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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 18, 2013

From: Pasadena, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Wildflowers
Title: Curling, Red Leaves on Gaura
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

My gaura had most of its lower leaves turn red and then fall off. It is July now, I bought and planted it in May where it seemed to do really well growing several more inches tall and blooming nicely. Our soil is both sandy and has clumps of clay. I read your June 02/08 answer about gaura going semi-dormant in high heat but the leaves did not curl from what I saw, they just turned red and dropped. I haven't noticed any bugs living on it save a few spider webs between the stems. Is it just done for the season or does it need my help?

ANSWER:

Here’s what Barbara Medford wrote in the previous Mr. Smarty Plants enquiry that you mentioned. Whirling Butterflies is a trade name given to Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer's beeblossom). The genus, Gaura, is easily recognized but species names are more difficult due partly to a great deal of hybridization. The Gaura lindheimer is a native of Louisiana west to Texas and Mexico, and can be invasive. So, again, we're just going to try to find pests or problems of Gaura, without knowing the exact parentage. About all we could find out was that there are no serious pests or diseases and, indeed, it is considered an invasive weeds in many parts of the country. It has a long taproot, like a carrot, and attempts should not be made to transplant it, because it is difficult to avoid damaging that taproot. It would appear that because of our early hot Spring, both of the plants you are concerned about are reacting more like it was the middle of summer. Trimming them back pretty hard and then making sure they have water with very good drainage should perk them up. In times of intense heat, many plants will go semi-dormant, allowing their leaves to roll or fold up, to conserve moisture. Try trimming back all that excess foliage and dried leaves, and let the green leaves on the basal area keep things going. Even plants need a vacation.

Leaf curling can be a response to high heat and drought stress (as well as the redness) before the plant goes into semi-dormancy. Have patience and wait until the cooler temperatures in the fall arrive to reassess your plant. My feeling is that it will perk up again for you.

 

From the Image Gallery


White gaura
Oenothera lindheimeri

White gaura
Oenothera lindheimeri

White gaura
Oenothera lindheimeri

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