Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 715 Gaura lindheimeri

Common Names: whirling butterflies, white gaura, butterfly gaura Family: Onagraceae (evening primrose Family)
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white gaura
The four petals of white gaura are arranged in a way that resembles a butterfly.
...maybe they look more like butterflies when viewed from the side?


White gaura is an herbaceous perennial that grows in a loose, bushy clump 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m) tall with a spread of 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m). The stems are slender and wiry, and covered with tiny hairs. The leaves are spoon shaped, 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) long, with toothed margins. The flowers are produced above the foliage on erect spikes, 8-24 in (20.3-61 cm) long, that continue to elongate throughout the extended blooming period of late spring until first frost. The individual flowers are about an inch across and have four reflexed petals. They are white when they open at dawn, fading to rose-pink by the end of the day. Only a few flowers are open at any one time, and each drops off after blooming, leaving a clean, neat stalk. Gardeners have selected a few cultivars like 'Corrie's Gold' which has leaves with golden-yellow markings. 'Swirling Butterflies' is smaller than the species, growing to only 2 ft (0.6 m) tall and has red sepals and flowers more profusely. 'Siskiyou Pink' is also lower growing with light pink flowers and 'Pretty in Pink' is even pinker. A recent selection from and an Australian plantsman is "Crimson Butterflies".


White gaura, Gaura lindheimeri, is native to Louisiana, Texas and adjacent Mexico.

pink butterfly gaura
White gaura is also available in several shades of pink.


This is a plant for hot climates and dry soils. Light: White gaura does best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Moisture: White gaura is tolerant of drought. It has a long taproot and requires a well-drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10. Protect roots with mulch in zone 5 and 6 winters. Propagation: White gaura is easy to grow from seed, and usually will self sow. You also can divide the clumps in spring to start new plants.


White gaura is an informal, yet graceful, ornamental with a loose, bushy habit and 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) height, that looks good in the back of a perennial border or bed. It is ideal for the wildflower or naturalizing garden, as it does tend to self sow. If cut back in midsummer when flowering declines, gaura will regrow even bushier and bloom again in fall.

whirling butterflies
The butterfly-shaped flowers are balanced atop long wiry stems where the slightest breeze sets them in motion and inspiring another of the species' common names: whirling butterflies!


White gaura is well adapted to the hot summers of the southern US, and it has proven to be a winner elsewhere as well. It may not be the flashiest flower in the garden, but it is durable and dependable! There are about 20 species of Gaura, all native to the New World. Some are common roadside weeds in the southeastern United States.

Steve Christman 5/25/00; updated 2/19/04, 5/31/12

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Gaura species profiled on Floridata:

Gaura lindheimeri

( whirling butterflies, white gaura, butterfly gaura )

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