener’s delight. They will tolerate almost any soil, need little, if any, fertilizing and are extremely drought resistant. I have been a “bad person” at times in the past and let the plants wilt badly but a good dose of water revives them instantly. The only thing you should NOT do is plant them in shade – leave that for your impatiens and more delicate bedding plants. Although they can become substantial bushes in some places, they also work well in combination with other sun tolerant plants like begonia. Sometimes, if planted in protected and sunny spots, they will even return year after year but this rare in Atlanta where the winters get too cold. Even if you must replant each spring, the easy care and delights of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds make this a garden “must have” for me.
–Photo and story by Dick Funderburke