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Plant sweet, tough lantanas to create butterfly heaven

Plant sweet, tough lantanas to create butterfly heaven

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Lantana tops the list of my favorite annuals. What’s not to love? They are colorful and tough and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. If you want to create a butterfly heaven, the National Garden Bureau suggests planting lantana. Another bonus: Lantana blooms its head off until frost.

Last year, I was fortunate to trial several lantana varieties for Proven Winners. Every single one was impressive in its container performance, both as fillers with other annuals and soloists in their own pots. Proven Winners has added a new lantana to the “Luscious” series for this spring, a beautiful, deep golden yellow called “Goldengate.” It’s a perfect foil for other colors in the series, including the sunset-hued “Marmalade” and the magenta pink-soft yellow combo named “Royale Cosmo.”

The National Garden Bureau has designated this “the year of lantana” in celebration of the annual’s “rich history of being utilized in the garden for long-lasting, colorful blooms and superior heat tolerance,” as well as insect- and disease-resistance. NGB notes that lantana attracts pollinators with its “attractive scent, bright color, sweet nectar” and a flower form suitable as a landing pad.

A popular European greenhouse plant in the 18th century, lantana belongs to the verbena family, and one can see the family resemblance in the clusters of tiny, delicate-looking tubular flowers.

As sweet as lantana looks, there’s nothing delicate about this plant. It performs without complaint even when neglected, tolerates less-than-perfect soils, requires little supplemental water and loves heat, full sun and well-drained soil. Take care not to overwater lantana — it doesn’t like it. You may not need to deadhead either; trim it back during the growing season to encourage fullness and branching.

Lantana is available in solid colors or two- or three-toned multi colors in shades of yellow, white, pink, purple, lavender and red. Multi-colored varieties change colors through maturity, and some varieties may have a spicy fragrance.

Breeders also are producing sterile varieties that don’t set seeds, resulting in continuous blooms throughout the season, including the “Sunburst,” “Bloomify” and “Hot Blooded” series.

These annuals come in compact or trailing forms. Compact lantanas are ideal for containers and small spaces, while trailing forms can spread up to three feet and fill in large areas.

Popular series also include “Bandana,” “Bandito,” “Bandolero,”“Havana,” “Landmark,” “Little Lucky” and “Lucky.”

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