In the spring, wisteria blooms ferociously, producing clusters of lilac-colored flowers on fresh growth that develops from spurs off the main stalks. Check out our Wisteria Growing Guide for more information on wisteria maintenance, including planting and pruning.
Wisteria is a long-living vining shrub with cascades of blue to purple blossoms that, in the spring and early summer, look stunning hanging from a pergola or archway. However, this vine is known to grow fairly heavy and to grow quickly and aggressively, frequently reaching lengths of more than 30 feet. It’s advised not to put wisteria vines too close to your home since they will squirm their way into any crack or crevice they can find.
Beautifully fragrant wisteria flowers offer a feast for the senses. A brown, bean-like pod remains on the plant during the winter after flowering. There are only blooms on fresh growth.
Note: Be careful when planting wisteria! The wisteria plant contains lectin and wisterin, which are poisonous to people, animals, and even pets. If taken in significant quantities, these poisons can result in anything from nausea and diarrhea to death.
Is Wisteria an Invasive Plant?
The wisteria species Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda, which are not native to North America, are regarded as invasive in several areas. If you want to add a new wisteria to your garden, we advise choosing one of the native North American varieties, such as American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) or Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya), which are excellent alternatives to the Asian species.
Do you want to know how to distinguish between North American and Asian species?
While North American wisteria is not quite as aggressive in its growing tendencies and has smooth seed pods and fruits in addition to more-or-less cylindrical, bean-shaped seeds, Asian wisteria is an aggressive grower with fuzzy seed pods. Another distinction is that the flowers of American and Kentucky wisterias appear in the late spring after the plant has begun to leaf out, whereas those of Chinese wisteria do not.
When to Plant Wisteria
- Plant during the plant’s dormant season in the spring or fall.
- Wisteria can be grown from seed, although plants from seeds frequently take many years to mature and begin to bloom. It is advised to buy wisteria plants that are already established or to begin with a cutting.
Where to Plant Wisteria
- Put a plant in full sun. Even while wisteria will grow in some shade, it won’t likely bloom. Sunlight is necessary.
- Wisteria should be grown in fertile, wet, but well-draining soil.
- Wisteria will grow in most soils unless it is in bad condition, in which case you need add compost. Find out more about soil improvements and getting the soil ready for planting.
- Because wisteria grows swiftly and can easily engulf its neighbors, pick a location apart from other plants.
- Additionally, wisteria is renowned for encroaching on and infiltrating surrounding buildings like homes, garages, sheds, and so on. We highly advise against growing wisteria too near your house!
- Wisteria vines need a very strong support, like a metal or wooden trellis or pergola, to climb on. Plan carefully and use substantial materials to construct your structure because mature plants have been known to become so heavy that they destroy their supports.
Wisteria looks gorgeous growing up the side of a house, but use caution when planting it because it is a very strong vine that will get into any crack or gap!
Caring for Wisteria
- Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch and a layer of compost under the plant each spring to keep moisture in and keep weeds at bay.
- Phosphorus is often used by gardeners to promote flowering. In the spring, work a few cups of bone meal into the soil. Then, in the fall, add some rock phosphate. Study up on soil amendments.
- If you get less than an inch of rain each week, water your plants. (To determine how much rain you are receiving, set an empty food can outside and use a measuring stick to gauge the depth of the water.)
- During the summer, try pruning the out-of-control shoots every two weeks for more blooms.
- In the late winter, prune wisteria. Remove at least half of the growth from the previous year, leaving only a few buds on each stem.
- Also prune in the summer after customary flowering if you prefer a more formal appearance. On fresh growth, spurs from the main shoots of the wisteria develop its blossoms. Trim back every new shoot from this year to a spur, leaving no more than 6 inches of growth. So that there are no free, trailing shoots, the entire plant can be trained, roped in, and otherwise organized throughout this procedure.
- Mature plants that have been cultivated informally require little to no more pruning. However, for a plant that has been formally trained, side branches should be pruned back in the summer to 6 inches, then again in the winter to 3 buds.
- Possess you a fresh wisteria? After planting, aggressively prune the vine. Then, the next year, trim the main stem or stems to a height of 3 feet from the growth of the previous year. After the framework has grown to its full size, midsummer extension growth should be cut back to where it started that season.
Types of wisteria:
There are two varieties of wisteria: Asian and American. Although aggressive growers, Asian wisterias are well-known for their stunning blossoms. American wisterias are less aggressive and still produce beautiful blossoms. Compare the most popular wisteria varieties.
