Guara (Guara lendheimeri)

Pink guara growing in my front bed

If you are looking for a plant that is tough as nails and blooms from spring through fall, then guara may be a fit for your garden.  Gaura is a Texas native that loves full sun and tolerates drought.  I have learned to appreciate its drought tolerance this summer.  Right now, I am pouring the water to my beds.  While it is keeping things alive, nothing is thriving.  Nothing that is, except the guara.

The guara that I have is a pink variety known as Onagraceae  Guara lindheimeri.  This variety grows natively in the Texas Hill country.  As the name implies, guara was first “discovered” by Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer.  Lindheimer is known as the father of Texas botany.  He worked as the first botanist in the state primarily between 1843 and 1852.  Because of his extensive life-long work with plants, his name has now been assigned to 48 species and sub species of plants.

The delicate pink flowers of my guara

There are 20 species of guara that are native to the United States.  This perennial can be found in Texas, Louisiana, and most of the Gulf South.  Gaura is an upright growing plant that grows in clumps that can be 2’ to 4’ high and just as wide.  The leaves are long and skinny with slightly serrated leaves.  The plant produces long, thin stalks that are often red to burgundy in color.  The inch long flowers have four petals and grow along these stems.  The flowers can range in color from white to deep magenta and they drop after full bloom.  Some varieties bloom white and then turn to pink in a single day.  Many times, the flowers grow on the ends of the stems.  When viewed from a distance, the flowers on the terminal ends of the stalks appear to be tiny butterflies “dancing” above the plant.  This gives rise to its common name; Whirling Butterflies.

Guara is very easy to grow from transplants.  Plant in early spring in full sun or partial shade.  It prefers rich, well drained soil and it will tolerate alkaline conditions.  It grows quickly and by early summer you will have a fairly large and attractive plant.  By fall, your guara will be a large full clump of “Whirling Butterflies”.

Guara can reseed but it is not an aggressive self seeder.  You can also divide guara once it has been established for several years.  However, it develops a deep tap root and this can make transplanting a bit of a challenge.

A lovely white form at the Spoetzel Home in Schulenberg, Texas.

Gaura is an attractive long blooming perennial that is perfect for the Texas border.  Its open, airy foliage is attractive even when not in bloom.  It flowers prolifically from spring through fall and butterflies and humming birds love the small flowers.  While it may not be the flashiest plant in the garden, it is tough and reliable.  The way it has continued to thrive in spite of the worst drought in our history has convinced me to use more of this survivor in my beds.  Why don’t you try some in yours?

57 thoughts on “Guara (Guara lendheimeri)

  1. I planted a guara last year. The plant is still there looking like old twigs. Is there still hope that it may come back?

    • Most definitely. Not sure how north you live but it should come back soon. Mine are beginning to put on leaves and a few blooms right now. Each winter, I cut my “twigs” back almost to the ground so feel free to clean yours up a bit. Keep watering and be a little patient and you should be enjoying your “whirling butterflies” again soon.

      • What a beautiful part of the country. So glad to hear you are getting some rain. I love getting comments from different zones. My guara is now in full flower and yours is just beginning to sprout. That is one of the reason’s I love plants, they are so diverse and so adaptable. Thanks for reading and for taking time to comment!

        • Please help! I have 2 guara plants that are drooping over, though they look healthy and are getting enough water. I love them, and have others that look OK. What to do?

          • There are so many things that could be wrong. I really need more info. Are they new plants or established? Are they getting too much water? There are not a lot of pests that bother them so I doubt that is it. Are the two that are drooping in an isolated spot? If you live where cotton was grown they might be affected by cotton root rot. If you want to send me pictures to jay@masterofhort.com I will be happy to look at them.

          • No, they’re not isolated and are in different parts of the yard. They look healthy. What would be too much water? They’re about 2 years old. I live in New Mexico. Maybe it’s Aliens landing on top of them at night – a la crop circles! : ) Thanks for any thoughts! jf

          • It may be aliens! This fall I planted a row of 11 needle point hollies. 10 are doing great. One is deader than door nail. And, it is in the middle of the row. I can’t figure it out. About the too much water. Gaura is native to the Southwest and Mexico. Because of that it can survive on very little water. Kind of like lavendar, 17″-20″ of water per year. Of course that depends a lot on the soil. If you are in course sand I would water on the high end.

  2. should you cut the little sticks back? I did (zone 5) and still no green. I a tempted to just go buy a new one but I am having trouble find one. It was my favorite plant last year.

