How to grow wisteria – Bob Vila


Wisteria, with its typically purple flower cluster-like clusters, is often identified with the South. However, hardy wisteria varieties such as ‘Blue Moon’ can grow as far north as USDA zones 3 or 4, although late frosts can freeze flower buds there.

Of course, advice on how to grow wisteria would not be complete without the warning that it is a vigorous vine, which can grow 10 feet or more per year, and should therefore be kept where it cannot strangle other garden plants. If possible, choose native types of wisteria over Chinese wisteria, as the latter are particularly invasive and listed as “noxious weeds” in some states.

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Wisteria cultivation at a glance

Common name: Wisteria
Scientific name: Glycine spp.
hardiness zone: Varies according to species
Floor: Slightly acidic, moderately fertile, well drained
Light: Full to partial sun
Water: Medium
Food: Fertilizer rich in phosphorus
Spread: layering, cuttings or seeds
Security: Toxic

Characteristics of wisteria

how to grow wisteria


Climbing wisteria vines can grow 20 to 100 feet in length—or as far as they’re allowed to spread—and survive for 50 years or more. In spring or early summer, they produce pinnate leaves and clusters of sweet pea-like flower clusters. Wisteria colors are most commonly shades of purple, but they can also be white, pink, or red. Their scent has been compared to that of grape chewing gum.

Chinese wisteria flowers appear in mid to late spring before the vine sloughs off, while Japanese and Native American types wait to occur until the foliage emerges in late spring to early spring as well. the summer. On Chinese cultivars, all the flowers in a cluster open at once, while on most other varieties they open gradually, starting with a wisteria flower at the top of the cluster. The vines of Japanese cultivars wind clockwise around supports, while most other types of wisteria grow counter-clockwise.

  • American wisteria (Glycine frutescens): This native variety grows up to 30 feet long, and is a larval host plant for skipper butterflies in USDA zones 5 through 9. Cultivars such as ‘Amethyst Falls’ produce flower clusters up to 5 inches long.
  • Chinese wisteria (Glycine sinensis): Once the most widely grown purple wisteria in USDA zones 5 through 8, it is now considered too invasive. This variety offers nearly a foot long clusters of purple or white flowers on vines that can reach 100 feet if left unchecked.
  • Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda): This oriental variety can climb at least 60 feet in USDA zones 4 through 9, with fragrant purple, white, pink, or red flowers in 18-inch clusters.
  • Kentucky wisteria (Glycine macrostachya): The hardiest type, this wisteria native to the United States grows up to 25 feet with flower clusters up to 12 inches long in USDA zones 3 through 9, with some cultivars, such as ‘Blue Moon’ , providing repeated flowering.
  • Silky Wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys): Another Japanese variety, this white wisteria is easier to control than floribunda, reaching about 20 feet in USDA zones 5 to 9, with silky leaves and fragrant flowers in 4 to 6 inch clusters that appear in early summer and maybe even in the fall.

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how to grow wisteria


Plant wisteria

If possible, buy a plant that has already flowered, proving that it is mature enough to do so. Make sure it is a grafted or cutting plant, as seedlings can take 5-20 years to flower.

When is the best time to plant wisteria?

Install a wisteria plant while it is still dormant in the spring or after it has gone dormant in the fall, keeping in mind that spring planting of perennials is generally safer in northern areas. Be sure to select an area with the proper growing conditions for wisteria, as the plant does not like to be moved once it is established.

Where can wisteria grow?

Choose a location where the soil is slightly acidic, well-drained and only moderately fertile – too much nitrogen can promote vigorous foliage growth at the expense of flowers. The planting site should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, preferably more, and include some support, such as an arbor, pergola roof, or horizontal wires over which the wisteria can spread about 10 feet from its base. .

How to plant wisteria?

Be sure to plant your wisteria vine where there is no chance of it escaping into the wild, as it can be very invasive.