Wisteria comes in a range of colors, such as white, pink, and blue tones, in addition to the well-known purple blossoms. If you believe you have seen a yellow wisteria flower, it was probably a golden chain tree (Laburnum).
Wisterias are deciduous, which means that when the weather becomes chilly in the fall, they lose their leaves. The misunderstanding is occasionally brought on by a different vine known as evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata).
Avoid planting aggressive wisterias close to your home as they can cause damage and have even been known to destroy buildings.
Wisterias can be grown in full sun or partial shade, but to promote healthy bloom development, make sure the vines get at least six hours of direct sunlight everyday. If you reside in a colder area, pick a planting location that is protected because a heavy spring frost can harm the flower buds.
Create a planting hole that is the same depth as the plant and twice as wide, then level the plant with the soil surface. Because the vines will soon fill in, you should space your plants at least 10 to 15 feet apart along the support structure.
Wisterias don’t need much care once they are planted to promote healthy growth. Water frequently over the first year until the roots take hold.
After planting, wisterias could take some time to come out of dormancy and might not start to leaf until early summer. They will leaf out at the regular time the following spring, but don’t be surprised if they don’t bloom. Wisterias take three to five years to reach full maturity and may not start blooming until then.
Wisterias grow quickly and can reach heights of up to 10 feet in in one growing season. That works out well if you need to quickly cover a fence or pergola but don’t want the vines to take over your landscape. Regular pruning (once in the summer and once in the winter) not only controls wisteria’s growth but also encourages more robust flowering by creating a framework of horizontal branches and causing spurs to grow at regular intervals.
Cut back the current year’s growth to five or six leaves in July or August, or roughly two months after the plant flowers, to get rid of stray shoots and make short branches that will produce flowers the following year. Summer pruning needs to be done more frequently. Re-prune the plant in January or February while it is dormant by removing two or three buds from the growth from the previous year.
The first few years of wisteria’s growth are crucial for creating the desired framework for the plant’s development. As soon as your wisteria begins to grow, start connecting particular lateral shoots to its support structure. You should also cut down any extra growth. An aggressive pruning may be required on elder plants to promote the growth of new branches. Cut down aging branches to the main primary stem to accomplish this. The spaces will soon be filled with new side branches that can be connected back into the support structure.
Visit the Royal Horticultural Society to view a video on how to prune wisteria vines properly.
Is it simple to grow wisteria?
Wisteria grows up to 10 feet or more in height per year and takes some time to bloom for the first time. Since they will be in full leaf throughout the summer, they are a fantastic choice when you’re seeking for garden privacy ideas or garden shadow ideas. If you don’t want them to take over, it also means that you have to be careful when pruning.
How should wisteria be cultivated?
Wisterias thrive in full light, fertile soil, and both. Of the 10 species, three are grown the most frequently: Wisteria brachybotrys, Wisteria sinensis, and Wisteria floribunda, which are native to China, Japan, and the eastern United States (silky wisteria). All three species have significant growth rates and can extend out to a maximum of 20 meters (66 feet) against a wall or around 10 meters (33 feet) in trees. Wisteria can also be trained to grow as a free-standing standard in a big container or border.
Wisterias for pergolas and arches
The Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is best exhibited hanging down from a garden structure like a pergola or arch since it has the longest flower sprays (or racemes) of all the species. They entwine in a clockwise motion while simultaneously bearing blooms and leaves. Lilac blue blooms and racemes as long as 1.2 meters (4 feet) are produced by Wisteria floribunda f. multijuga AGM in the early summer.
Wisterias for walls
Wisteria sinensis, often known as Chinese wisteria, blooms in the springtime before the leaves do. For example, Wisteria sinensis ‘Amethyst’ AGM has violet blue blooms with a reddish flush produced in dense racemes to 30cm (1ft) long in late spring or early summer. They twine anticlockwise and the racemes are shorter so they are best presented against a wall.
Silky wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys), which can be grown against walls or on pergolas, with downy leaves and small racemes of 10-15cm (4-6in). White flowers with center yellow markings, a strong perfume, and 10-15 cm tall sprays of wisteria brachybotrys f. albiflora ‘Shiro-kapitan’ AGM bloom in the spring and early summer.
If you want to cultivate a wisteria in a big container
It is best to choose Wisteria fructens ‘Amethyst Falls’ because of its compact habit and rich clusters of lilac-blue blooms.
Always choose a wisteria that has been developed from cuttings or by grafting when purchasing one because seed-raised wisterias flower less consistently and take longer to bloom. The graft union should be seen as a swelling close to the stem’s base. Unlike species, named cultivars are virtually always grafted. Purchase your wisteria in flower or go with a specific cultivar to avoid disappointment.