    • I always cut mine back almost to the ground so that should not be the problem. Was it an older plant? I have had several salvias that have been in place for several years not come back this year. I would advise waiting a little longer before you give up. I also understand about it being difficult to find. Even though it is a Texas native, there is only one place in my town that reliably has it.

      • Interesting that you say the Guara was tough to find this year. I couldn’t find it in any of the nurseries near me nor in the online nurseries and was so frustrated. Then, in early July, my local supermarket had pink guards. I was so happy!

  3. If you are still looking to buy it, I am not in Texas, but noticed they sell Guara at Walmart, in 2 sizes & white or pink, & still have some left for this year. Also you could order plants online.

    • I am not sure you can as far north as you are. However, if you want to try, cut them back to where about 1″ of stalk is left. Then, completely cover it in mulch. Ground up leaves and grass clippings are great but if you don’t have those use a good hardwood mulch

  4. I live in Katy, Texas and am having a difficult time finding Guara in the local nurseries. Any suggestions of where I can purchase this plant?

    • Have you tried Arbor Gate? I haven’t been this spring so I am not sure but they usually have it. If you are up for a road trip I also like the Garden Center in Schulenburg. However, I would give them a call before heading out. If those fail I would call Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights. Best of luck!

      • Thanks! I found it at Cornelius, but I mentioned Arbor Gate and the worker said I just HAVE to go there, so it’s definitely on my list!

  5. Home Depot is selling it in Kingman, Arizona at the present time under the Vigoro Label. I’m going to try it here since our Summers are HOT and Winters COLD; supposedly the label says it can take temperatures down to MINUS 20 degrees!

  6. I am in Northwest Arkansas and have two white ones that I planted this spring. I bought them at Westwood Gardens on Weddington (NWA residents know where that is!) Westwood had a good selection in May of white and pink varieties. The plants are doing very well, despite ALL the rain and fair to normal drainage. So they must be adapting to our wetter climate. I also have a pink one I transplanted yesterday from a large pot (gift from neighbor moving out of state) to an area where some pink jazzy echinacea are doing very well. I dug quite a bit of the soil with the plant. The guara is drooping but I suspect it is just in shock. The drainage is good. Any suggestions?

    • I think it will be alright with a little time. Transplanting a full grown plant can be traumatic. Even though you got a lot of soil I am pretty sure a bunch of little roots were broken. The small new roots are the most active and take up the most water so breaking them makes it hard to keep a large plant hydrated. Over the next few days keep the soil moist but not wet. If it doesn’t perk up in a week consider cutting it back. It may not bloom this year if you cut it back but at least it will get established and be ready for next year

      • Thanks for the quick response. I notice today it is looking pretty good. So I think it will be fine. Thanks for the heads up on the watering, though. I’ll watch that.

    • Hi Jane,
      It’s very hot and DRY here and my guara, though healthy looking and blooming, droops from the center to the ground. Have not been able to figure it out. Jaye – New Mexico

  7. I purchased 2 here in Michigan zone 5b last year. Both did very well last year, but I lost one with our horrendous winter we just had. The other is back, big, beautiful, and I have found 4 babies! Love these plants, one of my favs!

    • Thanks for sharing that. I love it too. I get a lot of questions about growing it much further north than where I live. Thanks for letting me know that it can make it as far north as Zone 5B!

    • Yes. Guara is a perennial and it is best to plant all perennials in the fall. Fall planting allows perennials to establish a healthy root system while temperatures are cool.

  8. I live in Zone 6, the New York suburbs. I bought a guara this summer at Home Depot for my new perennial butterfly garden. It has become my favorite plant. I love the way the stems sort of ripple in the breeze. The little pink flowers are wonderful. No butterflies yet, but the bees seem to love it, and that’s a good thing, too. Should I go the heavy mulching route this winter? It does get cold here, but not as cold as Michigan.

    • As far north as you guys are I would say a definite yes to the deep mulch. While there are different varieties of the plant, the ones I grow died in a very unusual 18 degree cold snap. I did not have them mulched very well though. I would recommend cutting them back as soon as they lose all of their leaves and then covering them with at least 6″ of mulch. Best of luck and please let me know how it works out!

      • Sorry I didn’t respond earlier! Our winter was bad, and then we had a bad frost in the spring. My Guara never reappeared. I replaced it, and reported in an earlier post today. We had lovely buds on our hydrangeas, and they died during the frost. There was hardly a hydrangea blossom in my entire area. So sad. I live just north of New York City.

        • It is interesting to me that I have received two comments now in a week from your area with similar symptoms on the guara. I might be worth a call to your local extension office to see if they have heard others talk about this and see if they have any ideas why it is no blooming and ultimately dying. Thanks for the update!

