Lantana – When to Prune in Winter

Q: I planted some lantana last spring. It was advertised as a perennial but it looks pretty dead now. Should I cut it back or would that be a waste of time?

A: Winter lantana care simultaneously exemplifies the mystical pleasure and the aching frustration of gardening.

Most lantana varieties are a bit too tender to survive a winter north of Atlanta. ‘New Gold’, in particular, seems to have a death wish every December. On the other hand, Rick Berry, the proprietor of Goodness Grows Nursery in Lexington, introduced ‘Miss Huff’ lantana to the trade because it can usually survive cold winters in Athens.

That said, even ‘Miss Huff’ has a hard time coming back in spring if she has been fertilized heartily and made to grow vigorously the previous fall. She seems to do better the worse she is treated in summer. In addition, though the leaves of ‘Miss Huff’ look ragged in January, you’re better of delaying pruning until March, when the weather begins to warm up. Pruning too early in winter makes the plant more susceptible to cold damage. I think I’d wait until April to see if any green sprouts arise before cutting back ‘Miss Huff’. If you planted a ‘New Gold’ lantana, all it is good for now is compost.

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