Wisteria

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Botanical name: Wisteria

Plant type: Shrub

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Flower color: Red, Blue, Purple, White

Bloom time: Spring

If your garden is an outdoor room, wisteria provides the drapery and slipcover—to camouflage a view or provide living shade over porch and pergola.

Something between a vine and a shrub, wisteria blooms vigorously in spring with showy, cascading flower clusters that provide quick-growing color.

However, note that it can take a good six years for a newly established wisteria to start flowering—sometimes longer!

The vine may grow 10 feet or more in one year! This gives the artful gardener a paintbrush with which to cover the landscape-canvas.  Wisteria is also beautifully fragrant providing a feast for the senses.

Note: Some types of wisteria are considered invasive pests; check with your local cooperative extension. All parts of this plant, especially the seeds, are poisonous.

Planting

  • Grow in fertile, moist but well-drained soil. 
  • Ensure placement has full Sun.  Though wisteria will grow in partial shade, it probably won't flower. Sun is essential.
  • If your soil is in poor condition, add compost; otherwise, wisteria will grow in most soils.
  • Plant in the spring or fall.
  • Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. Space plants 10 to 15 feet apart.
  • Choose a site that will not overwhelm nearby plants as wisteria grows quickly and can overtake other plants.

Care

  • Each spring, apply a layer of compost under the plant and a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • Some gardeners swear by phosphorus to aide flowering. Scratch a couple of cups of bone meal into the soil in the spring and then add some rock phosphate in the Fall.
  • Water your plants if you receive less than one inch of rain each week. (To know how much rain you are getting, you can place an empty tuna can outside and measure the depth of water with a measuring stick.)

Pruning Wisteria

  • Pruning is the secret to good flowering.
  • Prune wisteria in late winter. Remove at least half of the prior year's growth, leaving just a few buds per stem.
  • If you want a more formal appearance, prune again during summer after traditional flowering.
  • For more blooms, try cutting back the rampant shoots every two weeks during the summer.
  • Do you have a new wisteria? Cut the vine back severely right after planting. Then, the next year, cut the main stem or stems back to 3 feet of the previous season's growth. Once the framework is full size, shorten further extension growth in midsummer to where growth began for that season.
  • Informally grown, mature plants need little or no subsequent pruning.
  • For a formally trained plant, cut side shoots back to 6 inches in summer, then shorten them again in winter to 3 buds.
  • Wisteria will resprout with vigor if cut back severely, but this pruning should be avoided, if possible, because new shoots may take some years before they flower.

Pests

  • Dieback, crown gall, leaf spots, virus diseases, Japanese beetle, aphids, leaf miners, scale insects, and mealybugs can be problems.

Recommended Varieties

W. floribunda (Zones 5 to 9) of Japanese origin, is capable of growing 30 to 60 feet (and beyond in the South).

  • 'Honbeni' (syn. 'Honko') is one of our favorites, bearing clusters of pink flowers in late spring.
  • 'Alba' (syn. 'Shiro Noda') bears lovely clusters of pure-white clusters; it blooms in late spring.

W. macrostachya (Zones 4 to 9) or Kentucky wistera is a late-season bloomer. It climbs to about 25 feet.

  • 'Blue Moon' is an extra-hardy wisteria with silvery-blue clusters and blooms in late spring and often again in the summer.

Wit & Wisdom

Wisteria still not blooming? Some readers have sworn by this method: Take a shovel and drive it eight to ten inches into the ground about a foot and a half out from the trunk to slice into some of the roots. Damage about 1/2 of the roots and the bush will be shocked into reproduction. It is very difficult to hurt this rampantly-growing, unrestrained, often invasive plant.

Comments

Just curious

By Anonymous

If a Wisteria vine climbs a tree trunk, will it kill the tree? Also, when the Wisteria drops its seed pods, will each grow a new vine? I don't really want to climb 50 feet into a tree to collect the pods before they fall. Thanks.

