If the plant world celebrated Oktoberfest, lantanas would be front and center leading the party. As far as The Garden Guy is concerned, it could be a fall lantana fest.
Now don't get me wrong they were among the toughest, perseverant performers of the long hot summer. But come September and October, the relief from torrid temperatures brings the lantanas even more blooms, richer colors and lusher foliage. They too seem to be in celebration mode.
I know many of you are already seeing snow and freezing temperatures. If you are happy I am happy for you. If you are lamenting this sudden change in climate then head south, we would welcome you with open arms. Here in Columbus, Ga., the last week in October, the butterflies are abundant and the hummers are feeding on lantanas getting fat for the long trip to the tropics.
The landscape floral show is mesmerizing; could these lantanas really be so beautiful? I say that while thinking of Luscious Grape. Not the fruit, but the purple flowered Luscious Grape lantana part of an award-winning series. Luscious Grape is different from the others in the series, in that it is a Lantana montevidensis selection, native to South America.
Luscious Grape is a multi-award winner in university trials. My son James has been using the variety for a number of years so I have grown accustomed to seeing them blooming from May until the first really hard frost. In baskets and containers, they are incredible. But the eye opener to me this year was his application where it tumbled over a wall, with cascades of purple blooms. Seeing a rare Zebra longwing butterfly feeding on it in my yard in October was my gold medal moment.
It is not just Luscious Grape having a fall fest, but Luscious Marmalade with the fiery orange colors of a sugar maple and the new Luscious Golden Gate lighting up the fall landscape in dramatic fashion while bringing in a host of butterflies and bees.
The Luscious Marmalade has the largest orange flowers I have seen on a lantana and will always have a place in my garden. When Luscious Golden Gate debuted this year, I thought, did we need a gold lantana? Oh my, the compact bushy habit and continuous bloom will make you fall in love with golden flowered lantanas again and this will become the one on your list too.
Almost everyone will be waiting until spring 2021 to plant lantanas so you can have them for the long hot summer and then celebrate with a fall lantana fest. The Luscious series from Proven Winners features 11 colors including the Luscious Royale Red Zone debuting in 2021. If you are passionate about red then this is the one for you as it will add unparalleled excitement to your garden. It is certified sterile by the University of Florida so it will not exceed its boundaries in warmer regions.
Remember, sunlight is a key ingredient for the real blooming to occur. While they aren't finicky on soil, I make soil improvement a practice, always incorporating leaves, compost and organic matter into planting beds. This helps with not only drainage but ideal root expansion with young plants. Plan on spacing your plants 2 to 3 feet apart depending on your variety selection.
Every September, garden centers load up with mums that we enjoy for a few weeks. I would tell the industry don't be afraid to offer us some blooming lantanas to partner with these mums. More than likely they will bloom longer and feed remaining pollinators too.