Lantana is a fine evergreen shrub, medium in size and delicate in appearance; the stems are thin and well branched, and give rise to a harmonious and vigorous plant, which can reach two meters in height, if cultivated in the correct conditions. The foliage is bright green, oval in shape, the leaf page is wrinkled and covered with a thin down, if it is wrinkled it gives off a not particularly pleasant smell, to the touch it is rough. From May until autumn it produces numerous small tubular flowers, gathered in umbrella-shaped corymbs, in which the flowers begin to bloom starting from the outer circumference; the particularity of the lantana is that with the passing of the days the flowers change color, therefore in the same corimbo we find small flowers in different shades.
Lantana is native to tropical areas of South America, the most widely used botanical species are lantana camara and lantana montevidensis; in many areas with mild climate these two plants have become invasive, and threaten the native flora.
In the nursery we generally find hybrids of the aforementioned species; the hybrids of Lantana camara have flowers in shades of white, yellow and bright red, and have a shrubby habit, there are also varieties that remain small in size; the hybrids of Lantana montevidensis have flowers of lilac color; with a yellow or white throat, and often have inherited a hanging or creeping habit from the botanical species.
The lantane camara are native to areas with a mild climate, in the nursery we find hybrids and cultivars that generally can withstand a slightly colder climate, compared to that of the areas where the plant originates; generally these shrubs can withstand short periods of cold, even frost, but only if mild and of short duration. If the frost is intense and prolonged the shrub receives serious damage, which often leads the plant to completely dry up its aerial part, and then start to develop again in the spring.
In areas with a very cold winter climate the lantana are cultivated in pots, so that they can be moved to a cold greenhouse when winter arrives; or they are even grown as annuals, replacing the plants every year.
Lantana produce many fertile seeds from year to year, and are easily propagated also through woody cutting; therefore it is not difficult to get new plants every year, to be planted outdoors in April-May.
To obtain plants through seeds, proceed in January-February, preparing a seed box in a place with a mild climate, with temperatures above 10 ° C; the cuttings instead are prepared in summer, taking portions of the branches that do not bear flowers, to be ground in a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts, in a shady place. Young plants and rooted cuttings must be kept throughout the winter in a temperate or cold greenhouse, with temperatures no lower than 7-10 ° C.
The plants obtained from seed will hardly produce flowers in the identical shades of the plant from which we have obtained the seeds, this because generally in the nursery we find hybrid plants.
Lantana in good weather
the small shrubs find their place in a very bright and sunny place of the garden or the terrace, the more sun they receive and the richer the flowering will be, and vice versa; we therefore avoid placing them in the shade, or we will find ourselves without flowers.
They love a well-drained motion soil and have a strong resistance to drought, so much so that they can easily be placed in the rock garden.
They are not particularly demanding plants, some sun and water when the soil is dry, and a weekly fertilization during flowering; although it is a drought-resistant plant, we remind you that, especially with regard to the specimens grown in pots, it is however advisable to avoid leaving the plant completely dry for too many days, if the climate is dry and hot, water every 2 -Three days. In winter, on the other hand, we can leave the plants completely dry, although it is good to sporadically water the plants conserved in a cold greenhouse, especially if the climate remains warm.
To prevent the plant from having periods of pause in flowering; it is advisable to remove the withered corymbs, otherwise our lantana will use most of its forces to produce the small dark fruits, which contain the seeds.
If we are lucky enough to live in an area with a mild winter climate, and our lantana has found a place in the garden, it is advisable to prune lightly in autumn, shortening all the branches, to encourage the development of branches also in the lower part of the plant; and thus prevent the bush from rising too high, emptying itself in the part near the ground.
Lantana and verbenas
The lantane camara belong to the verbenaceae family, and are therefore closely related to the verbenas, annual or perennial plants, with a creeping habit. However, they are not the exact same plant, and have slightly different needs, so it is good to learn to distinguish them.
First of all, lantanas are small shrubs, while the verbenes we find in nurseries are perennial or annual plants; perennial verbenas do not fear the cold and remain in the garden even during the coldest periods of the year.
The fundamental morphological differences, useful for distinguishing the two plants, are found in the foliage, which in the case of the verbenas has a more engraved shape, with a more jagged margin. The other characteristic that immediately differentiates the two plants is in the flowers: only the lantana produce corymbs with flowers of different colors over time; the verbenas instead produce flowers with solid and lasting colors, a red flower, remains red until it fades.
In addition, hybrid verbas often have more intense and bright colors than lantana.
Lantana - Lantana camara: Poisonous plants
The seeds and foliage of lantana can be toxic if ingested; the foliage, however, gives off a decidedly unpleasant aroma, and is therefore decidedly uninviting for animals and children. The pure fruits have an extremely unpleasant taste, it is therefore very unlikely that anyone eats them, even if they look so cute, harmless and inviting, which can happen to become interesting for a hungry child. In any case it is highly unlikely that a child eats it, because the taste is horrible, and therefore, even if it tastes a tiny fruit, it would probably spit it out instantly.
Often nurserymen are asked to ask questions alarmed by apprehensive parents like: can I put an oleander in the garden even if I have a small child?
or worse: I have to eradicate this aucuba from the garden because they told me that the fruits are toxic and I fear for the grandson.
In the garden many of us have decidedly very toxic plants, from lantana to aucube, from oleander to belladonna, from hemlock to badger.
Few people know that there are so many poisonous plants, just to give you some examples: the lily of the valley and colchicum bulbs contain deadly poisons, the columbines and the horse chestnut contain toxic substances in the whole plant, the rhubarb has toxic leaves, while their stem it is edible; the seeds of prunus ono toxic if ingested in large quantities; lilies are toxic, daffodils are toxic; and the list could go on for whole pages.
The fact that a plant is toxic does not automatically mean that it is dangerous: the plants mentioned above are toxic but their fruits, leaves, seeds do not have a pleasant taste or smell; your neighbor dicasa will hardly offer you an oleander tea trying to kill you, because oleander leaves are very bitter.
No one would ever eat the stem of the lilies, because it is leathery, with an uninviting color, and a horrible taste.
So it is not so worrying to have plants in the garden, or in the city park, that if ingested in certain amounts can cause damage to our health, simply because no one would ever think of consuming even a tiny quantity.
Clear that, if we work in the garden; hoeing, digging, pruning, repotting, let's put on a nice pair of gloves; and when we have finished we wash our hands well before going into the kitchen to knead the focaccia.
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The genus Lantana counts some species of perennial plants and shrubs, belonging to the verbenaceae family; I am or
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