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Growing Wisteria

Few plants can rival the dramatic spring beauty of a wisteria vine in full bloom. Despite the showy flowers and delightful scent, wisteria plants have acquired a reputation for being difficult to grow. Don't be fooled. With the right growing conditions and some occasional pruning, wisteria is a beautiful, fast growing vine - and a worthwhile addition to nearly any garden.

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Plant Characteristics

Popular for their long, hanging clusters of violet flowers, there are around a dozen wisteria species available to gardeners, including two native to North America. The most common types grown are the Asian species Japanese wisteria (W. floribunda), and Chinese wisteria (W. sinensis).

Japanese wisteria tends to have more vibrant color blooms and Chinese wisteria a sweeter scent. Both species need a large amount of growing space and look very similar in appearance. You can tell the difference between the two by the way they climb. The stems of Japanese wisteria twine around supports in a clockwise direction, while the stems of Chinese wisteria twine in a counterclockwise direction.

The Best Zones for Wisteria

Wisteria grows best in zones 3 to 9. Not all varieties are suited to all zones, however, so check carefully to make sure the wisteria you choose is a proven performer where you live. If you lack space (or the ability to erect a sturdy support structure), the smaller American forms of the vine, such as Kentucky wisteria (W. macrostachya) or American wisteria (W. frutescens) don't grow as quickly and can be good substitutes for smaller gardens.

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Where to Grow Wisteria

Wisteria will grow in partial shade and marginal soils but performs best in sunny locations (6 or more hours per day) and in moist, fertile soils that drain well. Wisteria needs a large amount of growing space. These plants are vigorous climbers (growing 10 feet or more annually) and are easily capable of climbing to heights of 25 feet.

Once established, the Asian species can become invasive and difficult to get rid of - especially in the east. To help restrain the plant's spreading root system, wisteria can be planted in large containers buried in the ground.

Planting Wisteria

  1. To plant wisteria, work the soil deeply (18 to 24 inches) around the hole where the vine will be planted.
  2. Mix a couple handfuls of compost or well-rotted manure in with the original soil.
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  3. Set the plant on the ground at the same height it was growing in the pot.
  4. Water in well and add a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant.
  5. Keep your newly planted wisteria watered well for several weeks after planting to allow it to become established.

Pruning Wisteria

Wisteria needs to be pruned a minimum of twice yearly to keep plants tidy and promote flowering.

  • 1st-Summer Pruning (just after flowering): Cut off the tips of all of the side shoots as well as the tips of any new growth. Also, remove any suckers that appear at the base of the plant.
  • 2nd-Late Winter Pruning: Cut the main stems back by about half. You may also shorten side shoots slightly; cut them back to only a couple of inches from where you see the flowering spurs (little pegs).
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Training Wisteria

You never have to worry about over-building supports for wisteria. Mature vines are heavy and will require ample support. To train young plants to grow on a trellis or arbor, choose an upright stem to serve as the leader and secure this to the support. You can then remove some of the side shoots and train the remaining shoots to grow horizontally across the supports, or simply let them all twine across the supports naturally. Pinch off the main leader when it reaches the desired height.

Five Reasons Wisteria Fail to Bloom

One of the more frustrating aspects of growing wisteria is waiting for them to reach maturity and then watching them fail to bloom. Here are five common reasons wisteria fail to produce flowers:

  1. Immature plants. Depending on whether you are starting new plants from seeds, cuttings, or young nursery stock, it can take 5, 10, or even 15 years or more before wisteria start to produce flowers. Start with grafted plants or those grown from cuttings that are known to have flowered relatively young. These plants usually flower much sooner than those grown from seed.

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  3. Too much nitrogen (or insufficient phosphorus). Some gardeners make the mistake of over-fertilizing wisteria to encourage them to flower. This can actually work against them, because excess nitrogen encourages the plant to produce foliage, usually at the expense of flowers.

  4. Planting too deeply. Setting plants in the ground too deeply may result in a delay of flowering or prevent them from blooming altogether.

  5. A lack of sun. Too much shade can cause vines to flower poorly. Although some types of wisteria may be root-hardy to Zone 4, many varieties won't bloom reliably there. In Zone 5, plants may sometimes fail to bloom after a severe winter freeze kills off flower buds.
  6. You're being too kind. Pruning is key to getting wisteria to flower. You have to keep pruning all of those errant new vines that keep sprouting up. Depending on the soil the species you're growing, and environmental conditions, you may need to snip shoots as often as every 4 to 6 weeks.
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Growing Wisteria from Seed

Wisteria plants are often started from layered cuttings, but they are also easy to grow from seed.

