Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Plant of the Week: Wisteria

Search

Plant of the Week: Wisteria

April 8, 2018

The charms of wisteria are almost impossible to resist. Lounging languorously over a fence or pergola, the perennial flowering vine will beckon to you with her heady perfume. Before you know it, her nodding, pendulous blooms have hypnotized you. Soon you are rushing to the nearest garden center, determined to own her, but be warned. This climber has a mind of her own.

Welcome to Throwback Sundays: Readers’ Favorite Posts from the Past

You are not the first to succumb. Marco Polo was an early conquest. He brought wisteria seeds out of China in the 13th century. But you would be wise to take the time to get to know this beauty before you commit to her. Like a Jezebel, she will steal your heart and then, after you are weakened and besotted with love, she will set about to dominate your garden and, if possible, your house. Take this caveat to heart: She is fully capable of attempting to murder your other plants.

Read on for tips to grow and care for wisteria without letting it take over your garden (or your life).

Wisteria on a Balcony

For more, see Radical Urban Gardens from Antwerp. Photograph by Bart Kiggen.
Above: For more, see Radical Urban Gardens from Antwerp. Photograph by Bart Kiggen.

Wisteria’s background is actually quite innocent. Wisteria is a genus of about 10 species of woody, deciduous twining vines. Eight are Asian and include W. floribunda from Japan, and W. senensis from China. W. frutescens, the often less fragrant and floriferous American type, is a native vine and often recommended as an alternative to the Asian varieties which are on the USDA list of invasive plants.

Wisteria on a Pergola

In flower, in a Brooklyn garden by designer Kim Hoyt, a member of the Remodelista Architects and Designers Directory. For more of this garden, see The Garden Designer Is In: Kim Hoyt in Brooklyn.
Above: In flower, in a Brooklyn garden by designer Kim Hoyt, a member of the Remodelista Architects and Designers Directory. For more of this garden, see The Garden Designer Is In: Kim Hoyt in Brooklyn.

Wisteria owes its ability to twine readily around a support to the fact that it is a member of the Fabaceae or legume family. Along with its gorgeous flowers, this vine produces large seed pods. In the early 1800s, collectors imported seed from China and Japan to the US and Britain. However, plants grown from the seed produced disappointing flowers. When plant collectors later brought home cuttings made from layering or grafting, the plant thrived and bloomed abundantly like its predecessors in Asia.

Wisteria on a Railing

Wisteria trained on a stoop&#8
Above: Wisteria trained on a stoop’s railing in Brooklyn. For more, see 9 Ways to Create Curb Appeal with a Flowering Vine. Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

If you have plenty of sun, lots of room and a very sturdy support, this is not a difficult plant to grow. It is hardy to zone 5 and likes good drainage and a slightly alkaline soil. It thrives in a spot protected from strong winds and needs plenty of water when it is in bloom. Avoid feeding with high-nitrogen fertilizer as legumes fix their own nitrogen and adding more will reduce flowering.

Wisteria at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Photograph by Jeanne Rostaing.
Above: Photograph by Jeanne Rostaing.

Plan to enjoy your wisteria for a long time. Plants in China have been known to live 250 years. And here in Brooklyn, the vines in the Cranford Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are thought to be about 100 years old. A glance at their massive, gnarled woody trunks would seem to prove that point.

Buy yourself a heavy duty pair of pruning shears because, if you do plant this climber, you will need to become a virtuoso pruner.

Wisteria Fabric Dye

Photograph by Sasha Duerr.
Above: Photograph by Sasha Duerr.

See a simple technique to dye fabric at DIY: Make a Natural Dye from Wisteria.

Wisteria Floral Arrangement

For more, see Mysterious Wisteria: An Irresistible Flower Goes from Vine to Vase. Photograph by Mimi Giboin.
Above: For more, see Mysterious Wisteria: An Irresistible Flower Goes from Vine to Vase. Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

What to do with an armload of wisteria vines? We tamed them with clippers, an X-Acto knife, and a vase from Ikea.

For more of landscape architect Edmund Hollander&#8
Above: For more of landscape architect Edmund Hollander’s work, see Required Reading: The Private Oasis.

See more tips and design ideas for growing wisteria in Wisteria: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design, and discover more of our favorite (and perhaps better behaved) plants in Vines & Climbers 101, including Creeping Fig 101 and Bougainvillea 101. For more flowering vines we love, see:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for wisteria with our Wisteria: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various vines and climbers with our Vines & Climbers: A Field Guide.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

From our network