Thursday, May 30, 2013

Smelly Plant of the Month: Lantana camara

For May, I chose a plant from my garden that's full of controversy, pluses and minuses, pros and cons. You might love it or hate it. It's Lantana!

Lantana camara MR May 2013

Sometimes known as "Stinkflower", this colorful member of the Verbena family came to the American Southeast from the tropics several centuries ago. So it was an invasive, but now it's considered "naturalized".  It's called "Stinkflower" because the leaves give off a pungent, herbaceous perfume that some people perceive as cat pee. To others, it smells sharply green with sweeter, floral undertones. Lantana is even used in perfumes occasionally, and I'd say the closest odor in the flower world to my nose would be marigold, also known as genda, or tagetes.
"Lantana Morning"  MR 2013
What I love about Lantana is the beautiful clusters of multicolored flowers. Lantana blooms all year in warm climates. It can grow on our difficult dunes, and is very pest-resistant. Though it can grow 6 feet high and 8 feet across, it tends to stay small and bushy in beachy environments. It can anchor the soil in places most plants cannot grow at all, and it looks lovely. It also attracts butterflies.

Lantana has a dark side, it's true. It's a seriously nasty invasive in Hawai'i, and several other places on the planet. The plant, particularly the berries, are quite toxic to pets and several species of wildlife. So Lantana might be a great choice for you, or a dreadful one, depending on where you live, and what your gardening needs are. Have you tried Lantana in your garden? If so, how did it work out?


  1. Hi Marla,
    I like lantana and am not sure why I haven't grown it more often. Our local garden centers don't seem to offer it often, not sure why. Of course, it's an annual here (Maryland Zone 7) so no invasive problems. Are you in Florida? When I grew it some years ago, I remember the butterflies really liking it. It will certainly go on my "grow again" list. Have a great day.

    1. Florida garden centers always seem to have lots of Lantana, because it's generally seen as a "problem solver" for gardens here. Particularly on the coasts, soils are salty and lacking organic matter, and winds can be strong and relentless. Lantana handles it all, and still blooms! And butterflies do love it, so it's used in almost every butterfly garden here.

  2. Hi Marla,
    I remember lantana from my years growing up on the east coast of Florida. I used to eat various flowers in those days (no reference to Rappaccini's Daughter) and sometimes I would try lantana, despite its strong odor. I sampled lots of different flowers (except, of course, oleander) and never got sick, but perhaps I just didn't ingest enough of any of them? Maybe the berries of lantana are only toxic to wildlife and cattle? One of my favorite flower treats was the nectar in the individual florets of ixora. I still eat flowers today but I'm much more selective and careful than I used to be. I haven't tried to grow lanata here. Perhaps it would work, but it just doesn't seem to belong in the PNW. Thank you for this post.

    1. You are braver than I am! I've read that dogs have a problem with it in particular. Don't know about rabbits. Our wild bunnies don't touch it. Not sure about cattle, they're not allowed in our yard....