As promised, here is the first of several posts detailing our purchases at Wilcox Nursery this past weekend. First up: Button Sage (Lantana involucrata), a small and terrific native shrub.
Lantana varieties are one of the best butterfly nectar plants out there. Unfortunately, the most common species sold is Lantana camara, which has become invasive in Florida. L. camara quickly escaped cultivation in Florida and has hybridized with our native Lantana depressa to the point that the Florida Association of Native Nurseries no longer recognizes L. depressa as a true native. (See: The Lantana Mess.) That means that Lantana involucrata, known as Button Sage, is the only true Florida native lantana available for sale, and finding it can be a challenge.
Button Sage is common in coastal areas from Central Florida south. It likes well-drained soil and will take full to part sun. It blooms year-round and is hardy to zone 8a, so though it may take a little frost damage in the winter, it should recover quickly and stay green all winter. Like all lantanas, it's drought-tolerant once established but will bloom best with regular water. We planted ours out back near the butterfly garden where it has room to grow and spread, in a mostly sunny spot.
Button sage is a wonderful wildlife plant. The flowers are big nectar draws for butterflies. The subsequent purple berries (how pretty!) are great for songbirds. As a shrub, it provides shelter for smaller creatures as well. All in all, button sage is a must-have for any native wildlife gardener, though it's fairly difficult to find. If you see one, snap it up like we did!