  9. I live in northern Vermont. I planted three pink Passionate Rainbow guara in my front garden two years ago. They over-wintered without any cutting back and were buried under about three feet of snow from December through mid April. I was sure they would perish under those conditions, but all three came back and were lush and gorgeous all summer and into fall. Today, while out shopping, my landscaper (normally not allowed in the perennial garden) cut them all back to about six inches. What is the prognosis for my guara?

    • Thanks for the question. I am always amazed at the adaptability of plants. I am actually shocked to hear that guara does so well up your way. I am pretty optimistic about your guara! I cut mine back almost to the ground each year. I would mulch it though, just to give it a little extra protection.

      • Update. My three guara died. I’m sorry they were cut back as they did super well without any cutting back. Winter was mild in Vermont, but we had one ice storm and I think my maintenance company’s salt treatment leached into the garden and killed them. Odd but possible as everything else is doing well.

    • I’ve cut mine back twice mid season, and they come back bigger than ever! It seems you really can’t discourage this plant!! I’m not meticulous and mine grows like a weed!!

  10. Please help. I planted several guara in a two sunny, non-irrigated beds last year in the spring. All flourished from spring to summer. One appeared to be struggling last fall and did not survive.

    This spring, I replaced the dead plant and trimmed back the old growth on the others. With the spring rains, all were thriving and blooming. I noticed about a month ago that one of the survivors was going brown. Now, all the guara plants in that bed are going brown, including the newest one.

    I love them & want the two beds to match as they are on each side of the entry drive to the home. Any ideas on why they are dying?

    • This could be a number of things. I lost several of mine last year. The only thing I could determine was the unusually high rain amounts we received. This year we have also had higher than normal rainfall. Maybe it has been just too wet for them. While guara do well in our climate, I think they need really good drainage to survive when rainfall is plentiful like it has been the last couple of years. Other thoughts are run off from the drive way (gas, oils or antifreeze, etc. that leak from the cars) or pre-emergent herbicides. If you put pre-emergents on your lawn they usually contain atrazine. Atrazine will damage or kill woody perennials and tress. Hope this helps.

    • I don’t know where you live. We are in northwest arkansas. I have 3 that thrive so well I have to keep cutting them back. They are in semi-shade/sun. Get full morning sun. I use no special treatment. Never fertilize them. They are in an irrigated bed. I practically ignore them except for cutting them back because they grow so fast and really spread. If you are further north, they may not like the climate. If you have fertilized, that may be too much. They grow wild in Texas, and seem to like being left alone. I’m not an expert, but hope this helps.

    • Sorry! I just saw that you are in north Texas, so my comments may not apply. We’ve had a lot of rain, too, but maybe not as much as Texas. Nothing seems to kill mine! Maybe they like neglect!! 🙂

  11. I have three Guara in a bed filed with Perennials…they all do really well…but….how can I stop them from flopping down in the middle? They are not wilted or lacking water…they are planted with several other Perennials with the same low water needs. Soil drains well so they are not being kept too wet. The are in full geogous bloom and are healthy as horses. I cut them back two or three times a year, most heavy in the Fall. Oh, they are also planted in full sun…more than eight hours a day. I live in a Mediterranean climate in Santa Clara County, Cali.

    • I am not sure. I have not experienced this. However, some perennials tend to die or weaken in the middle as the grow and spread out from the original center of the plant. I am guessing here so don’t take this to the bank, but it might be worth digging one up and cutting the clump into three or four clumps and replanting. I would be interested to find out if the wilting happens on the new clumps. Sorry I don’t have a definitive answer for you.

      • They are not wilted, even when they flop in the middle…it’s as if the blossom are so heavy they cause the stems to lay down…I guess, “laying down” in the middle is a better description. This is only their 3rd. Spring. When you look at the plants from a distance, even a small one, they look perfectly normal, it’s when you walk up and look down that the center is bare…they have just laid down in a perfect circle from the center… All three of them….I just won’t show guests….LOL….

  12. My 3year old guara ftnally got one blossom. The plant is about 2 feet tall and looks healthy. The ends of rhe stems are red but no dancing butterflies. I cut it back in the fall and it gets lots of sun. I live in southern Illinois.

    • Not sure what is going on with your guara. I have not experienced anything like this. Plants respond differently in each climate zone. Because of that i would recommend you call your local extension office and see what their thoughts are.

      • My Guara didn’t come back, and I was heartbroken. I bought another one in late spring, and it is behaving in the same way- stems so-so in height, red buds/flowers, except for a few long stems with dancing butterflies. I live in the New York City suburbs.

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