  1. When the seedpods turn brown in the fall, remove the seeds and allow them to dry.
  2. Store them in the refrigerator until spring.
  3. In the spring, sow seeds directly in the ground (or in containers) after soaking them in water for 24 hours.
  4. It's important to note that wisteria grown from seed may not resemble the parent plant in form or color.
  5. They will also take longer to reach flowering size - anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com


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April 5, 20150 found this helpful

Be careful where you plant wisteria. Wisteria can be very aggressive and it can topple a fence if left to grow unchecked. The roots also travel underground and can pop up anywhere even on the other side of a fence in a neighbors yard. I pulled mine out 5 years ago and in the spring there are still shoots appearing. It's pretty but not sure it's worth it.

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April 9, 20151 found this helpful

After re reading my short and sweet post on growing Wisteria as a standard, I ran across this well written and very informative article. I can't imagine why anyone would give it a thumbs down. You certainly get a thumbs up from me!

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Solutions

Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

September 4, 20170 found this helpful

You can just plant the seeds that are in the pods. Nick the seeds slightly and soak them overnight before planting them. This is a guide about planting wisteria pods.

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February 15, 20170 found this helpful

Wisteria can actually be propagated from both soft and hard wood cuttings, depending on the time of year one works better than the other. This is a guide about starting a wisteria from a cutting.

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September 14, 20170 found this helpful

Growing a vining plant such as wisteria as a standard, means training it to develop a more treelike form. This is a guide about growing wisteria as a standard.

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February 15, 20170 found this helpful

Wisteria is a vining, flowering plant member of the legume family. The draping clusters of purple flowers are quite fragrant. It is typically grown as a woody vine, but can also be trained as a standard or small tree. This page contains wisteria photos.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
October 5, 2017

I have a wisteria plant that is at least three years old or so and was told that it could take up to 10 years before it would bloom. Is this true? Right now it is growing on a chain link gate.
Thanks.

Answers

October 5, 20170 found this helpful
Best Answer

Wisterias bloom between 7-15 years old.

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April 13, 20120 found this helpful

How do you plant wisteria with just a dry root?

By db

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April 18, 20120 found this helpful

Not sure what a 'dry root' is, although the words make me think of a piece of the plant that's been removed from the mother plant and then permitted to dry out-not such a good mental image of a plant that can survive, sorry.

However, if I'm am misunderstanding, and you have a viable plant part known as a whip, simply plant it so the root parts are at least 6" under good quality soil.

Then stake, mulch, and water it in well. You can apply a rooting hormone available in most garden centres to encourage root growth, and feed specifically formulated for wisteria at the same time. Keep the soil moist but not soggy the first spring and summer it's in the ground.

And then wait about five years for the whip to become a blooming shrub.

You'll wait about ten years for it to climb as high as a roof or along a fence, and about twenty before the runners become woody and thick enough to pull down said roof or fence:)

Or you can buy a potted wisteria that is already blooming. Transplant it and stand back, although it may not bloom the first season after transplanting.

Wisteria is one of the plants I miss most about the Deep South, crepe myrtle is the other.

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May 3, 20120 found this helpful

Frugalsunnie is correct, "You'll wait about ten years for it to climb as high as a roof or along a fence, and about twenty before the runners become woody and thick enough to pull down said roof or fence:)"

Remember to sink 4x4 or even 6x6 treated posts in the ground with concrete to withhold the weight. DO NOT think you are going to buy one of those store bought vine climbers or trellises for one of these. My wisteria is heavy and the only part of my arbor that is holding up to it are the posts, which are 6x6. I am getting ready to cut the top of this wisteria and rebuild the arbor. I would recommend buying cedar planks (boards) and building your own trellis for a wisteria.

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March 13, 20130 found this helpful

I had been trying to look for wisteria cutting suppliers, but could not get any. If any one can help me out with addresses of suppliers who can supply me few pieces of wisteria cuttings with roots. I am ready to pay for cost and freight

By Mohammad Ismail

Answers

March 7, 20140 found this helpful

Search the Internet for 'Wisteria Plant Liners'. You should find several suppliers. 'Liners' is a term used by nurserymen for small, recently rooted plants in about 4" containers.

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August 11, 20130 found this helpful

Ellen Brown suggests planting the wisteria in the ground in a container in order to limit the aggressive expansion of its root system. My question is: what should the container be made of in order to prevent the roots from breaking out? We are considering building a wisteria walkway with a pergola on the side of our house. Unfortunately the sewing piping runs in the same area and we are worried about the roots invading that system. The manholes are concrete and the sewage lines in between are plastic piping? Thanks for any info.

By Moti Kl

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May 27, 20130 found this helpful

What is a suggested way to stabilize a wisteria plant that is slightly leaning? This plant was started by some shoots about 18 years ago. It is a beautiful plant that has heavy purple clusters of flowers in the spring. It has become overgrown, but is easily trimmed.

By K. Tate

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By 0 found this helpful
April 1, 2012

Where can I find wisteria?

By barbiewantstobeme from Munford, AL

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