Gaura – Everybody Wants Butterflies, but What About Moths?


Do you want a plant of loose texture and spidery form that is perfect for a relaxed, carefree border? A plant that lasts all summer and can take a bit of drought to still bloom?ย  Maybe a plant that even works a garden that goes shaggy and could grow through the grass. It’s a prairie plant after all.

Gaura looks best with the support from neighboring perennials. I have a very closely planted garden, so I have that covered for the three varieties of Gaura in my garden shown below. Also, it can get very weedy in warmer climates if it reseeds freely. But what about pollinators?

Gaura has very small flowers so it caters to insects with long tongues like bumblebees and metallic bees. I found out it is one of the plants that services night pollinating moths. Gaura is a nocturnal bloomer with the flowers at their peak in the morning. I added it to feed the moths. I am never out in the garden when moths fly, but I have it on faith they visit my Gaura.


Gaura may not always winter reliably, but one can consider using it as an annual in colder winter regions. It readily will produce self-sown seedlings if the plant does not return after a wet winter.

Curiously, all three varieties in my garden did not have the plant zone noted on the plant tag, most likely because it can be unreliable in cold climates. It is supposed to be hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 9, but I think the unreliability is due to cold, wet winters of spring. It makes sense a plant liking dryer conditions would hate a cold wet winter.

Gaura is a plant that has recently been recategorized Oenothera lindheimeri. It is native to Texas and Mexico, and will grow to about 3 feet tall, here mine only has grown to 18″. Each flower lasts less than one day, but there are quite a few of these delicate flowers.


I added it for pollinators, especially night visitors, but have seen butterflies and bees nectaring. I even saw a hummingbird in its vicinity, but it may have been after the verbena also in that location. It is planted in a few places with different plant partners. Lavender and sage are other plants that share its preference for good draining, dryer conditions. If you like the look of prairie plants, you might like Gaura. ‘Sparkle White’ is an AAS Bedding Plant and FleuroSelect Gold Medal award winner. It has a bit of a relaxed appearance, so if you don’t mind a garden a bit less tidy looking, Gaura may fit the bill.

Other flowers moths like? They like petunias, cleome, and Evening Primrose, also in my garden.

More gardens on the way here on GWGT. A flurry of garden posts to come, but first an over-looked garden plant for Monarchs. Yes, everybody wants butterflies!

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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18 Responses to Gaura – Everybody Wants Butterflies, but What About Moths?

  1. Nurse Kelly says:

    Beautiful and informative as always. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love Gauras, but they rarely last more than a season or two in my garden. However, I didn’t know they flowered at night and into the morning. Wonder if I’ve been looking at the wrong time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Those macros of the bees hanging off the flowers are amazing! And just a little bit funny, like they don’t have a firm grip. But that last shot, looking down towards the ground from the flowers is gorgeous! What a great angle. Your work never ceases to inspire me.

  3. I was looking at my file of butterflies/moths from mindo just last night.. there are so many unique species, and i’ll never know the names of most – but it doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

    gaura is a new one to me… it looks like something i’d see in the rainforest…

  4. Tom Clarke says:

    Hi Donna,
    I was introduced to the Gaura about 10 years ago by a local retailer. I absolutely love these plants. They start blooming in mid-June (Syracuse NY) and continue through October and sometimes into November. Only the roses have greater longevity yet the roses can have periods when there are no blossoms – the Gaura continuously provides its gorgeous gems.

    My experience is that the pink ones are often less hardy than the white ones, and a well drained sandy soil definitely increases the probability of survival. If your soil is clay, I recommend replacing that with sand to help overcome the wet feet. They self-seed along the edge of stone dust paths.

    What I enjoy most is watching their movement on a windless day. Here is a quote from my book “A Garden of Love” regarding the Gaura:
    “Each year I purchase at least one perennial that I am not familiar with – the gaura is one such example, and what a find! While I marvel at these pink and white flowers for their long-lasting delicacy, I am deeply inspired by their movement on a still day. Even on a seemingly windless day, the flower heads gently sway back and forth, moved by a breeze that cannot be seen or felt, …”
    As a Christian author, I compared the movement of the Gaura with that of the Holy Spirit.

    • libbylottie says:

      I enjoyed your comparison, Tom Clarke. I love Gaura’s.

      • Hi Libby,
        I appreciate your ministry dealing with alcoholism in women. In the reflection on the Gaura, I felt Romans 5:5 was appropriate: “We know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Possibly you can be reminded of that when you see the Gaura.
        Tom Clarke

  5. alesiablogs says:

    It reminds me actually of flowers my grandmother from Switzerland would take and place between the pages of her books to press them as keepsakes.

  6. Annette says:

    Lovely post as always, Donna, moths are butterflies too ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and I love them as much so I plant lots of night-secnted stuff. Together with friends we set up a moth trap a couple of years ago and identified them early next morning. The result was awesome – we didn’t think we’d have such a variety. The elephant hawkmoth impressed me most of all. At present I enjoy masses of insects swirling around my lavender, herbaceous clematis etc. – what a feast for them!

  7. Hi Donna, I like them too, so I planted them some weeks ago!

  8. Great, let’s also consider the moths! We used to have plenty coming in the old house! Now not so many but they are out there and it is interesting to know the flowers that they need too. Thanks.

  9. I like that you profiled plants for moths. They are under appreciated pollinators and there are plants that only moths pollinate so they are important. We have lots of Gaura as it is one of my husband’s favorites. We plant it on a hill garden with native grasses where it drains well during our winter rains. I concur with another commenter that the white are hardier than the pink as that is our experience also. In our area they are fairly hardy and do well for several years. They are covered with bees early in the morning.

  10. They are beautiful, but I don’t see them much in gardens here. Saw lots and lots when we were in France. I think they are only marginally hardy in Chicago.

  11. Gaura!That’s the moths attracting plant you already announced in your comment on my blog! I was rather curious and wondered if you meant the morning glory or a gardenia (cape jasmine). I didn’t know that Gaura is flowering at night, too (or mainly). Quite interesting!
    In spring 2014 I bought a plant of Gaura (Gaura or Oenothera lindheimeri ‘Shakti’). Mainly because of this less tidy and filigree look. It’s a pink one and the nurseryman told me: “Sure, it’s frost-resistant, Lady.” I chose a place in the sun, well drained. But – as you said – Gaura obviously does not like cold and wet winters. It did not reappear this spring.
    I noticed that even during daytime quite a couple of different pollinators were visiting the little blossoms. A rather good choice in any case – but good to know about its value for the moths!
    I suppose I can plant it only as an annual but as Tom mentioned in his comment that he thinks the white ones to be more hardy I would give it a try.

  12. I’ve just started noticing this plant in garden centers and gardens.

  13. Loretta says:

    Such beautiful and delicate flowers. Unfortunately I was not too successful with Gaura that I once planted, perhaps I ought to give it another try. Your pictures are gorgeous and your post always so inspirational. Thank you.

  14. mbkircus says:

    I love all the versions of this plant. Our Texas Native has flowers that are more white with pink overtones. At night, I seen them covered in small beetles, grazing away like cattle. A wonderful plant with dancing butterflies and that attracts lots of pollinators.

  15. I adore gaura but only the taller white ones will grow around my pond self seeding once they have petered out…I have repeatedly planted the pink and they do not return….too wet here.

  16. I’ve always preferred moths to butterfly, they are so pretty, in their own way ๐Ÿ™‚

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