Gardening

Wisteria


Wisteria Wisteria

I have arbors on three sides of my porch and have Wisteria sinensis (10 years old) on one as well as Wisteria floribuda (10 years old) on the second.  It is May so they both are in full bloom.  When you sit in the swing in the evening and the air is still it is the most amazing experience.

If you have not grown Wisteria there are a few things you should know: Wisteria is a very vigorous, twining vine.  You will need a commitment to keep the plant in the bounds of the garden or chosen space. Among the prized attributes are hardiness, vigor, longevity and the ability to climb high. The flowers are 12 to 20 inches large, pendulous, and occur in the spring. Flowers are pea-like and may be white, pink, lilac-blue, bluish-purple or purple in color. The fruit is a long, green flattened pod that is not particularly ornamental. The plant climbs by means of twining stems and has alternate, pinnately compound leaves. Older, established plants may have a twisted, woody trunk several inches in diameter. Plants that have been grown from seed remain in a long juvenile stage and often do not bloom for 10 to 15 years or longer. Plants that are grafted, and plants grown from cuttings or layered from a flowering plant will usually begin flowering within 3 to 4 years.  I have three on arbors around the porch and on an arbor in the garden; each took 4 years before they bloomed.

Two species of wisteria are typically grown in home gardens: Wisteria sinensis or Chinese wisteria, and Wisteria floribunda or Japanese wisteria. The Chinese wisteria is the more popular plant due to its flowering habit. It grows to a height of 25 feet or more and has flower clusters six inches to a foot in length; flowers open before the foliage has expanded. Individual flowers in the clusters open all at once for a very showy display. Flowers are violet-blue and slightly fragrant. Plants are most showy from early to mid-May in most seasons. There is also a white flowering form of Chinese wisteria, W. sinensis ‘Alba,’ which is very fragrant. Chinese wisteria may bloom within three to four years after planting; however, the juvenile period may be much longer.

Japanese wisteria grows to a height of 25 feet or more and has violet-blue, fragrant flowers that bloom as the foliage is also expanding. Individual flowers open gradually from the base of the cluster to the tip. Clusters can be 12 to 18 inches in length and are effective in late May in most seasons. The plant has yellow fall foliage color. There are numerous cultivars of Japanese wisteria with various flower colors.

Planting

  • Grow Westeria in fertile, moist but well-drained soil. 
  • Wisteria will grow in partial shade, but it probably won’t flower. Sun is a requirement.
  • If your soil is in poor condition, add compost; otherwise, wisteria will grow in most soils.
  • Plant in the spring or fall.
  • Choose a site that will not overwhelm nearby plants as wisteria grows quickly and can overtake other plants.

Care

  • Each spring, apply a layer of compost under the plant and a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • Some gardeners swear by phosphorus to aide flowering. Scratch a couple of cups of bone meal into the soil in the spring and then add some rock phosphate in the fall.
  • Only water in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per year.

Pruning    

  • Pruning is the secret to good flowering.
  • Prune wisteria in late winter. Remove at least half of the prior year’s growth, leaving just a few buds per stem.
  • If you want a more formal appearance, prune again during summer after traditional flowering.
  • For more blooms, try cutting back the rampant shoots every two weeks during the summer.
  • Do you have a new wisteria? Cut the vine back severely right after planting. Then, the next year, cut the main stem or stems back to 3 feet of the previous season’s growth. Once the framework is full size, shorten further extension growth in midsummer to where growth began for that season.
  • Informally grown, mature plants need little or no subsequent pruning.
  • For a formally trained plant, cut side shoots back to 6 inches in summer, then shorten them again in winter to 3 buds.
  • Wisteria will resprout with vigor if cut back severely, but this pruning should be avoided, if possible, because new shoots may take some years before they flower.

Plant Pests

  • Dieback, crown gall, leaf spots, virus diseases, Japanese beetle, aphids, leaf miners, scale insects, and mealy bugs can all be problems.

Information

Botanical name: Wisteria

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

Sun exposure: Full Sun to Partial Sun

Flower color: Red, Blue, Purple, White

Bloom time: Typically early May

43 Comments

  1. So lovely! Wisteria isn’t hardy enough to grow here, but we can admire it from afar…. 🙂

  2. Love wisteria, unfortunately it is a rampant weed here in Georgia. Still the fragrance is enchanting.

  3. Hey Charlie,

    I think I choked, snorted and yelped out loud when you declared: Wisteria is as vigorous, twinge vine. I’ve been on the losing end of taming this beast. But she is worth the effort to tame her even if only for those two weeks (if you’re lucky) of glorious flowers and fragrance.

    • It is 80 degrees today so I have the window open to my office and I can really smell the wisteria; having said that I have it in a nicely contained area, and I do spend time pruning it to keep it under control. Your point is well taken and appreciated.

    • It is 80 degrees today so I have the window open to my office and I can really smell the wisteria; having said that I have it in a nicely contained area, and I do spend time pruning it to keep it under control. Your point is well taken and appreciated.