Although some trees seem to

By Almanac Staff

Although some trees seem to handle it, wisteria can kill a tree that it climbs upon, either by blocking out the light or by girdling the trunk. The pods burst open when ripe, scattering seeds for several feet. Non-native wisteria (Chinese or Japanese wisteria) can be invasive, spreading by stolons/runners, as well as by seed. If you are concerned about the tree that has wisteria climbing on it, it is advisable to cut the wisteria vine off at the base, and keep removing any sprouts that reappear from the roots. The vines can survive for more than 50 years. If you’d like to grow a wisteria, choose a less-aggressive native type (such as Wisteria frutescens) rather than Chinese or Japanese wisteria, and train it on a trellis or arbor, rather than up a tree.

Wisteria stopped growing

By Lenny Brooklyn

I bought a 3 gal., flowering, Blue Moon wisteria, two years ago. Last year it grew seven feet, no flowers. This year it grew one foot, no flowers, and the top lateraled out some. It's on a pergola, four hrs. of sun and the rest bright light. I live in Montana.What happened? Help!

A wisteria needs at least 6

By Almanac Staff

A wisteria needs at least 6 hours direct sun, ideally, for best flowering. Other causes of poor flowering can be too much nitrogen fertilizer, improper pruning, or a severe cold that kills the flower buds. Poor growth might indicate improper soil pH; make sure that the soil is close to neutral, as that allows best uptake of nutrients. Diseases or pests may also cause stunted growth—take a look to make sure the leaves and trunk look healthy and that there are no signs of insects. Avoid soggy soil.

Wisteria poisonous to dogs and sheep?

By Anonymous

Want to plant some wisteria but am worried that it might be poisonous to my dogs and sheep if they try to eat it.

Yes, wisteria can be toxic.

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wisteria can be toxic. You were wise to check. See: http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants/wisteria

I'm in trouble...

By Anonymous

I did trimming for an elder lady, she has an old Wisteria from her mother and is in love with it. I cleaned off the fence line as it was twisting and wrapping around and grouping amongst other plants vines and up into the pine trees, pulling them down. Did I kill it? Will it come back? Crying in Michigan.

Here’s the good news and the

By Catherine Boeckmann

Here’s the good news and the bad news: It’s hard to kill a wisteria IN THE WAY THAT YOU’VE DESCRIBED. One of our editors cut hers down to the ground a couple of years ago. It’s back as big as ever. Wipe your tears and hang onto the shears.

Perfect Spot

By Anonymous

I planted a wisteria years ago and kept it trimmed up the trunk like a tree and kept the top trained to spread across the arbor. The roots are on the East side of the house but the top was in full sun. It must be perfect conditions as it was maintenance free and beautiful. My neighbor planted one and 10 years later it never did bloom.

wisteria

By Anonymous

this is the 2nd year i have had my wisteria- it has not bloomed yet and i have not done anything to it. its growing like crazy! but it has started coming in the top of my screened in back porch. nervous about it taking over . can i cut some it back now or do i need to wait til winter?

Pruning wisteria

By Almanac Staff

Yes, the vines can become a mess! Late summer and early fall is the perfect time to prune. Cut back the long, straggly laterals to within five or six buds of a main branch. You can prune again in late winter/early spring. Never prune wisteria when dormant.

Wisteria from cuttings

By debdayton

I cut some branches from my Wisteria and put them in a bucket of water wither starter. Will my branches root in the water?

Yes, you can propagate

By Almanac Staff

Yes, you can propagate wisteria from seeds or cuttings. Take cuttings of stem tips (new growth) from lateral (side) shoots of the plant in July. Cuttings root better if the plant is young and you're cutting from lateral stems (side shoots). Cut in early morning and have a dark plastic bag with wet paper towels ready to keep the cuttings moist. Cut about 4 to 6 inches in length with sharp pruning shears (or knife). Remove leaves form the lower one-third to one-half of the cutting. Insert the bottom third of your cutting into a rooting medium (mix of peat and perlite). Water the medium before and after inserting the cutting. Cover cuttings with plastic and place in indict light. Let the cutting grow and, once healthy, transplant into a container before it goes into a landscape.

Wisteria leaves turning yellow and have pinholes

By Anonymous

Hello, this is the first summer that I have the planted wisteria. It started very well in the sping and grew 5 feet. Then all of its leaves starting to turn yellow and got small pinholes all over it. Would anyone know what I must do?