Wisterias are offered for sale as container-grown plants at garden centers and online, and you can use the RHS Find a Plant tool to locate particular cultivars.
Wisteria should ideally be planted between October and April. Wisterias grown in containers can be planted at any time of the year, but fall and winter are the easiest times to maintain. Give them healthy, well-drained soil to plant in.
Wisterias bloom best in full sun, so pick a wall or pergola that faces south or west. Although blossoming will be diminished, they will still grow in light shade.
Wisterias are robust climbers that can grow to a height and width of more than 10 meters (33 feet). You’ll need to give support in the form of wires, trellises, or outside buildings like pergolas or arches against a wall. Wisteria can also be grown up a support or taught up a tree to create a standard. A wisteria can be grown in a border or container by being trained into a standard, which reduces its vigor.
If you want to grow your wisteria in a container, you’ll need a sizable one that is at least 45 cm (18 in) in diameter and is filled with potting soil with a loam basis, like John Innes No. 3.
Use Growmore or Fish, Blood and Bone on your wisteria in the spring at the suggested rate listed on the packet. Additionally, apply sulphate of potash at a rate of 20g per sq m (1/2 oz per sq yard) on sandy soils (which have low potassium levels). Fertilizers for flowering shrubs or roses are another option.
Feed wisteria in containers using Miracle-Gro, Phostrogen, or another comparable flowering plant food. A different option is to add controlled-release fertilizer to the compost.
Although wisteria has a reputation for being challenging to prune, this is untrue. Once you’ve made it a habit to prune your wisteria twice a year, you should be rewarded with a pleasing flower show.
When you prune regularly, you reduce the excessive, whippy growth from July and August to five to six leaves, or roughly 30 cm (1ft). This increases the possibility of blossom buds budding and permits the wood to ripen. Then, in February, trim these shoots even more to two or three buds, or around 10 cm (4 in), to tidy up the plant before the growing season starts and make it possible to observe the new flowers.
When your juvenile wisteria has completely covered a wall or other garden structure, start the routine pruning to promote flowering.
Small gardens benefit greatly from the training of wisteria as a free-standing standard in a border or container.
Wisteria can be trained to ascend into a tiny tree’s canopy, however doing so could eventually harm the tree. Pruning will be challenging if the plant develops into a huge tree, and a dense leaf canopy will affect flowering.
Increase your wisteria stocks by layering in the summer, taking softwood cuttings in the spring to mid-summer, or taking hardwood cuttings in the winter since seed-raised wisteria can take up to 20 years to flower.
Wisteria is typically propagated via grafting in professional nurseries, however layering is the simplest and most dependable technique for home gardeners.
Established wisteria can produce hanging, bean-like seedpods after a lengthy summer. While wisteria plants grown from seeds are typically of inferior quality, you might want to try growing wisteria yourself.
- After the leaves have fallen, gather the seedpods and let them ripen in an open tray.
- When the seed is ready, twist open the pod and sow it 2 cm (3/4 in) deep in seed compost.
- Before planting if the seed is dry, soak it for 24 hours.
See our commonly asked questions page for a summary of wisteria issues.
Poor flowering is the most frequent issue for backyard gardeners, and it can be brought on by a variety of factors, such as:
- Young plants can take up to 20 years to flower, so acquire a plant that is already in bloom or go with a certain cultivar because they are typically grafted to avoid disappointment.
- Examine your pruning methods and timing because early and midsummer trimming will prevent the growth of flowers the next year.
- Wisteria flowers best in broad light; deep shadow produces few, if any, flowers.
- Water your wisteria during periods of drought from July to September because a lack of water during this time will influence the development of flower buds the next year.
- Flower buds may drop before opening as a result of spring frosts, which can harm or deform growing flowers.
- Applying sulphate of potash in the spring will encourage bloom production for the next year in soils that may lack potassium.
- The damage caused by pigeons or mice can be identified by torn petals or distinctive teeth marks.
A mature, seemingly robust wisteria will occasionally pass away and be replaced by a new, healthy branch emerging from the ground. Failure of the wisteria graft may be the reason of this.
Wisteria is sensitive to both of the fungi that cause phytophthora root rot and honey fungus, which are less frequent causes of failure.
Unusual brown blotches and marks on the leaves, typically with a yellow edge, may be a sign that a fungus has infected them. Viruses can also harm wisteria and powdery mildew.
Infestations of scale and, less frequently, wisteria scale can affect wisterias.
While we hope this information may be useful to you, we always advise reading the labels on your plants that provide care instructions.