What is Gaura?
Gaura is a plant genus that is part of the Onagraceae family. It consists of several species of annual and perennial flowering plants that are native to North America. One particular species, Gaura lindheimeri, is a perennial plant that is native to Texas and Louisiana. It features white flowers, typically an inch long, that bloom from pink buds from early spring to early fall. The leaves are 1.5-3.5 inches (about 4-9 cm) long, and the entire plant generally reaches 2.5-4 feet (0.7-1.2 m) in height.
The flowers of most gaura species initially bloom white, but will turn a shade of pink before dropping. Most flowers will fall off cleanly, while flower spikes that contain seeds should be removed manually. This will extend the bloom period and enhance the appearance of the plant.
Most species of gaura sprout from a deep taproot, which is a straight central root from which other roots of the plant originate. The presence of a taproot makes transplanting this genus of plants very difficult. Propagation by division is also very hard to accomplish, where as planting new seedlings is relatively easy and is probably the best way to grow this species.
Annual varieties of gaura are typically sown after the last frost in early spring, while the perennials are sown either at the start of spring or at the start of the fall. The seeds should be placed about three feet apart (about 1 m) to ensure adequate space for the taproot to develop, and the location should have several hours of direct sunlight. Plants in the gaura genus typically do well in loose, well-draining soil that has a significant amount of organic material in the composition. Fertilizers aren't recommended for plants in the gaura genus.
Most of the plants in this genus are very drought tolerant, which is due to the deep taproot. Occasional watering is usually best for growth and development of the flowers. Over watering can become a problem if the soil isn't well draining.
Pests aren't a concern for most gaura plants, but some species do attract aphids. The tube-like projection from the rear of the aphids' pear-shaped bodies easily identify this small insect. Most of the direct damage done by this pest include the yellowing and curling of leaves. The indirect damage is more worrisome. Aphids leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew on the stems and leaves. This is an attractive growth medium for spores of the sooty mold fungus. Once established, the fungus usually blackens the entire plant.
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