  4. That wisteria is lovely!

  5. Hi Charlie. I adore wisteria and need to post about mine soon. A couple of things made me smile in your post “slightly fragrant”, are you joking it has one of the strongest most delicious perfumes there is! Also here in Italy one of its most useful attributes is that in winter it loses its leaves meaning light can enter the house (if its grown on a pergola against the house which is the usual place to grow them here), but in late spring the foliage is thick enough to keep the house cool and provide a lovely dappled shaded area to sit. Mine also flowers for much of the summer, not as showy amongst the foliage but pretty all the same. Christina
    Christina recently posted..Iris in the gardenMy Profile

    • Indeed, the wisteria in my garden is quite fragrant. It fills two sides of my porch and provides marvelous shade for the swing and sitting area; the fragrance is amazing right now. In Zone 8 in the Pacific Northwest the flowers are gone by June. The leaves turn autumn colors in late fall and are gone until April. I have traveled quite a bit in northern Italy, but not the south. It has to be an amazing climate to grow wisteria, or just about anything for that matter…thank you for stopping by.

  6. I love wisteria but as you say, it’s vigorous and it takes commitment to keep it in bounds. I’ve seen it get under siding and shingles and tear them right off the house. I used to tell people that if they bought a wisteria they should also buy a pole pruner, because they’d need it eventually.

  7. Wisteria is so beautiful when in bloom. I used to have two here but I took them out. While I can keep them in bounds it was a fear of them taking over even me! Still such a pretty vine in the right spot.
    tina@inthegarden recently posted..Clematis CollectionMy Profile

  8. Well Charlie, maybe after studying this carefully, I’ll know why my 20+ year old Wisteria has never (not once!) bloomed. I absolutely love these, but just have had no luck with mine. It has the most beautifully gnarled trunk, but that’s it. Never even a hint of a flower.

    Thank you so much for sharing this here.

  9. Wisteria is just graceful!

  10. Beautiful Wisteria!
    Bridget recently posted..SOS…Save our seeds. The fight continues…My Profile

    • I read your blog regularly and really appreciate what you share with the rest of us. I was very pleased to see your successes with the EU related to seed and seed production. Thank you for standing up for the rest of us…thank you.

  11. Charlie, your advice about pruning is excellent! I pruned that way last year and had so many more flowers than the year before. This year I was a bit negligent but I still see a decent number of flowers forming (live & learn). Our climate is a few weeks behind yours – so I am still anticipating the wisteria blooms. 🙂

    Blessings ~ Wendy
    Wendy recently posted..A Tulip MedleyMy Profile

  12. We lived in England for a few years and my favourite plant there was the wisteria! I wish I could grow one here in Canada.
    Margie recently posted..Canada Geese – A Lofty ViewMy Profile

  13. Very good, informative video. Who doesn’t love Wisteria? I have a memory going back 35 years of being tasked with hard pruning an old vine, from a ladder, on a sunny day – I did NOT enjoy that! I once heard that the French will bang hard on the trunks of non-blooming Wisteria with a bat to get them to bloom – I bet there are a slew of old tales like that one. Lucky you to have them at home!
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  14. I love Wisteria draping a pergola. I like it at big gardens though. It becomes too much in too small a space.
    Donna recently posted..Ever Wonder How Long a Cut Christmas Tree Lasts?My Profile

    • I totally agree; I love the fragrance, and I love the image of it draped over a pergola. Still, I would caution anyone to choose the right space and dedicate the time to keep it under control. Thank you for stopping and sharing your thoughts.

  15. I agree that sitting on your swing in the evening while this is blooming would be lovely.
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  16. Indeed…Have a great weekend.

  17. We just bought a Wisteria. I’ll let you know how it gets along. We have followed your advice about place and planting. 🙂

    • I have two planted to around the porch that now fills the arbors on two sides. It shades the porch on two sides so you can sit in the swing on summer evenings and it is not too hot. Between the wisteria and the lilacs that swing is as close to heaven as is imaginable during early May.
      Charlie@Seattle Trekker recently posted..Edible MushroomsMy Profile

  18. I love Wisteria. It’s so beautiful. Unfortunately I don’t have any supports near my house strong enough to hold them!

  19. Your wisteria must be beautiful. I have often thought about planting it but I know I wouldn’t be good about keeping it under control.

  20. Such wonderful photos, Charlie –
    it’s quite inspiring… Wisteria is really treasured here, so looking at yours gives hope about the glory of summer!
    Emma 🙂

    • My climate here in Seattle is very similar to yours. I have wisteria on an arbor behind the house and two that shade the front porch swing; when they bloom the fragrance is heavenly.

  21. Love wisteria – but it will not survive here. Beautiful!

  22. My experience over the years has taught me that your success rate really goes down when you select plants not suited to your climate and try to make them survive.

  23. I have a wysteria I planted about ten yrs ago. It has never bloomed. I think I trimmed it back to much each summer. This summer I haven’t touched it due to an injury but now I’m ready to get it under control. It has taken over quite a bit. I really want it to bloom next yr. I’m confused as to how much I should trim this yr. We are near Philadelphia.

    • You certainly need to be careful where you plant wisteria and you really need to be diligent to keep it under control. Pruning it back shouldn’t keep it from blooming, I wonder if your problem has more to do with soil conditions or the amount of water it is getting.

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