Lantana ’Samantha'

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Lantana ‘Samantha’—grown for the leaf as well as for the flower

Blue Ribbon Lantana ‘Samantha’ is lemon yellow, like other Lantanas on the market, but we value it for more than just the flower. A variegated leaf with lemon-lime edges captures visitors’ attention, drawing as much commentary as the blooms.

Truly, ‘Samantha’ is the full package. It has a compact habit and ruffled texture to go along with those variegated leaves and buttery flowers. Even more important, though, is the fact that it makes a good companion plant—a trait usually lacking in Lantana.

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A bird-in-the-nest style garden has little surprises for visitors to discover

THE BIRD IN A NEST WITH ORNAMENTAL PEPPERS

Let’s look at an example. A bed of Lantana ‘Samantha’ has Ornamental Pepper ‘Black Pearl’ widely spaced throughout the planting. This is a bird-in-the-nest style of garden, a design that contains little surprises for visitors to discover when they approach the bed. Surrounding the Ornamental Pepper with ‘Samantha’ focuses attention on the very dark foliage of ‘Black Pearl’ and, when they ripen, the bright red dots of the peppers.

‘Samantha’ builds the showcase for ‘Black Pearl’, a framing device that is interesting but not overpowering to the main point of the display. Like Euphorbia might do, ‘Samantha’ fluffs and crinkles and curls but it doesn’t overwhelm the featured player, ‘Black Pearl’. Truly, any drama Pepper would work as the bird in this example—so would any tall, dark, and handsome foliage plant as long as it grows up rather than laterally.

This style of garden also showcases one of ‘Samantha’s’ subtle strengths, its poofiness. We give this informal term to plants that have the ability to look fluffy in a garden bed. Very few plants can do this and ‘Samantha’ is one that can. Technically, the plant has to provide good color and texture from the top of the plant down to the soil line, and the texture has to be broken up visually so that the bed feels like it contains an airy quality. Poofiness is a highly desirable feature and a key strength of several famous cultivars, including Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and Begonia ‘Cocktail’.

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Edge Sunflowers with ‘Samantha’ to cover up empty spaces

HIGH CONTRAST WITH DARK FOLIAGE

From here, it is easy to see how a high-contrast or two-toned garden would work. Pair ‘Samantha’ with a dark foliage plant like Argyranthemum ‘Red Ruby’ or Strobilanthes (Persian Shield). Both plants provide contrast in color as well as height to point up the difference between them. This equates to two pots of garden paint that can be worked into any number of patterns or designs.

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‘Samantha’ pushes back against taller, more dominant plants

SEALING UP SEAMS WITH THE SUNFLOWERS

‘Samantha’ is also useful as a skirt to surround larger components that need a little height to cover up the space between the plant and the soil. A good example is using ‘Samantha’ next to the Sunflower ‘Sunfinity’—we use it to edge other Sunflowers and Rudbeckia as well.

There is enough oomph in ‘Samantha’ that it will grow right up against taller and more dominant plants like some Pennisetum or Coleus varieties. ‘Samantha’ has the ability to push back without being rude to the other denizens of the garden.

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‘Samantha’ drapes under Dragon Wing Begonias in this Musa centerpiece

IN CONTAINERS AND TROUGHS

In large containers like troughs, urns, boxes, and planters ‘Samantha’ occupies the trailing role nicely and can also contribute to filling the space over the soil. It has a loose composition that allows the thrillers to grow through, while hiding their knobby knees at the same time. ‘Samantha’ is especially good with big drama plants like Musa and Alocasia that rise way up, filling the soil volume of the larger pots around them.

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Thrillers can grow through while still hiding their imperfections

AS A POLLINATOR

We would be remiss if we failed to mention ‘Samantha’s’ pollination power. Lantana is one of the top pollen generators of the summer because of its sheer reliability of bloom in the face of both bad weather and bad soil for the entire season. Some plants have intense but short windows of pollen and nectar production. Lantana flips the equation—it is the nectar watering hole that never dries up, even if the rest of the landscape is parched of pollen.

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‘Samantha’ works in partial shade as long as hot overhead sun is available

HABIT AND CULTURAL INFORMATION

‘Samantha’ grows about 10 to 16 inches high with a spread (or trail) of about 24 to 30 inches—low and wide. It does a good job of covering the ground, but it sits higher than the usual groundcover. Let’s just say it’s higher than a shag carpet.

This variety does well in full sun, and we’ve had very good luck in the partial sun of nearby trees; however, we don’t put ‘Samantha’ directly underneath trees or other shade sources. Lantana benefits from blazing noonday sun. Blooming performance starts with the summer and chugs along until the frost. There is no distinct waving or blooming season, so it doesn’t cycle in and out of color—this is because ‘Samantha’ is a cross, and therefore as sterile as a mule.

Like all Lantanas, this is one tough customer. Soil conditions simply don’t matter, and ‘Samantha’ handles wide swings in water availability. Less fuss is the way to go—you’ll get better results. ‘Samantha’ responds nicely to grooming if you need to trim it to fit a particular space. Trimming actually encourages more branching, more flowers and a compact shape.

Generally, we don’t feed ‘Samantha’, but it does benefit from a midsummer’s snack to perk up the flower production. If this plant has a weakness, it would be soggy soil. Be sure a container has drainage and the garden is devoid of standing puddles.

AN OPEN CULTIVAR

In both the garden and containers, Lantana ‘Samantha’ moves along in the same way that Spreading Petunias do, with a mild rolling and bumping quality. In fact, if you use the Spreading Petunia you can swap it out with ‘Samantha’ fairly easily.

One question remains—is ‘Samantha’ an heirloom? It was promoted as a favorite for gardens and containers back in the 70s and 80s, long before the plant patent system was in full gear. Back then no one owned the genetics like they do these days so the truth is we may never know.

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