It's unusual for wisteria to

By Almanac Staff

It's unusual for wisteria to be attacked by insects or plant disease. To see if you have mites or bugs, look under the leaves. Usually, insects can be managed with soap spray or horticultural oils. Take a hefty sample to your local cooperative extension for diagnosis. Also: do not overwater wisteria; it needs well-drained soil. And be sure your soil is neutral to alkaline soil. Yellow leaves can be a sign of iron deficiency and you may need to add acid (via peat moss, etc.).

Wisteria - where to plant in relation to supports

By Anonymous

We just built a cedar arbour…8 ft X 8 ft. square, and 9 ft high. It's well anchored 4 ft. into the ground with 6X6 posts on cement 4 ft. down.
Sunny spot.
I have a wisteria patiently waiting to be planted. (Basically reason for arbor) Right now it's in a huge container and looking for a place to climb !
My question is: How "far away from the posts" should I plant this young plant to offer nicest growth conditions and aesthetics. My hope is that I can train it to grow up at least one of the supports…preferably two.

-Paula

Wisteria-where to plant

By Almanac Staff

Plant the wisteria not too far from one of the supports. It will need to be close to start climbing. Dig the hole about 1 foot out from the post.

Fourth bloom this year(2012)

By Anonymous

It is July 18th in Saint Charles, MO. We have had 17 days of 95 + temps., yet my Wisteria has bloomed yet again....new blooms. I will need to move after 50 years here.............just lost my job. If anyone wants this beauty they are welcome to it......don't know if you can transplant??? It has grown to over 30' high
inside an adjacent Holly Tree.

River Birch base for Wisteria?

By terrywayne

I live in Pensacola, Florida and have a 25-30 foot triple base River Birch right next to the house in the front yard. I am considering cutting it to about 8 feet tall (yes, I figure it will kill the tree) and using it for a climbing base for Wisteria... is this plausable?

Yes, wisteria will grow up a

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wisteria will grow up a tree trunk. They love a strong trunk and thick lower branches so the flowers hang freely. We're wondering why you need to cut the tree down. You can help train the vine by hooking it against the branches you desire.

Sad Wisteria

By Anonymous

I have a potted wisteria who was doing really well. I went out of town for about ten days and it clearly did not get any water while I was away. The leaves are now dried and curled up. Anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to save my plant friend??

Thanks you.

Yes, wisteria dries out

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wisteria dries out quickly and does not like to be dry. Resume watering--and ensure your plant mix is fertile enough (1/3 soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 organic matter). To revive the plant, try adding some slow release fertilizer pellets or rotted manure and fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Make sure your container drains well so the roots don't stay wet and soggy.

Pea pods on my wisteria

By Anonymous

My wisteria flowers very nicely every year. After flowering, however, I am left with 50+ pea pods. Am I supposed to cut these off afterwards? or should I just leave them for next year?

You can tidy up your wisteria

By Almanac Staff

You can tidy up your wisteria by removing the pods with a pair of small pruning shears (secateurs) if you wish. However, don't cut the stems too far; there may be buds that will flower next spring. Leave an inch or two at the top. (You can also dry the pods and grow your own wisteria from seed!)

Pea pods on my wisteria

By Anonymous

My wisteria has a lot of the pea pods hanging on it. I was wondering what to do with them. Can the pods be taken off and dried and the seeds planted.

Wisteria pods

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wisteria is a legume! You can remove them with small pruning shears (be careful not to cut too far up the stem or you could remove buds). If you'd like to grow your own wisteria, you can collect the wisteria pods and dry them on a tray. Collect the pods after the leaves fall in autumn (so that they don't explode). Twist the pods open and plant the seeds about 1 inch deep in freely draining mix.

Yellow spots on leaves

By Anonymous

My new wisteria has yellow spots on the leaves. Any ideas?

It is most likely leaf spots.

By Almanac Staff

It is most likely leaf spots. These are dependent on the weather.

Some ways to help prevent leaf spots are to rake away dead leaves from underneath the plant, fertilize in the early Spring, proper pruning and fungicidal spray. We only recommend the spray in serious cases.

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

Vine dead with new bottom growth

By Anonymous

I have a beautiful established cine with a main trunk
That is about 5 " diameter . This year it never
Leafed out and I assumed it was dead. Now it has
Several new hardy shoots coming up from the bottom
Do I let these new shoots grow?

