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 habits 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’s advisable to purchase established wisteria plants or start from 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.
Which month is ideal for wisteria planting?
The best seasons to plant wisteria are spring or fall, and you should put it in full sunlight to ensure that you get to view its lovely blossoms. A wet, well-draining soil is ideal for wisteria.
Does wisteria require shelter or the sun?
The greatest way to utilize wisteria’s breathtaking beauty and incredible vitality is to grow it as a little tree, or standard. Long racemes of sweet-smelling May flowers hang down from soft, pruned leaf heads and sway slightly with each breeze. The compact head of a Tree Wisteria looks amazing in a mixed bed of perennials, bulbs, and annuals. The impression is beautiful and dignified.
Please be aware that wisterias typically take a while to emerge from dormancy after planting. Please be aware that your plant won’t start to leaf out until early summer. It will thereafter leaf out at the usual time in succeeding years (midspring).
Choosing a Location: Wisterias grow and flower most effectively in areas with plenty of sunlight, preferably at least 6 hours every day. They do well in any kind of soil as long as it drains well.
In order to plant your bareroot Wisteria, take off the packing and give the roots a few hours in a bucket of water. Then, dig a hole that is both large enough to permit the roots’ spread and deep enough to allow you to set the crown, or the location where the stem and roots converge, 1 inch below the soil’s surface. Insert the roots into the planting hole and arrange them naturally or like the spokes of a wheel. The roots of many woody plants are brittle, so use additional care when positioning them in the planting hole to prevent breaking them. With one hand holding the crown 1 inch below the soil’s surface, use the other to push soil into the hole while circling the roots to prevent air pockets from forming. Then, using both hands, compact the soil close to the crown. To create a basin, create a rim of earth around the perimeter of the planting hole. This basin is used to collect, hold, and direct water to the roots. Finally, thoroughly immerse the plant.
Please be aware that once bareroot plants are taken out of their packing, they dry up rapidly, especially on a sunny, windy day. Until you are ready to plant, we strongly advise that you keep the roots wrapped in wrapping material.
Staking: To keep their heads aloft in severe gusts, tree wisterias need additional support. After planting, drive the wooden stake that came with your tree 6 to 12 inches deep and 1/2 inch away from the plant’s trunk into the earth. Using the plastic tie tape that came with the tree, affix the trunk to the stake numerous times, spacing them apart by about 8 inches. You’ll need to swap out the original stake for a bigger wooden stake or a sturdy steel pipe as the head and trunk grow bigger. Check the tree every spring and autumn to ensure that the stake is securely in place and that the tie tape used to attach the trunk to the stake is not excessively tight and preventing the trunk from expanding. Plants need to be firmly staked at all times.
Watering and Fertilizing: To hasten wisterias’ establishment in the first year after planting, they require the equivalent of 1 inch of water each week. If the sky doesn’t provide enough moisture, water deeply once a week. Plants that are established only require irrigation during extended dry spells. Wisterias don’t need much, if any, fertilizing because too much fertilizer prevents blossom. Give plants a gentle feeding of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 at a rate of 3/4 cup per square yard in the early spring each year if your soil is particularly weak or sandy.
Overwintering: For the first few winters after planting, cover the main stem with a piece of plastic tubing in cold-winter conditions like ours here in Litchfield (Zone 5 [-20F]). To encircle the stem, make a straight incision from one end to the other and pry the cut open. (Precut tubing could be available at your nearby garden center.) To stop wind and frost from damaging branches on older specimens, cat’s-cradle bind the branches together using twine to form a web of intertwined strings.
Pruning: Tree Wisterias need to have the long, twining branches they generate in the summer pruned lightly but frequently in order to maintain the globe shape of the head. A couple of weeks prior to the first date of your first frost, they also require one severe pruning in late summer or early fall. Remove all branches that are in the wrong place and reduce the current season’s development to just 5 to 6 huge buds (leaving stubs that are about 6 inches long). This drastic haircut inhibits growth and promotes the transformation of some leaf buds into flower buds. Don’t let pruning errors keep you up at night. Wisterias are highly understanding plants; strong growth the following season will give you another chance.
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: