Lantana Plant Used in Arizona Landscaping

Learn More About This Low-Maintenance Desert Plant

Lantana
••• Judy Hedding

If you are traveling to the Phoenix area, you will see plenty of desert plants used in the local landscaping. Phoenix is in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert and has a hot desert climate. Lantana is a plant that natively grows in hot, tropical climates. It is quite hardy, so it tends to survive well in hot, desert climates, too. 

Learn more about the plant that you might see a lot of during your visit to Phoenix or the surrounding areas in Arizona.

If you plan on planting a desert garden, this might be a plant to consider in your landscape.

Easy-Growing Lantana

Lantana comes from the verbena family of plants. Lantana is an evergreen vining shrub. It is one of several plants that are recommended if you want a desert plant that lives well in a desert climate. It is perennial, meaning you will only need to plant it once. You can get pale yellow, bright yellow, orange, pink and purple varieties. The nice thing about using lantana is that it flowers pretty much all year long.

It needs relatively little care and is practically drought resistant. It is easy to find and pretty cheap to buy.

Some species of lantana are considered an invasive species. For instance, a common species, Lantana camara (also called Spanish flag) easily invades ecosystems and often forms in dense thickets. It can quickly dominate and suppress the growth of native plants, turning forest communities into shrublands.

It has become a serious economic pest in the citrus groves of Florida because it can reduce the crop yield. 

What Makes the Plant So Hardy

What makes lantana grow so easily and quickly is that their leaves are poisonous to most animals. The leaves and unripened fruit are poisonous. It can cause liver failure or even death in livestock animals such as cattle, sheep, goats or horses, and also in wild animals.

Most herbivores know to pass over it, so it continues to grow well and make its berries. The berries are considered a delicacy for many birds that are not phased by the toxic substances in the leaves and berries. The birds consume the fruit and proliferate the seeds as they travel.

The unripe fruit can also be dangerous to children, and in a home garden setting children have been poisoned by eating the unripe fruit.

Growing Tips

In the Phoenix area, it is used mostly as a ground cover, or planting bed trim, or in hanging planters, since it spills over nicely. Lantana can also be shaped into a bush.

They are susceptible to frost damage, so you might want to cover them during the few frosty nights in the winter each year. If they are frost damaged, prune them, and they might come back.

Lantana is fast growing. Do not plant many or your garden or landscaping may be overrun over time. 

Lantana lives best in full sun and is not picky about the type of soil it will grow in. Deep water your lantana once in a while. Trim periodically.

Lantanas are useful as honey plants, attracting butterflies. They are often used in butterfly gardening.

More Desert-Loving Plants

When you think of desert plants, the first thing that usually comes to mind is cactus plants and other succulents.

There are quite of few perennials and drought resistant or tolerant plants that you can plan for your desert gardens, particularly those found in cities surrounding the Sonoran or Mojave desert areas of southern Arizona, like Phoenix and Tuscon, or highly populated areas of Palm Springs, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Easy Desert Plants
Bougainvillea
Oleander
Purple Sage/Texas Sage
Ornamental Grass
Fairy Duster
Red Bird of Paradise
Orange Jubilee
Yellow Bells
Mexican Petunia
Bottlebrush