Wisteria is a genus with 810 species of twining, often woody vines in the pea family. Wisteria is also written wistaria (Fabaceae). Wisterias are mostly native to Asia and North America, but they are also commonly cultivated in other parts of the world because of their attractive growth patterns and gorgeous, profusion of blossoms. The plants are invasive species in some areas outside of their natural range where they have escaped cultivation.
The majority of plants can withstand low soils and grow large and quickly. The alternating leaves have up to 19 pinnately complex (feather-shaped) leaflets. The blooms, which are blue, purple, rose, or white, are borne in prodigious, drooping clusters. The deadly seeds are carried by long, slender legumes. The plants are typically grown from cuttings or grafts because they typically take many years to begin blooming.
Where can you find wisteria?
In the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family of flowering plants, the genus Wisteria contains eleven species of woody twining vines that are native to China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Southern Canada, the Eastern United States, and northern Iran. Later, they were imported to France, Germany, and a number of other European nations. Some species are common houseplants.
The aqueous flowering plant, Hygrophila difformis, belongs to the Acanthaceae family and is more often known as wisteria or “water wisteria.”
Where can you find wisteria in the US?
It makes sense to use native plants in the garden. This is so because local plants are better suited to the area and require less specific maintenance. If they do manage to escape domestication, they won’t harm the wild flora either. One such native plant is American wisteria. American wisteria – what is it? It is a sociable neighborhood vine with charming blue flowers that can fit perfectly in your garden.
The southeastern states are home to American wisteria. It mostly grows in damp bottomlands, including swamps, near rivers, and in flood plains. It may grow as a cultivated plant in USDA zones 5 to 9.
The deciduous vine can reach a height of 30 feet (9 m.). The beautiful pinnate leaves on this rambling beauty are separated into 9 to 15 leaflets. The attractive dangling clusters of pea-like blooms, which are occasionally creamy white but more often blue or violet, dangle from the stems. Compared to the Chinese variety, it is a more regulated plant with velvety pods that offer seasonal interest.
Wisteria is either Japanese or Chinese.
Wisteria usually grows around historic homes. Chinese wisteria and Japanese wisteria are the two wisteria species that have escaped into the eastern United States. When wisteria becomes established, it can be challenging to get rid of it and can cling to trees and plants in the area for years. In the landscape, they can kill or alter desirable trees.
There are some recognizable vegetative differences between Chinese and Japanese wisterias. Japanese wisteria twines clockwise, whilst Chinese wisteria twines the opposite direction. Japanese wisteria leaves typically have 11 leaflets, but Chinese wisteria leaves can have up to 713 leaflets. Positive identification, however, can be challenging due to some overlap in leaflet traits and the existence of hybrids (Wisteria x formosa Rehd.).
Pinnately complex leaves are typically alternately placed on the stems of wisterias. Leaflets are typically 14 inches long and elliptic to ovate in form. Chinese and Japanese wisterias are high-climbing vines that can grow up to 70 to 80 feet in height, but American wisteria [Wisteriafrutescens (L.) Poir.] only reaches 1525 feet. In Sierra Madre, California, a Chinese wisteria set a record by having a stem length of more than 450 feet. Chinese and Japanese wisterias are typically only constrained by the structure they are supported by. Wisteria stems (vines) tightly wrap around living supports like trees, gradually killing them. The bark on the stems is light brown or tan and relatively smooth. There are produced both lateral and vertical stems. Rooting along the length of the plant, lateral stems normally get more tense with age. Either stem type’s removal can be challenging.
Flowering and Seeds
Before the leaves appear, the Chinese and Japanese wisterias blossom in the spring. Hanging clusters of fragrant flowers with white, violet, or purple petals are produced. A densely hairy (velvety pubescent) legume (seedpod) that has one to four seeds develops from flowers.
Wisteria spreads sexually by seed or vegetatively through stem growth. Since the fruit is deadly, wildlife does not likely spread it frequently. Most likely, infestations in most regions of the United States were made possible by intentional planting as an ornamental for landscape purposes.
Fence rows, woodlands, and other landscape features may be affected by wisterias. The surrounding vegetation is replaced by the dense thickets that wisteria develops. These thickets may provide as a habitat for some animals, but they are a formidable barrier to both animal and human activities.
Although there are allegedly many Chinese and Japanese wisterias in the eastern United States, the presence of fertile hybrids may jeopardize the current species range. In the United States, American wisteria can be found from Massachusetts to Michigan and south to Florida and Texas. All are grown, notably hybrids of Chinese and Japanese wisterias. The Midsouth is covered in wisteria. American wisteria grows in and around marshes and is typically less aggressive.
Since there aren’t many labeled advice for controlling wisteria, more research is required. For suggested chemical applications, see Table 1. These herbicides can be used as foliar, frill, basal bark, cut stump, or soil treatments, among other ways of application. With frill, sometimes known as hack and squirt, an incision in the bark must be made every 2 inches all the way around the woody stem. The herbicide is then sprayed into these apertures. The lower 1824 inches of the entire plant trunk are sprayed with a bark-penetrating adjuvant to apply basal bark treatments. When applied right before bud break, these treatments are most effective on trunks with a diameter of less than 4 inches. After cutting the main stem, applications are performed to the cut stump. To stop the remaining stump from resprouting, spray herbicide on it slightly inside the bark. A nonionic surfactant must also be used in all foliar and basal bark applications at a rate of 3264 ounces per 100 gallons of spray solution. Applications done within two times the dripline of attractive trees may result in harm or death because picloram is absorbed by tree roots. Several desirable trees can be sprayed with clopyralid, making it an excellent option for treating wisteria-draped trees.
Although mechanical controls are an option, they are frequently pricy and labor-intensive. Climbing stems create lateral stems (vines) at their base, which can spread far from the original plant. Climbing vines can encircle trees and shrubs in a tight web that makes removal challenging. Young branches can be pruned by snapping them, but older vines must be clipped.
How did the Chinese wisteria reach the United States?
According to a 1920 report, a wisteria vine in Ushijima, Japan, had a 32-foot circumference and produced more than 80,000 blossom trusses. In America’s wild areas, where it grows unaided, Asian wisteria is also becoming a problem. Why then do thousands of these vines that are growing on people’s houses all over America obstinately refuse to bloom?
The history of contemporary Asia and Western plant hunters’ restricted access are the key factors. China and Japan were off-limits to Westerners until the late 18th century, with a few exceptions. Before 1812, when a limited number of English agents came only for trade, Chinese Wisteria sinensis was unknown. Wisteria floribunda, a Japanese shrub, was ultimately introduced to the West by plant explorers in 1830.
Only seeds were exported from China and Japan during these early years. The first plants in the West were raised from these seeds, and many modern plants descended from that original stock.
Many plants that are developed from seeds have a genetic makeup that makes their progeny susceptible to a variety of traits. While the average flowering time for wisteria cultivated from seeds is between eight and ten years after germination, some plants may take up to twenty years to bloom. Both the original Asian wisteria seeds that were exported and their progeny have similar variations. Wisteria growing was a cottage enterprise with minimal parental control until the modern American nursery was created.
With seedlings, the issue is that it takes at least 10 years to determine whether you have a 20-year bloomer. This explains why so many gardeners struggle to get along with their difficult plants.
The most typical remedy is to shock the plant into flowering. It is recognized that stressing out the plant by removing its roots activates a survival mechanism. It makes a brave attempt to propagate itself by blossoming and setting seed before death since it believes that its life is about to expire. Although shocking won’t harm the tree or vine, it is nevertheless obviously unhealthy because it severes essential feeder roots.
Plant hunters went back to the Far East to investigate why the early seedlings in Europe did not produce like their parents years later. They came to the conclusion that layering, a technique comparable to taking a cutting that is used to propagate vines, had been utilized to start many of the heavy, early-flowering Asian plants.
Plant collectors this time around sent rooted cuttings of the best Chinese and Japanese plants home. They were guaranteed an early and abundant bloom because they were derived from venerable plants found at historic sites, temples, and ancient palaces. These served as the foundation for the branded cultivars that guarantee you will receive high-performing plants. Wisteria sold under the cultivar names W. sinensis and W. floribunda may be seedlings with no assurances regarding bloom age. However, you can tell that W. floribunda is genetically identical to its heavy-blooming precursor when it is followed by “Texas Purple” or “Violacea Plena.”
