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?

31 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.

  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.

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