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Gaura

By Terry Deem-Reilly, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

Tall and stately. Short and compact. Wild. Cultivated. Grows from Dakota to central Mexico and Louisiana to California, regardless of humidity, heat, or moisture. Gaura (bee blossom,"Texas butterfly flower") is one of the hardiest and most strikinggaura12a.jpg (45451 bytes) perennials for the Colorado garden.

Gaura is classified in the family Onagraceae, the same family that contains evening primrose. The cultivars bear pink or white orchid-like blossoms on long, thin stems; the wild forms may have thicker stems and more foliage but show the same type of blossoms and  bushy habit as tgaura blossoms (20345 bytes)he "tame" plants. This is a North American native that is found in one form or another in every part of the U.S.

Given its beauty and adaptability,  gaura is an ideal plant for the Front Range. Plants bloom from late spring to fall, and differ as to height, blossom color, and foliage. Depending on height, they can sit in the front of the border, contrast with spiky plants in mid-border, or form a dainty hedge or drift in groups or three or more.

The most easily-found cultivar is Gaura lindheimeri, the "bee blossom." All of these bloom throughout the summer and survive well in Zones 5 or 6 (most overwinter best with a good mulching in fall):

  • G. lindheimeri 'Pink Cloud' grows to 30"; pink blossoms.
  • G. lindheimeri 'The Bride' ; a 48" plant; white blossoms tinged with pink.
  • G. lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink,' a sport of a white seedling that really sparked the interest in gaura with its introduction in 1994; shocking pink blossoms on 24" stems.
  • G. lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies,' white flowers on red stems; 24" to 36" tall.
  • G. lindheimeri 'Corrie's Gold,' 24" to 30" tall; white blossoms above gold variegatedfoliage.
  • G. lindheimeri 'Crimson Butterflies' ; a recent introduction that shows deep pink blossoms on red and green stems; 10" tall.

Plant gaura in well-drained soil in a sunny spot; don't enrich the soil very much or the stems will weaken and flop over. These plants tolerate heat and dryness - give them no more than medium moisture. Taller cultivars may be sheared in late spring and in summer to control legginess. Gaura may be best planted in warm weather, as it is slow to begin growth in spring.

Photos: Judy Sedbrook

 

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010