It’s possible that layering was used to reproduce the designated cultivars from the parent. It could also be a cutting grafted onto a wisteria rootstock that is a seedling. The grafted scion will revert to the seedling rootstock if it dies at any point. This dubious flowering seedling may also be suckers formed below the graft. An outdated, underperforming wisteria top may be grafted to create named varieties later on.
Wisteria varieties available now come in white, Chinese, or Japanese colors. Big Johnny, Longissima, Issai Perfect, Purple No. 1, Cooke’s Purple, and Purple No. 9 are additional well-known varieties to look for.
Does Florida have wisteria?
In the lush gardens of the Southeast of the United States, wisteria has grown to be rather iconic. Since the flowers bloom in fragrant clusters of light purple to white along roadside and up the sides of houses in the spring, it is simple to find. However, wisteria doesn’t always look as it does.
: Wisteria is in the pea/bean family.
About five to seven species of woody, deciduous vines belonging to the Fabaceae (pea/bean) family make up the genus Wisteria. The third-largest family of flowering plants, Fabaceae contains over 19,500 species.
: Many wisteria plants you see are invasive in Florida.
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda), two Asian species that were brought to American horticulture in the early 19th century and are now considered invasive, have escaped into natural areas. The most popular variety of wisteria grown in Florida and other Southeastern states is Chinese wisteria, while Japanese wisteria is also present.
Many of the invasive plants resemble Wisteriaformosa, a hybrid of Chinese and Japanese wisteria.
Chinese and Japanese wisteria are both invasive and not advised in any part of Florida, according to the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.
: There is a native species of wisteria.
A Florida-friendly substitute is American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens). Individual blooms on stalks less than 1 cm tall, shorter (5–10 cm long), denser flower clusters, and hairless pods are characteristics of American wisteria.
In contrast, Chinese and Japanese wisteria often have pods that are densely hairy, individual blooms that are carried on stalks 1.5 to 2 cm tall, and longer flower clusters (up to 50 cm long). While Japanese and American wisteria bloom from April to June in northern Florida, Chinese wisteria often blooms in late March to early April (before the leaves have fully opened).
: American wisteria is a host plant to native butterflies and moths.
Native plants promote regional biodiversity, which is another justification for picking American wisteria. Wisteria frutescens serves as a host plant for several species of butterflies and moths, including:
- Skipper with a long tail (Urbanus proteus)
- Skipper with a silver spot (Epargyreus clarus)
- navy blue (Leptotes marina)
- Dusky zarucco wing (Erynnis zarucco)
- Moth Cuphodes wisteriae
- Moth Io (Automeris io)
- enduring bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis)
- Canine borer moth (Synanthedon scitula)
- Moth of Limacodid (Acharia stimulea)
- a licorice twig borer moth (Ecdytolopha insiticiana)
- The duskywing of Horace (Erynnis horatius)
- Monarch moth (Hyalophora cecropia)
- Sphinx moth with blinders (Paonias excaecatus)
- Black-and-white tussock moth (Orgya leucostigma)
- Autumn webworm (Hyphantria cunea)
: Wisteria is a toxic plant.
Although wisteria blooms can be eaten in moderation, the rest of the plant is thought to be poisonous to both people and animals and contains a number of chemicals that can seriously upset the stomach. The seeds and pods contain the highest concentration of poisons.
This serves as a reminder that you should *never* eat a plant unless you are confident of its identify and that it is safe to eat.
Large flower clusters are found on longer stems on Chinese wisteria, or Wisteria sinensis.
Florida is home to an invasive species called Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), which blooms from April to June.
An acceptable substitute for the invasive species of wisteria in Florida is American wisteria.
Flowers on the Chinese and Japanese wisteria range in color from purple to white to pink.
Why is wisteria used?
In the majority of cultures where the plants are native, wisteria is a symbol of romance. The Wister flower, in particular in Korea, symbolizes affection that endures after death. Wisteria is seen by the Japanese as a sign of prosperity, longevity, and good fortune.
Where does wisteria grow?
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.