Caring for Lantanas- a Fall Favorite

Lantana is a lovely perennial that is a staple of Central Texas gardens. It comes in many shapes, including trailing and shrubby. It also comes in many colors, from white to purple to red and yellow. Most varieties need full sun and will thrive in most Central Texas soils. Do not overwater this drought-tolerant plant.

Caring for Lantana is fairly simple, but it depends mostly on the weather and your preferences as a gardener. I recommend wearing long sleeves when you prune Lantana because the stems and leaves are scratchy and some people get rashes from them. In November through March you can cut the plant’s woody stems back to 3″ from the ground when the plant first shows signs of cold damage. Most trailing Lantanas’ leaves will turn purple when they go through a light frost, and you can prune them anytime after that. The larger shrubby types will typically loose their leaves after a hard freeze and they can be pruned back anytime after that.

No matter what variety, Lantanas are notoriously fast growing and can surprisingly climb up through the center of the plants near them. Winter pruning can solve problems with them sprawling or climbing on their neighbors. Often the bottom branches of trailing Lantanas will get shaded out and die off, and winter is a good time to remove those dead branches. Sometimes entire branches will die during very cold weather, rather than just the leaves getting damaged. These dead branches are easiest to remove in winter rather than in the spring after the plant starts growing back from the bottom. New growth will emerge soon after pruning from the ground and from the short stems left after pruning.

Perennials that die back to the ground in the winter and re-emerge in the spring do so by drawing on energy that they have stored in their roots. This store of energy is limited, especially in young plants with smaller root systems.

Some gardeners feel that if you prune your lantanas back too early in the winter, and then we have warm weather, the plants may start growing back, mistakenly thinking it’s spring. This tender, new growth is more susceptible to freezes and if we get a hard freeze following warm, spring-like weather, it can kill off that new growth and threaten the life of the whole plant since it taxes the store of energy in their roots. So, prune at your own risk. Remember that if a plant dies, it will be easy to find at a local nursery and inexpensive to replace.

Many gardeners opt to leave their Lantanas untouched during the winter, and this has some advantages. The leaves will grow back sooner and the plant will bloom earlier than ones that were pruned in winter. The plant will also grow much larger in size if you are interested in having a larger plant. The leafless branches provide habitat for wildlife during the winter. However, it is still important in March to remove any dead branches from the plant when it starts to grow new leaves. This can be kind of tricky and time consuming, but sometimes works out great.

You should also try to rake out any leaves that fell on the ground over the winter after you finish pruning out the dead branches to prevent diseases and harmful insects from festering in those leaves.

If we have weather that is warm all winter and your lantanas do not die back or show any cold damage, I still recommend cutting them down to 3” from the ground in February or early March. This will control their size. If you have plenty of room for them you can let them continue growing unpruned.

Colleen Dieter
Owner, Red Wheelbarrow Landscape Consulting & Garden Coaching
Manager, Sunfield Community Garden
Volunteer, TreeFolks Board of Directors
Office: 512-217-6955
Cell: 512-944-3504 (voice or text)
Last year, TreeFolks planted over 13,000 trees in Central Texas. Become a member at



October’s Planting Time!

October is arguably the most beautiful and most underrated month in Austin. Just as the fall wildflowers, ornamental grasses and perennials put on their second season of bloom, many trees like Elms and Flameleaf Sumac are getting their first blush of fall color. October is a perfect time for planting all kinds of plants in Central Texas. Here are a few of my seasonal favorites.

Pansies and Violas- nothing says “welcome cool weather” like the little smiling faces of pansies and violas. At Natural Gardener this week they have Viola ‘Black Delight’ available just in time for Halloween. Mix them with some orange and purple pansies or golden-hued calendula for a fun look that will bloom all winter!

Shade Trees- Did you know that October 26 is Austin Arbor Day? National Arbor Day is in the springtime, but spring is not the right time for planting trees in Central Texas. Plant your trees now through March to give them an opportunity to get their roots established before summertime heat and drought set it. My favorite shade tree? The majestic Bur Oak, with it’s huge, fuzzy-topped acorns and gigantic leaves.

Roses- We are so fortunate in Austin to have a mild climate that is great for roses. We have access to many varieties of roses that bloom twice- once in spring and again in fall. I have ‘Carefree Beauty’ in my yard and she lives up to her name.