  1. After you have watered your wisteria plant well, take it out of its container.
  2. Dig a hole the same depth as the plant’s root ball and three times as wide as this ball near the base of a post or other vertical support.
  3. If you plan to install more than one wisteria vine, place them at least 10 feet apart.
  4. Place the crown of your wisteria at the same level it grew in its container, unless it is a grafted plant, in which case the graft should be an inch below ground.

Can you grow wisteria in containers?

Any of the smaller wisteria, like the American species, should be able to grow in a container, provided it has some type of trellis to support the wisteria in or near the container. However, if you plan to leave this container outside – which will likely be necessary since dormant outdoor plants through the winter don’t make good houseplants – your wisteria should be listed as at least hardy. two zones north of your own zone to be able to survive surface conditions.

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Water the wisteria

A wisteria plant will need an average amount of water, about 1 inch per week, to thrive. If your climate does not provide enough moisture for growing wisteria, you may need to provide the equivalent yourself via irrigation or a watering can.

Mulch the plant with a few inches of chopped bark so that the soil retains some moisture at all times. However, avoid overwatering it, which will encourage the type of lush foliage growth that is thought to inhibit flowering.

how to grow wisteria


Fertilize Wisteria

Wisteria plants usually grow fairly quickly without supplemental feeding and can acquire all the nutrients they need from the soil; container-grown plants could use a boost. If you must fertilize your wisteria, do so only once a year in the spring and use a type of high phosphorus fertilizer, such as a bloom booster rose fertilizer, instead of a high phosphorus fertilizer. nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can cause the plant to put all of its energy into producing too much foliage and “distracting” it from flowering.

Cut the wisteria

Prune the wisteria after it blooms in summer. Shorten the shoots to about 6 inches so that each contains only two or three buds.

To turn a wisteria vine into a tree, plant it next to a stake and train a single shoot on the stake like a trunk, removing all other shoots. The following year, cut the top of the trunk at the top of the stake to force the tree to branch there. These wisteria will require constant shaping.

Propagate wisteria

A mature wisteria vine will root wherever it touches the ground. So the easiest way to get a new plant is to pin a shoot to a bare patch of soil in a process called layering.

When considering growing wisteria from seed, keep in mind that a seedling typically takes 5-20 years to grow into a vine capable of flowering. If you still want to try germination, soak the seeds overnight before sowing them ½ inch deep. Keep their container at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit until you see sprouts, which often takes 30 days or more.

how to grow wisteria


Security Considerations

Make sure the wisteria structures you plant your vines on, such as pergolas or porch roofs, have strong supports. Vines can become very heavy over the years, so much so that they can buckle poles that aren’t strong enough to support all that weight.

These vines are also toxic to people, pets and horses. The pods and seeds – which make popping noises when opened – are said to be the most poisonous part of wisteria. It is therefore a good idea to remove them as soon as they appear, so that the children are not tempted to taste the “beans”.

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Potential pests and diseases

Being such vigorous vines, wisteria rarely suffer from pests and diseases, so their most reproached problem is sterility, the refusal to bear flowers. This tends to happen the most with Chinese wisteria, as it takes longer to reach maturity than native varieties.

If a wisteria refuses to work, even after receiving the fertilization and pruning specified above, try fall root pruning. To do this, use a shovel to “draw” a circle a few feet from the trunk of the vine, then plunge the blade of the shovel at least 10 inches into the ground around the perimeter of that circle. Root pruning puts the plant into survival mode and increases flower (and therefore seed) production.

how to grow wisteria


Preparing wisteria for winter

If you’re gardening in a northern state, it’s a good idea to plant a wisteria against a building wall. It’s not really about protecting the plant – which will usually survive the winter without a problem if it has enough mulch – but about protecting its flower buds from late spring frosts. Be careful, however, that the vines do not sink under the facing.

If your wisteria is growing in a pot, once the plant has gone dormant in the fall, move the pot to an unheated shed or garage for the winter, making sure its soil stays moist during this time.

Looking for more climbing plants? Check out our articles on growing flowering vines, vines and vegetable vines.

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