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January 21, 2017

QuestionWe purchased a house in June of 2016 that has a large amount of lantanas.  Now that the frost has killed the top foliage, what should I do?  Should they be trimmed to the ground or left to come back?

 AnswerLantana is one of those plants that can either be an annual or a perennial depending on the winter weather. In south Arkansas, they usually come back each year from the root system while in NW Arkansas they would only survive a really mild winter. Some gardeners allow the spent foliage to remain as added winter protection, but it can be a bit unsightly.  I would recommend cutting back the spent foliage and then adding an additional layer of mulch to help protect them for the remainder of the winter. In the spring, if they do survive, they are often a bit slow to bounce back since they are heat-loving plants.


 (December 2012)

QuestionWith the frost and cold temps my trailing Lantana is now brown and brittle. When do I cut it back and how much should I cut it?

AnswerOnce a killing frost occurs, I begin to clean up the spent foliage of annuals and perennials.  Some gardeners prefer to leave the old foliage on lantanas as extra winter protection, but I cut mine back and add a little extra mulch. Lantana is a true perennial in south Arkansas, hit and miss in central Arkansas and usually an annual in north Arkansas.

(September 2012)

QuestionI have deer or rodents eating my hosta, lantana, etc. What is the best way to get rid of them? I live in the woods of Bella Vista and have lots of wildlife around here, i.e., groundhogs, rabbits, deer, squirrels, fox, etc. I have lived here many, many years but this is the first year I have encountered this problem. Please help me save my plants!

AnswerDeer and animal problems are worse this year that ever!  The dry weather has taken away much of their natural food source, and they are moving into yards and gardens that are being maintained.  In your neck of the woods, I am surprised this is a new occurrence.  Many of our gardeners up there are plagued with deer annually.  Several options exist—deer fencing, electric fencing, and repellants.  We do have a list of deer resistant plants on our website at: but the deer haven’t read it, and occasionally eat plants on the list, if they are desperate enough.

(July 2012)

QuestionLike a lot of people, I'm losing some plants this summer.  You may know that here in Maumelle, we're restricted to once-a-week watering.  Even sneaking around my back yard with my hose isn't doing the job!  You mentioned in your column today that hydrangeas are not drought-tolerant.  I have one that's in a bad spot that I think I'll just take out after this year, so I know what you're talking about. My question is this:  Would it be possible for you to print a list of plants that are drought-tolerant in an upcoming column?  I've threatened to tear everything out and plant cacti next year or maybe just rosemary and Black-eyed Susans, since that's all that's doing well in my garden right now!

AnswerAs mentioned above with the crape myrtles, even they are struggling with the heat!  Also, when planting even the most drought tolerant plants, the first growing season, they will need water.  I can’t imagine what my landscape would look like with once a week watering—the soil is so incredibly rocky, and I am on a slope, so I feel for you with water restrictions.  Deep, excellent soil encourages deep roots, which makes it easier to water less often.  Some drought tolerant shrubs for sun include: abelia, althea (rose of Sharon), forsythia, spirea, buddleia (butterfly bush), barberry, junipers, beautyberry, nandina and ninebark.   For shade, acuba, cleyera, and even camellias once they are well established.  Perennials include rosemary, thyme, lamb’s ear, butterfly weed (milkweed), yarrow, gaura, rudbeckia (black eyed Susan), purple coneflower, liatris, sedum and penstemon.  Annuals include lantana, periwinkle, cleome (spider flower),  cockscomb, cosmos and portulaca.  There are also a good number of succulents—plants with thick fleshy leaves that are available from nurseries.

(November 2011)

QuestionWe have purple flowering lantana that grew beautifully.  When should we cut it back and how much should we cut it back?  Last year we did it wrong and it did not come back.  We had to replant.

AnswerI am not sure you did it wrong last year, or if it simply got colder than normal and that is what killed it.  Lantana is marginally winter hardy in central Arkansas, and an annual in the northern tier of the state.  Some folks like to leave the spent foliage as extra protection, but regardless, wait for a killing frost before you add extra mulch and/or prune it back.  Be patient in the spring, because it is a heat lover and slow to begin new growth.  Also keep in mind, that some varieties are hardier than others.

(July 2006)

QuestionI live in Magnolia, AR and I planted Gold Mound lantana around the edges of my patio three years ago and the first year had glorious blooms on each plant.  For the past two years shortly after the green growth emerges the tips of the leaves turn brown and curl.  The plants continue to grow and produce some flowers but nothing compared to the first year.  I don't trim back the lantana until after danger of frost is past so I'm not certain what the problem is.  The plants are on the east side and get full sun.

AnswerLantana thrive in heat and sun.  What you are describing sounds like some type of burn.  Could you have over-fertilized, dumped some type of chemical nearby or gotten drift from a lawn weed killer?  In Magnolia, Arkansas, most lantanas are perennial.  Have your soil tested to make sure the pH is in balance and to make sure you don't have a salts buildup.  If none of the above conditions apply, try digging up a small plant and taking it to your local county extension office so they can send it to the disease diagnostic lab. If your soil is particularly poor, and over-fertilization and salts is not an issue, try using a slow release fertilizer such as osmocote, then using a water soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks.  Water when dry.


