Taxonomy of Lantana Plants:
Plant taxonomy classifies lantana plants as Lantana camara (sometimes misspelled Lantana camera). Various cultivars are sold, including the "Spreading Sunset" cultivar (Lantana camara 'Spreading Sunset'), which has a flower head with gold centers surrounded by an orange that later fades to pink.
Plant Type for Lantana Camara:
Lantana plants are evergreens of the broadleaf variety. Although they may act like vines, lantana plants are, technically, shrubs.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Lantana Plants:
Lantana plants can be grown as perennials in zone 8 and higher. Lantana plants are not indigenous to Florida but have become naturalized there and are widespread. In fact, lantanas are considered invasive plants in Florida. In more northerly zones, lantana plants are treated as annuals, allowing us our own little piece of "Florida landscaping" -- albeit short-lived.
Characteristics of Lantana Plants:
Known for their hemispherical clusters of small, bright-colored flowers (see picture above right), lantana plants can reach 6' high (with a spread of 8') in Florida landscaping. The flowers may be yellow, orange, white, red and purple, and often colors are mixed within the same cluster. Most people dislike the smell of lantana flowers, but the foliage is quite fragrant, smelling, in fact, like citrus. Lantana plants are salt-tolerant, and they're drought-tolerant once established.
Wildlife Attracted by Lantana Plants:
Butterflies are attracted to lantana plants, making them a staple of butterfly gardens. Lantana plants also attract hummingbirds.
Sun and Soil Requirements for Lantana Plants:
Lantana plants like full sun and tolerate poor soils.
Uses for Lantana Plants:
Lantana plants make good specimens. They're also used as border shrubs and as ground cover. Lantana plants tolerate salt spray very well, so they are popular in seaside communities -- another reason why they're a symbol of Florida landscaping. Because lantana plants are also drought-tolerant, they are good candidates for xeriscaping. In the North, where lantana plants are treated as annuals, they are also popular in hanging baskets.
Caveat for Growing Lantana Plants:
Besides being invasive, pets may become sick if they eat lantana plants. Both the leaves and unripe berries are toxic to animals.
More on Lantana Camara:
Lantana plants are sometimes called "verbena bushes", although nurseries selling them in hanging baskets do make a distinction between lantana plants and verbena. Perennials in zones 8-10, lantana plants are more often used as annuals for hanging baskets in colder climates. Purple lantanas (Lantana montevidensis) are even more vine-like and, consequently, are a better hanging plant. For Florida landscaping proper, less invasive cultivars of Lantana camara may be purchased at nurseries.