Gaura - How to Grow the Charming Wand Flower

  • 01 of 02

    Gaura lindheimeri - The Wand Flower

    2014 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner: Gaura 'Sparkle White'
    2014 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner: Gaura 'Sparkle White'. Photo Provided by All-America Selections (AAS)

    Overview and Description

    Wand Flower (Gaura lindheimeri) delivers airy masses of delicate white or pink flowers that dance about on knee high stems. Guara is a clump forming native American perennial that charms gardeners by sending up tall, thin flower stalks dotted with starry white flowers that sway and bob in the slightest breeze. They make a very delicate, airy appearance that belies their hardy drought tolerance and non-stop blooming habit.

    • Leaves: Toothed leaves are lance-shaped leaves,...MORE either slender or spoon-shaped. The plant forms a bushy clump and sends up long flower stems.
    • Flowers: The star-shaped flowers are small, only about 1 in. in diameter, but there is an abundance of them. The white species fades to pink, as it ages. Other cultivars can be shades of cream to pink.

    Botanical Name

    Gaura lindheimeri

    Common Name:

    White Gaura, Wand Flower

    Hardiness Zone

    Wand flower is reliably hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 - 9, although it tends to be short-lived. During mild winters or with protection, it will survive in Zone 5.

    Sun Exposure

    Gaura will flower best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.

    Mature Size

    Height depends on which variety you grow, but most are about 24 - 30 in. (h) x 20 - 36 in. (w). Most of the height is from the flower stems and some varieties can even reach 5 ft.

    Bloom Period

    Gaura can bloom from late spring through fall. Deadheading helps prolong the bloom period and makes the plants look fresher, but they will continue blooming for weeks without any effort on your part.

    Design Suggestions

    With its airy appearance and self-seeding tendency, gaura is a natural for cottage gardens. It works well as contrast against dense shrubs as well as bolder, larger flowered plants, like coneflower, poppies and lupines. I'm also fond of it paired with dark purple leaved Heuchera.

    Don't forget about containers. A pot of just gaura is a great choice for the front steps, making an attractive greeting without obscuring the entry.

    And the long stems make nice cut flowers, although they don't last long.

    Next page, for tips on growing and caring for gaura plants and the best varieties to grow.

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    Gaura - Tips for Growing and Caring for Gaura lindheimeri

    2014 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner: Gaura 'Sparkle White'
    2014 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner: Gaura 'Sparkle White'. Photo Provided by All-America Selections (AAS)

    Growing Tips

    Soil: Gaura is very forgiving about soil. Avoid giving it too much organic matter. Rich soil tends to make it lanky and floppy. As for soil pH, I've seen it listed for everything from 6.6 to 8.5, so it seems to favor neutral to alkaline soil. However my soil tends to be even more acidic and Gaura has never disappointed me.

    Planting: You can start gaura from seed, in the spring. Plants should flower their first year. Not all of the cultivars grow true from seed and most are grown...MORE from cuttings or divisions, but 'Sparkle White', won an AAS award in 2014 and it does very weel from seed.

    Since Guara plants tend to send out small offset plants, multiplying existing plants is usually not a problem. Plants can be short-lived, so be sure to propagate at least a few new ones.

    Maintenance: Once established, your wand flowers will require little maintenance. They are very drought tolerant. It's wet weather you have to watch out for, because Gaura can get root rot in soil that remains wet for long periods of time.

    The flowers will fall off on their own, but periodically trimming the flower stems will invigorate the plant and ensure a long season of bloom. It will also prevent the plant from getting overly large and floppy.

    Gaura never needs dividing, but you can do it if you want to make more plants. Since they can be short-lived, dividing helps you hedge your bets with extra plants. You can divide in spring or fall. I find it easiest to dig the small offsets in the spring. They haven't yet formed tap roots and they survive better in spring than in fall.

    In hot, dry climates, plants can become leggy, with sparse bloom. Freshen the plants with a shearing. They'll resume blooming quickly.

    Gaura can be an aggressive self-seeder. New plants are easy enough to pull, But if you want to avoid the effort, cut the flower stems down before they go to seed. With so many stems, it really is easiest to just shear the whole plant.

    Pests & Problems

    You can usually avoid problems if you provide good drainage and good air circulation. The leaves can be prone to rust and leaf spot diseases (Cerospora and Septoria). In damp or humid weather, mildews can become a problem. And if the soil remains wet for extended periods of time, watch for root rot.

    Suggested Varieties

    • 'Corrie's Gold': Has leaves with gold edges.
    • 'Siskiyou Pink': Rose-pink flowers with reddish foliage.
    • 'Sparkle White': 2014 AAS Winner. Compact plant with pink-blushed flowers. Does well from seed.
    • 'Summer Breeze': Tall, white flowered variety with good winter hardiness.
    • 'Whirling Butterflies': Compact plant with an abundance flowers. The red sepals give a pink tint to the flowers.