QuestionIf you have time, I would sure like to know when you would recommend pruning Crape Myrtles, Lantana, Coral Bells, Weigela, and Dwarf Maiden Grass. We planted all these plants last summer

AnswerThere are several different types of plants you are asking about from annuals to perennials to woody shrubs. Let's start with the woodies. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth. If they need it, prune them before new growth begins in late Feb. Weigelia is a late spring bloomer, but it has its flower buds set now, so prune it after it blooms. All ornamental grasses benefit from a haircut before new growth begins--in late Feb through mid March. Before pruning, check to see how much new growth there is, and then cut as low as possible, without cutting into any new green. Coral Bells--or heuchera ( I assume you mean the perennial--not Coral bell azaleas) is a semi-evergreen perennial. Often you will have some cleanup to do in the spring before new growth begins. Lantana is a summer annual/perennial. In some parts of the state it comes back easier than in others. It is rare to see any lantana resprouting above ground. Usually it will come back from the crown, with the upper portions burned back by winter, so cutting back the dead foliage before new growth begins is beneficial.

QuestionIn a recent issue of Southern Living there was an article on lantanas.  It said that lantanas are native to tropical America and may be annuals or perennials, depending on where you live. We live in Heber Springs. Would these flowers do well here? If so, where can we get plants or seeds? We like the idea of something that is hardy and blooms spring until fall. Thanks for your assistance..

AnswerLantana plants would be considered an annual in Heber Springs, although it is perennial in south Arkansas and even occasionally in Little Rock.  In mild winters it may over winter further north, but don't count on it.  Lantana is a common plant at most nurseries and garden centers statewide.  It has been on the market for years.  Newer varieties have been released that are self-cleaning, meaning they don't set as many seeds, and the plants bloom more freely without the need to deadhead.  Lantana thrives in hot weather.  It won't kick in and grow when the weather is cool in early spring, but once the soil temperature heats up, this plant will bloom up until frost.  It comes in a variety of colors from yellows, whites, reds, and the traditional multi colored blooms of yellow and oranges.  Give it plenty of sunlight and fertilize monthly throughout the blooming season.


QuestionLast year I planted Lantana in several sunny spots in my yard. They were luscious and grew quite large. Now, they are mere stalks and my question is, will they come back again or are they annuals? If they are perennials, when do I trim them back?.

AnswerLantana is one of those wait-and-see type of plants. Some years they are perennial in central Arkansas, and some years they aren't. If they do come back, they typically begin growing at the soil line--from the crown of the plant--not from the top. You can begin cleaning up the dead stalks, and add a light layer of mulch, being careful not to uproot the whole plant. Be patient this spring--lantana's thrive in heat, and even if they are still alive, they will not be the first thing to green back up. I have some that have survived, but I usually add a few new ones, because I am too impatient to wait for that first bloom.

Question I bought the most beautiful purple blooming plant the other day. I know nothing about it, other than the nametag that came with it–heliotrope. Do you know anything about this plant? Is it an annual or a perennial? What care should I give it? (Beebe)

AnswerHeliotrope is a wonderful tender plant, grown either as a summer annual or treated as a tropical plant, and moved indoors in the winter. These wonderful dark green foliaged plants have a beautiful cluster of flowers in shades of purple or white. The flowers are very fragrant, and should bloom all summer long. They do best in full sun and need lots of water–they are not very drought tolerant. Conversely, they don’t tolerate wet feet either. Depending on cultivar they can grow from 15 to 30 inches tall.


QuestionI need your HELP! I have got the most beautiful Lantana's in my front yard, and I have been told that if I cut them back and cover them well with bark they will come back... Is this true??  Just tell me what I need to do.

AnswerLantana plants are moderately winter hardy. Some people have lantana that are perennial in nature and come back every year, while others replant every season. Some of this depends on where you are in the state -- south or north, and then also, what type of winter we have. For your best chance, wait for a killing frost, then mulch a little extra. Be patient in the spring, since lantana will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has sufficiently warmed up.


QuestionWhen is the proper time to prune lantanas that are planted in the yard and to what length should the stalks be cut?

AnswerLantana plants will die to the ground usually following a killing frost. At that point you can cut off the old foliage and mulch them for the winter. In south Arkansas they are fairly reliable perennials. In central Arkansas and northward they are iffy. Pruning during the growing season is usually not done unless they get leggy or need dead-heading.


Question I have heard that if you dead head Lantana's that they will help them bloom more. I have tried that and it takes a lot of time -- nearly every day. Do you think that is true and is it worth the time and effort?

AnswerIf you have a lantana that sets a profuse amount of seeds, then deadheading weekly should definitely help with rebloom. I would not do it daily, since that is a bit tedious. Some varieties of lantana set more seeds than others. A few varieties are practically seedless. Whenever a plant sets seeds, it redirects energy that could go into setting more flowers into the seed production, so if you want plenty of flowers, do deadhead.


QuestionLast year I spent hours dead-heading yellow Lantanas even though they don't seem to put out many seeds. This year I have not dead-headed and can't tell the difference in the number of flowers. Is dead-heading really necessary?

AnswerSome varieties of lantanas set a profusion of seeds, while others rarely set any seeds at all -- they are basically self-cleaning. I would only dead-head if you see seed heads forming. Seed set takes away from the plant setting more flowers, but if yours aren't setting seeds, it would be a waste of time to dead-head.


QuestionI had a penta plant and a lantana plant in the garage all winter. I took them out the first of April. The lantana already had leafed out and had a bloom. The penta had leafed out on the end of stalks with brown leaves, it was also growing new growth from the roots. I didn't do anything to the lantana, but cut the penta back down to the new growth from the roots. Thinking it wasn't going to be cold that night, I left them uncovered in the yard. Evidently it was still too cold because the leaves were brown on the ends the next morning. Should I just cut them back to the roots now?

AnswerA lot of people got anxious this spring and moved plants outdoors a bit early-there were temperatures from the low 30's - mid 40's many nights. Hopefully, the root system is fine and will go ahead and re-sprout new foliage. Be patient and see where growth begins again when the weather stays warm. It is helpful to prune them back some to encourage new growth. Sometimes they get awfully leggy after being protected all winter. Fertilize lightly now, and more when they get growing.

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