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Want more color in your containers?

Lantana may be the answer.

Janis Harbison, of DeWitt, used the annual plant to great effect to win first and second place in the "most colorful" category of the container garden contest at this year's Clinton County Fair. The annual contest, sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Iowa State University Extension-Clinton County, was judged July 11.

As is their practice, Harbison and her husband, Wayne, scout out family-owned greenhouses throughout the Quad-City region for container plants, discovering a wide range of lantanas at Tipton Greenhouse and Florist, a shop in a mostly residential area of the Cedar County town.

"I've never seen a place that had that many colors," Harbison said, adding that she bought every one. "I just love 'em," she said. In addition to color, lantanas don't require dead-heading, as do petunias, so they're less work, she said.

Kate Terrell, of Wallace's Garden Center and Greenhouses, Bettendorf, agrees that "lantana is a great annual that should be used more."

In addition to compact types for containers, there are tall varieties for landscape plantings and semi-trailing types for baskets, she said.

Lantana also has outstanding heat tolerance, and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, Terrell said. It does need regular watering.

In addition to winning first and second in "most colorful," Harbison swept first in the categories of "succulents," "outstanding use of foliage" and "best design."

Succulents: In her first-place entry, she let one "wow" plant, a glossy kalanchoe, carry the day, with several other plants simply filling out the pot. The kalanchoe was purchased at PJ Tatum Garden Greenhouse in Blue Grass that raises what Harbison calls an "enormous" variety of succulents.

The plant bears practically no resemblance to the profusely blooming kalanchoes sold in big box stores, with flowers so dominant one hardly sees the leaves.

Foliage: Harbison's strategy here was simply to jam in as many plants as she possibly could. She likes to have her containers look full from the day she plants them rather than having to wait all summer, so by July, they're very full. Her pot contained 13 different plants.

Design: Her eye-catching "thriller" plant was an elephant ears that resembles rhubarb, alocasia 'Boa.' Filling out the design was the the yellow-blooming "filler" flower of 'Golden Globe' lysimachia and the "spiller" plant of basket grass, a trailing vine with pointy leaves. Also in the pot: 'Purple Prince' alternanthera and two sweet potato vines.

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