This story first appeared in Spring 1993 Perennial Notes, Volume VIII,
No. 1. It is appropriate to offer it again as the Georgia Gold Medal
Committee chose 'Miss Huff's' Hardy Lantana as the 2003 Perennial winner.
Miss Huff's Hardy Lantana
Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'
By Sue Vrooman
At last an answer for the perennial perennial question
has been found. Now, when challenged for the name of a perennial plant
with summer long bloom, you can answer without a stammer, " 'Miss
Huff's hardy lantana - it's a gem of a plant." Old timers recognize
this reference both to its virtues and to its original owner's first name,
Ruby. Now with your reputation as a punster and knowledgeable perennial
gardener firmly established, you may want to share the following
information about this wonderful plant.
'Miss Huff's' hardy lantana is a small shrub that dies
to the ground in winter and is used as a perennial in our area. It is
drought tolerant and sun loving, but will tolerate up to half a day of
light shade. Though drought-tolerant, adequate moisture does give more
bloom. At four to five feet high and equally as wide, it is a plant that
enjoys mid-border placement. Its form is irregular to mounding with medium
textured foliage. Additionally, some find the smell of the bruised foliage
and its slightly prickly stems unappealing, which is another reason for
siting this plant at mid-border. This versatile lantana is also suitable
for raised planters, pots, and sandy seashore conditions. Additionally, it
can be used as a deciduous ground cover and is particularly good on rocky
The species Lantana camara to which 'Miss Huff's'
lantana belongs grows as a native plant all the way from tropical South
America northward to southern Texas. Its common names include yellow sage,
ham-and-eggs, and shrub verbena. With flowers resembling small verbenas in
size and form, its membership in that family is a give-away. As with
verbenas, the flowers form clusters that are displayed from early summer
to frost. As it ages each flower cluster tends to change color from yellow
to orange to pink. Since each of the flowers in a cluster opens at
different times, the whole range of color sequence is always present. The
plant thus assumes a tri-colored look with a primary color being orange.
For this reason use this lantana in a color scheme as you would an
'Miss Huff's' impulsive orange looks glorious against a
background of low-toned greens. It is likewise stunning with purple or
bronze-leaved plants like one of the orange-flowered, purple-leaved cannas
(Canna x generalis); copper fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var purpureum); or,
annuals such as perilla (Perilla frutescens) and 'Purple Ruffles' basil (Ocimum
basilicum 'Purple Ruffles'). Plants with gray foliage like lambs ears (Stachys
olympica syn S. byzantina) and Artemisia 'Powis Castle' make this
lantana's flowers appear pure and brilliant while separating it from those
colors with which it might war. 'Miss Huff's' lantana blends beautifully
with shrubs like yuccas, junipers, or deep purple-flowered butterfly
bushes. It can also be used as a bright complement to ornamental grasses.
Obviously, this is a plant with which to have fun.
Conventional in-ground planting with this plant is only
one option as the marvelous 'Miss Huff' is also a star in containers.
Malcom Hillier suggest selectively pruning lantana to desired size and
then underplanting them in a large pot with variegated Swedish ivy or one
of the other variegated trailers like golden feverfew (Chrysanthemum
parthenium 'Aureum') and the tiny silvery-leaved plecostachys (Plecostachys
serpyllifolia). Creeping thymes would work equally as well. Remember to
give this lantana at least a half-day of full sun in good potting mix and
to fertilize it sparingly every two weeks. You may tip-prune at any time
to encourage flowering, but it isn't necessary. Remember though, if you
choose to plant 'Miss Huff' in a container, it will not overwinter out
of the ground.
The subject of over-wintering brings us to why 'Miss
Huff's' hardy lantana is different from other Lantana camara. This
lantana, if planted in soil with reasonable drainage (no water saturated
winter soils please!), left with old wood intact until new growth starts
in the spring, and mulched with pine straw, will reappear yearly as far
north as Canton, Georgia. It was this plant's annual reappearance in Miss
Huff's front yard that alerted Rick Berry and Marc Richardson to its
potential as a perennial. Rick and Marc, the owners of the outstanding
perennial plant nursery Goodness Grows, finally persuaded Miss Huff to
trade cuttings with them in exchange for other plants installed courtesy
of the two of them. Thanks to Marc and Rick's discernment and their
willing backs, this fine plant is now available to all of us.
One often-unsung attribute of 'Miss Huff's' is that it
is irresistible to butterflies. During the middle of the day at the height
of the nectar production, there are often dozens of these delightful
creatures flitting about the plant. In my yard the bright tawny orange
Gulf Fritillary is its most frequent visitor and this combination of plant
and winged creature frequently gives the impression that the lantana's
orange flowers have themselves taken flight.
Finally, you may ask, "What are 'Miss Huff's'
drawbacks?" These few have been noted. It may get red spider mites or
white flies, especially when crowded, although I've never had either
problem. One writer reported occasional mildew. Its berries are poisonous
when eaten and therefore it should not be used where little children or
grazing animals may ingest them. However, in my opinion, its virtues far
outweigh any of these possible drawbacks. I simply wouldn't garden without
* Sue Vrooman is the curator of native plants at The
Atlanta History Center.