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The Lantana genus has some species of perennial plants and shrubs belonging to the verbenacee family; they originate in America and Africa, but in Europe only two species are cultivated, of South American origin, and their various hybrids, produced over the years. Lantanas have deciduous leaves, oval or lanceolate, light green or dark green in color, covered with thin veins in relief, which are very wrinkled to the touch, and give off, if broken, a strong aroma, not appreciated by everyone.
The many varieties present in the nursery they are of different sizes, ranging from small creeping perennials, which do not exceed 26-30 cm in height, to real, very branched shrubs, which can exceed one meter in height. The main peculiarity of the lantana it is represented by flowers, which bloom continuously from late spring to autumn; similar to how it happens for verbene, also le lantana they produce small trumpet flowers, which bloom in hemispherical corymbs; the flowers begin to bloom from the lower part of the corymb, to bloom in succession to the top.
The peculiarity of lantanas lies in the fact that for many varieties flowers tend to change color during the days of flowering; we will therefore often find ourselves with an inflorescence that presents, for example, red flowers in the external part, orange in the middle part and yellow in the central part. Much of the success of lantanas is due precisely to this variety in the colors of each individual plant; there are varieties of lantana with pink and orange, or white and lilac flowers, but also completely yellow or white flowered lantanas, with a color that lasts over time. Flowers follow small black berries, edible when ripe.
Most widespread speciesLantana montevidensis, or Lantana selloviana
This lantana it is native to South America, and is characterized by white or lilac flowers; it produces prostrate stems, which give rise to a very pleasant perennial herbaceous plant. Even these lantanas they can't stand the frost, especially if intense and persistent, and therefore, if we want to cultivate them also in northern Italy, keeping them year by year, it is necessary in the autumn to cover them, or place them in a place sheltered from frost.
The smaller dimensions allow to grow the Lantana montevidensis even in small pots, so that it is easier to move them to a protected place during the winter months; the lilac color of the flowers, very delicate, makes them more appreciated by those who do not like very intense colored flowers.
In the nursery we often find lantanas of hybrid varieties, which originate from these two species; this type of hybridization has made it possible to create lantane with pinkish flowers, changing with orange or yellow, which is impossible in lantana camara.