We recommend letting them

By Almanac Staff

We recommend letting them grow. Sometimes, it can take a few years for new wisteria shoots to flower.

Be mindful of your pruning!

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

Another question

By Anonymous

So I leave the old vine and let the new growth
Wind up around it?

Yes, leave the old vine for

By Almanac Staff

Yes, leave the old vine for now and let the new growth get established. You can prune the dead wood at a later date.

Planting in Pots??

By Anonymous

Can a wisteria be successfully planted in large patio pots to climb up over a patia cover? Is there any special care for overwintering (zone 5)?

Wisteria

By Almanac Staff

Luckily, wisteria is a natural vine - it tends to climb up about anything.

Also, wisteria doesn't need much protection for the winter. However, if you're concerned you can spread mulch around the plant to help protect it.

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

Wisteria color

By Anonymous

My wisteria flowers every year, but the purple color seems to be fading more each year. Is there a food to give it that will enhance it's color?

Wisteria

By Almanac Staff

Make sure the plant is located in full Sun. You can also try adding phosphorous to the soil, which will help the bloom, and maybe the color!

Thanks for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

Grasshopper ate leaves on wisteria plant

By Anonymous

This is the first year our wisteria bloomed and all of a sudden the leaves were stripped off on nearly the entire plant. All I found eating its leaves was one grasshopper. What can I spray this lovely plant with and will it get more blooms this year. mzroper@yahoo.com live in Baldwin MI

Pea pod on Wisteria

By Anonymous

My wisteria has a few pea like hanging in and I wondered what they were, what they do and if they are eidble.

Wisteria

By Almanac Staff

Never eat wisteria! The plant is very poisonous.

Thanks for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

no

By Anonymous

on the page it said poisonous

I got a wisteria in a pot

By Anonymous

I got a wisteria in a pot late last summer - it bloomed twice, still in pot (can't figure out where to plant and it's in full bloom again and has been in partial sun to shade. No I'm afraid if I plant it it wont bloom and really don't have any full sun spots where it can climb. Any suggestions?

wisteria

By Anonymous

When I bought my wisteria it basically looked like a stick stuck in a bag full of soil, when I went to plant it I took it out of the bag and there was no root ball, bulb or anything of that sort, it was just a stick in dirt, is this normal? I planted it. I don't know why because it makes no sense that it would grow without roots or seeds. Are they sold like that?

Yes, wisteria might first

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wisteria might first appear as a long stick! Plant immediately and you should see growth soon--buds, leaves. Hope planting instructions were included.

Stick the stick? In the ground?

By Anonymous

Yes, mine too looked like a stick (that came out of the bag)....I planted the dirt? Should I stick the stick back in the dirt also? (Or is there something in the soil????) I am confused.

Yes, plant in the ground.

By Almanac Staff

Yes, plant in the ground. Pick a site that's 2 to 3 feet in diameter and 18 to 24 inches deep -- with full sun and deep, moist soil. They prefer a neutral to slightly acid soil pH of 6.0-7.0. Some type of support will be needed. Prepare the soil by mixing in some compost or well-rotted manure. Place the roots into the hole and fill with the mix of soil and compost. Water well. Make sure your plants gets 1 inch of water per week (through rainfall or irrigation).

Wisteria not Blooming

By Cindy Clark

I have a wisteria and for the first 5 or so years after planting it, it grew, but never bloomed. I read an article just by chance that said to cut it back. I cut it back in the fall and the following spring it bloomed and has been blooming twice a year ever since. Cutting it back was the ticket.

Wisteria

By Jean Mccarthy

strange but true - a nursery person advised me to wack my wisteria plant with a shovel at the end of the planting season (really hard) and low and behld ever since it has been blooming like crazy (guess it didn't want me to hit it again) honest - this is for real - I live in Famington, CT - hope this helps

Wacking your plant!!!

By Anonymous

Where did yiu wack the plant? At the trunk, the top?

The root circle. Go several

By Almanac Staff

The root circle. Go several feet from the trunk. Take a straight-edged shovel and drive it into the ground with about 4 staggered cuts. It causes stress to the plant and sometimes "wakes" it up.

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