David C. Zlesak, University of Minnesota Extension Educator
‘Snowstorm’ is the first wand flower (Gaura lindheimeri) release from the Flower Breeding and Genetics program led by Dr. Neil Anderson! Wand flower is a prized garden subject because it: blooms continually throughout the summer, is a great filler plant that mixes well with other plants in garden beds and containers, and it moves in the wind adding extra ornamental appeal. Gaura lindheimeri has grown in popularity over the past decade and is among the top 25 selling perennials in the US market today. Although this Gulf Coast native (Texas and Louisiana) is reliably hardy only to zone 6, it serves as a great annual in Minnesota.
Photo 1: Buds of 'Snowstorm' are pink and petals open white. David Zlesak
The overall goal of the University of Minnesota wand flower breeding program is to develop Minnesota hardy cultivars. Work continues towards this goal trying to generate interspecific hybrids between the highly ornamental G. lindheimeri and the hardy G. coccinea (native from Texas into Canada). Some of the G. coccinea forms in the breeding program a have wonderfully sweet fragrance and other ornamental characteristics not found in G. lindheimeri. Gaura coccinea prefers dry growing conditions and can be found in western Minnesota. Other Gaura species native to the Southern US possess diversity for foliage and color and plant habit and are being explored as parents within the breeding program as well.
Although it will take some time to continue to unlock crossing barriers between G. coccinea and G. lindheimeri, G. lindheimeri ‘Snowstorm’ is a wonderful cultivar and great addition to Minnesota gardens. ‘Snowstorm’ has proven to be a very vigorous selection with prolific flowering potential. Crowns send up multiple, wiry stems that move in the breeze and are covered with blush pink buds opening white. Plants grow to 2-3 feet tall and the airy flowering stems mix well with other neighboring plant materials. ‘Snowstorm’ is an especially nice accent mixed with other plants in medium to large-sized containers. It also works well in ground beds as a solitary accent plant, mass planting, or border.
Photo 2: Plants of 'Snowstorm' bloom prolifically throughout the growing season. David Zlesak
‘Snowstorm’ and other G. lindheimeri cultivars do best in full to part sun and planted in fertile, well drained soil. They are somewhat drought tolerant and if spent flowering stems are removed they can flower even more prolifically.
There are multiple licensed Minnesota wholesale propagators of ‘Snowstorm’ and it is currently available in many area garden centers. Don’t miss out on this summer ‘Snowstorm’!!