How Researchers are Building Better Lantana Plants
Lantana might be beautiful, but the perennial plant has a tendency to escape confined spaces, spreading beyond control and even cross-pollinating with native species. Coming up with a solution for lantana’s invasive nature has been a passion project for UF/IFAS Plant Scientist Zhanao Deng. His mission was set forth after local industry stakeholders asked if it was possible to breed sterile, non-invasive lantana selections. After more than a decade of research, Deng successfully developed and delivered two new lantana varieties designed to accommodate nursery managers, retailers, and consumers.
According to Deng, ‘Bloomify Rose’ and ‘Bloomify Red’ are not only visually appealing, but they also don’t produce fruit and seeds, don’t spread, and don’t cross-pollinate Florida’s native lantana, Lantana depressa.
Rick Brown, Owner of Riverview Flower Farm in Riverview, FL, has sold the new varieties for about a year and can attest to their assets. “They are relatively a perpetually bloomer,” Brown stated. “They’re irresistible to the customer.”
Deng, along with UF/IFAS colleague Sandra Wilson, tested the new cultivars in Central and South Florida and found they produce flowers almost year-round in those regions. Like other types of lantana, these two new varieties attract butterflies and are drought- and salt-tolerant.
The most widely cultivated lantana plants, Lantana camara, which are native to the West Indies, were first introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s. In Florida, lantana can grow in forests, roadsides, pastures, and citrus groves, according to the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. The fruit can be toxic to livestock.
Through seed production and dispersal, lantana spreads and survives beyond home landscapes. The fruit can be toxic to livestock.
“Genetic sterilization of invasive or potentially invasive landscape plants and development of non-invasive cultivars are a necessity,” commented Deng. That’s true not only for the local growers and industries in Florida, but nationwide, he said.
Deng confirms two large horticultural companies have trialed the new kinds of lantana, and their results show the cultivars can do well in other states as well.