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.
Where shouldn’t wisteria be grown?
In order to support the massive vine, the wisteria’s root system extends out widely and dives deep. Do wisteria roots exhibit aggression? Yes, wisteria’s root system is highly aggressive. Avoid planting wisteria next to walls or walkways because of its extensive and strong root system. These are easily harmed by a wisteria’s root system.
Experts advise inserting a corrugated panel about 6 feet (1.8 m) long and several feet (1 m) broad beside the plant to redirect the roots if you find a wisteria close to a building or pathway.
Where should a wisteria be planted?
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.
Is it necessary to put wisteria in the ground?
Wisteria can be grown against a house wall or another robust building, like a sturdy pergola. Wisteria can be grown in a container, but only if done so as a conventional tree and with regular trimming to keep its shape. This is a highly labor-intensive option.
How to plant wisteria
Wisteria can be planted in spring or fall. Plant at the same level as it was in the original pot and water in thoroughly after thoroughly preparing the soil to guarantee a proper root run. Like an espalier fruit tree, tie the stems to horizontal galvanized wires connected to the wall. Remove all but one stem if it is climbing a pergola, and tie this stem to the post.
How to plant wisteria in a pot
Wisterias can be planted in pots, but because they are hungry plants, you will need to feed them frequently. Choose this option only if you’re training your wisteria to be a standard. Use a quality tree and shrub compost and the biggest pot you can fit. Plant at the same height as it was in the first pot and give it plenty of water.
How to care for wisteria
The wisteria plant is ravenous. During the growing season, fertilize once a month with a high potash fertilizer to promote greater flower blooming. Weekly wisteria fertilizer and watering. Use organic mulch in the fall, such as well-rotted horse dung or homemade compost, to protect your plants.
How and when to prune wisteria
Wisteria should be pruned twice a year in August and February. Focus on integrating the plant into the support throughout the first few years. This entails cutting back side shoots to five buds in early August, training in strong side shoots, and removing very low branches.
How to prune wisteria in summer
Wisteria that is pruned in the summer will produce short spurs that will transport the spring blossoms.
- Cut the long, robust shoots back from the base of the current season’s growth to a few buds.
- Choose a few sturdy shoots from young plants (less than three years old) to tie to wires or a trellis.
- Simply cut back side shoots on older wisterias to the base of your strong shoots.
Expert David Hurrion demonstrates how to prune wisteria in the summer in this little video. He demonstrates which stems to cut and how much to remove precisely:
How to prune wisteria in winter
By pruning both in winter and in the summer, you can promote the growth of the short spurs that bear the spring blooms. Anytime between late October and March is the dormant season, so do this.
- Connect fresh growth to the main structure to increase its support
- Cut back the remaining long stems sharply.
David Hurrion demonstrates how to control robust, leafy growth so it doesn’t cover budding flower buds in this video on winter-pruning wisteria:
How to propagate wisteria
Few gardeners cultivate wisteria; most opt to purchase a plant instead because it can take up to 20 years for a wisteria to bloom from a cutting. However, take softwood cuttings in the middle of April if you’re up for a battle.
- Young stems should be cut into lengths and trimmed to 10 cm, just below a leaf joint.
- Leave roughly four leaves at the top of each cutting after removing the lower ones.
- Fill pots with cutting compost, then fill them with water and let the water drain.
- Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag after inserting them into the pots so the leaves don’t contact.
- Make sure the cuttings are kept moist by keeping them in a well-lit area.
- Remove the bag and pot after growth is visible.
Growing wisteria: problem solving
Lack of blossoms is the most frequent issue wisteria gardeners encounter. Expecting blooms before the plant is four years old may be impractical because wisterias take their time to bloom.
David Hurrion provides tips on where to plant your wisteria, how to prune it, and how to feed it to get the most blossoms here.
Will wisteria damage my foundations?
In the spring, a house covered in wisteria looks magnificent. Can the roots harm your foundations, though? In our Quick Tips video, Catherine Mansley from BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine explains: