Gaura: A Butterfly Magnet in Western North Carolina
Gaura, also known as wandflower, is a genus of North American native flowering plants that are a true delight for both gardeners and pollinators. These elegant perennials boast airy, graceful blooms that flutter in the breeze, making an easy landing pad for butterflies all summer long.
At Flat Creek Plant Farm, we have been a little late to the party in growing this wonderful flower, but it has rapidly become one of our favorites over the last couple of seasons. Not only is it easy to grow, but if you deadhead the spent blooms they will give you a repeat show in the late summer.
Why Butterflies Love Gaura
Butterflies are drawn to gaura’s abundance of nectar-rich flowers, which provide them with a vital source of energy. The long, slender flower spikes offer easy access for butterflies to reach the nectar. Additionally, the open flower structure allows butterflies to land comfortably while feeding.
Gaura Varieties for Every Garden
Several gaura varieties cater to different garden styles and preferences. Some popular choices include:
- Gaura lindheimeri: This classic variety features tall, airy stems adorned with white or pink flowers that bloom from early summer to fall.
- Gaura sinuata: This compact variety offers a shorter stature and a wider range of flower colors, including white, pink, red, and yellow.
- Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’: This aptly named variety boasts a profusion of delicate white to pink flowers that dance in the wind, often 2-3′ tall. This classic variety is our favorite so far, though we are excited to try some new varieties this year.
Planting and Caring for Gaura
Gaura thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. They are relatively low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, making them an excellent choice for busy gardeners. Here are some tips for planting and caring for gaura:
- Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. In heavy clay like most of us have in Western North Carolina, it’s best to break up the soil well and add some soil conditioner to encourage drainage. They aren’t that fussy and take our good ole clay fairly well though.
- Mulch around the plant with a good shredded bark.
- Water regularly during the first year after planting, then reduce watering once established. They can be thirsty when in bloom, but with a good mulch don’t need much more than once a week in dense clay soil.
- Deadhead spent flowers at least once during the season to encourage continuous blooming.
- Divide plants every few years.
Benefits of Gaura Beyond Butterflies
While attracting butterflies is a major draw, Gaura offers several other benefits for your garden:
- Long blooming season: Gaura provides months of continuous blooms, adding color and texture to your garden throughout the summer and fall.
- Low maintenance: These plants require minimal care, making them ideal for busy gardeners.
- Drought tolerance: Gaura thrives in dry conditions, making them a good choice for water-wise gardens.
- Versatility: Gaura can be used in various garden settings, including borders, mixed beds, containers, and meadows.
Gaura: A Flutter of Beauty and Movement
Gaura is more than just a pretty flower; it’s an invitation to bring a flutter of beauty and movement to your garden. By planting these charming perennials, you can create a haven for butterflies and add a touch of elegance and grace to your outdoor space. We find that they are fantastic in the middle to back of the border and mix well with other light, airy plants like verbena bonariensis or muhlenbergia. It’s a fun plant to mix in even when you think you don’t have room.
I hope this article has inspired you to add gaura to your garden. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!