When to Prune Gaura
Native to the meadows and prairies across North America, the beeblossom (Gaura spp.) looks like a weedy, wispy wildflower. Gardeners enjoy the tall, lanky flower stems that are lined with white to pink, five-petaled blossoms that attract bees and butterflies. Beeblossom grown in gardens is usually any cultivar of Gaura lindheimeri, which is an herbaceous perennial with deep taproot. Grow it in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5b through 9.
In USDA zones 8b and warmer, beeblossom may persist as a semi-deciduous plant when winters lack frost or harsh subfreezing temperatures. It usually dies back on some level in winter but resprouts leaves and creates a clump of leaves and stems 2 to 4 feet tall and wide in spring. In zones 5 through 8a, expect winter cold to fully kill all above-ground tissues. Prune off dead or ugly stems and leaves in very early spring, retaining the lower-stem stubs at a length of 2 to 6 inches.
The primary pruning maintenance conducted on beeblossom is deadheading, or the clipping off of flower stems that no longer display blooms. Snip the flowerless stems off at their base near their attachment to main plant stems. Deadheading prevents old flowers' ovaries from producing seeds, thereby encouraging the plant to again produce more flowers in an attempt to create seeds later. Beeblossom can rebloom repeatedly from late spring through fall if deadheading is consistently and repeatedly done.
Beeblossom plants that are older and well-established, such as over 2 years old, may become a large clump of ratty stems. If you wish to prune back the large plant to tidy it up or prevent it from crowding out nearby perennials, clip it back in early spring and again in early summer after the first flowering flush ends. Reduce stem length by 6 to 20 inches, so long as no more than one-half of all stem length is removed. The beeblossom responds by growing new leaves and branches and then blooming again by midsummer to late summer and continuing until fall frost. Deadhead to ensure the best reflowering. Don't rejuvenate-prune beeblossom past midsummer as the regrowth may not mature enough to rebloom well before frost. In USDA zone 9, this pruning can be done in September for reflowering after Halloween.
As an alternative to constantly pruning back large clumps of beeblossom perennials, digging up and dividing plants in the clump reduces individual plant size. This asexual propagation also increases the number of plants that can be grown in locations across the garden. Dig up plants and divide the stems and roots in spring before plants display too many new sprouting leaves.
- "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey, eds.; 2004
- "Herbaceous Perennial Plants"; Allan M. Armitage; 1989
Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.