Wisteria plays the role of a beautiful, sturdy vining plant putting on a grand show of fragrant, cascading clusters of blossoms in the springtime. It adds a touch of elegance, bounty, and fragrance to any garden setting.
It also poses as a luscious plant pleasing to behold and attractive to all manner of friendly fauna, such as birds, bees, and butterflies.
Also, Wisteria trees make a perfect example of a plant which can take over your garden, knock down your outbuildings, kill your trees and shrubs and literally take the roof off your house if you don’t keep it in check.
In this article, we will share valuable information to help you grow, prune, and enjoy wisteria free from mayhem. Read on to learn more.
How And Where To Plant Wisteria
Wisteria can prove itself a wonderful choice as a patio, pergola, arbor, or gazebo plant because it provides shade, privacy, and elegance. However, although the wisteria plant grows very quickly, expect it can take several years for it to become well-established enough to blossom.
Still, you can enjoy its beautiful foliage right away.
It can grow as much as ten feet in a single year, so this plant will quickly cover your trellis, fence or gazebo and you will experience much more thrill when it presents you with its greatly anticipated fragrant blooms.
Wisteria trees blossom incomparably colorful and fragrant. They serve as a delight for all the senses. If you have pets, livestock, or children, you should consider carefully before planting wisteria because the roots, stems, leaves, and especially the seeds contain poison.
It shows as a good idea to plant them in an area where you can easily contain them. However, Wisteria plants live as enthusiastic growers and you can consider them invasive. If you don’t keep your wisteria in a contained bed or planter, you may soon find your senses and your garden overwhelmed.
Planting Your Wisteria Outdoors
You should position your wisteria plants to get ample amount of sunlight. These plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight every day. The plant can grow well in partial shade, but this placement may result in few or no flowers.
While wisteria can do well in most types of soil, it still requires enough nutrients to sustain. Amend your soil with an organic compost if it only holds low amounts of nutrients or if it appears stuck in a very poor condition.
Wisteria likes a slightly acidic soil and a well-drained soil. This lushly blooming vine also craves for fertile, consistently moist, but not soggy soil.
You can plant your new wisteria in the springtime and enjoy the foliage through the summer. Alternately, you can plant it in the fall, allow it to enjoy winter, and emerge the following spring.
When you plant, dig a hole just as deep as the existing root ball. It should measure about three or four times as wide as the root ball. Wisteria grows fast and tends to sprawl, so give each plant ten or fifteen feet of space to grow.
Keep them away from each other and other plants. If given the opportunity, these flowering vines will quickly rampage over trees and shrubs and cause their untimely demise.
Caring For Your Wisteria
Early in the springtime, you should feed your wisteria by giving it a layer of compost. Follow this up with a two-inch layer of mulch to help hold moisture in and discourage weeds.
In the autumn, you may want to help prepare your plant for winter by amending the soil with a couple of cups of phosphorous. Work it in well before putting your plants “to bed” for the winter.
Once established, wisteria fairly tolerates drought, and its roots travel far and wide. Moreover, you can expect your wisteria to send some roots over if a nearby garden with a regular supply of water.
In this case, just keep an eye on it. Give it a deep, slow, drip watering if it starts looking thirsty. Otherwise, trust it to find its water.
Protect From Extremes
A wisteria earning a great deal of exposure may suffer from frost and the wind. For this reason, a location providing both bright sunlight and some shelter from cold and wind may seem quite desirable, but not necessary.
Once established, wisteria becomes very nearly indestructible. Cold and the wind may damage the extremities of the plant, but you can rest assured it will spring back with little trouble.
Go Easy On The Fertilizer
While wisteria likes a soil rich in natural nutrients, fertilizing may not become really necessary or recommended. If you decide to fertilize, do not to provide too much nitrogen as this will interfere with blooming.
Remember wisteria belongs to the family of legumes, so it fixes nitrogen levels in the soil. If too much nitrogen exists in the soil, you will get lots of leaves and fewer flowers.
Diseases And Pests
Problems with wisteria can include:
- Attcaks from Japanese Beetles
- Viral Diseases
- Plant Scale Insects
- Leaf Miners
- Crown Gall
- Leaf Spots
- Wingless, sucking mealybugs
These sorts of problems can happen but a small chance. Well-established wisteria does alarmingly hardy and rugged and resists most problems quite well on its own.
How To Prune Wisteria Vines
Wisteria makes a very hands-on and labor intensive plant if you want to care for it correctly. While it can flourish quite happily with no pruning at all, it will not perform well when it comes to blooming. Pruning correctly will increase the number of blossoms your plant produces.
Good pruning also keeps the wisteria plant under control. It serves as a very important chore as it can grow quite rampant and cause a lot of damage.
You should prune your woody vines late in the winter to encourage good blooming in the springtime. Cut back about 50% of the growth from the previous year. Make sure to leave a few buds on each stem.
Throughout the summer, trim back unruly, vegetative (non-blooming) shoots to maintain a tidy appearance, encourage blooming, and prevent being overrun by wisteria. At the end of summer, cut back the longer shoots which appear after the racemes of flowers fade away.
Because wisteria makes such an enthusiastic grower, it may appear tempting to cut it back quite severely before winter. With this, it will grow back well from a severe pruning, but you run the risk of inhibiting flowering.
Always prune wisteria trees with care and leave some buds on the stems. Focus pruning on the stems and only cut old growth judiciously for symmetry and form.
Because the blossoms emerge on the growth of the previous year, a regular, bi-annual pruning will help keep your vines of a manageable size. It also helps structure growth to keep the blossoming branches stay short and blossoming near the structure rather than sprawled hither and yon. This means you can enjoy the wisteria beauty more.
Prune wisteria trees’ long shoots to a length of six inches or less following flowering to prevent having your wisteria gain unwanted height and growth. Take a close look at your wisteria plant and remove shoots not contributing positively to the overall shape and main framework of the plant.
Late in the wintertime, you will prune back long shoots emerging since your early summer pruning. Examine the shoots left from last season and remove everything detracted from the overall silhouette of the plant.
Shape the plant carefully and prune back long shoots leaving 3-5 buds on each. This helps your plants direct their energy toward producing fragrant flowers rather than foliage.
When you do your early spring pruning at the end of winter, you will find the work a bit easier because you will need to contend with the leaves. You will start getting a clear picture of the structure of your plant because you see the main branches more clearly.
A Word About Wisteria Seed Pods
You can also remove all dried out seed pods at this time unless you like to keep them on the plant for decorative purposes. Many people find the seed pods attractive, and they can add wintertime interest.
Beware, though! If you decide you want to include some wisteria boughs with seed pods in fall and winter floral arrangements, the pods will burst when they warm up indoors.
Also, all parts of wisteria hold highly poisonous content. Do not to use the wisteria plant for decorative purposes in a household with children and pets. As wisteria plants can cause poisoning, keep the yard clean from their leaves, vines, and other parts.
Furthermore, wear gloves when trimming and pruning, and wash your hands after handling wisteria.
How To Train Your Wisteria To Climb A Structure
Wisteria loves to climb, and it will clamber merrily over anything it can reach. This makes it important to plant wisteria in an area with an appropriate structure for climbing. You must also provide support and guidance to keep your plant growing in the right direction.
Make Your Structure Sturdy
Keep a good, sturdy structure such as an arbor, pergola, trellis or fence-line. The best vines covering a pergola will surprise you as they weigh remarkably heavy. You’ll need to plan and build well to provide adequate support for them.
Build your structure of sturdy materials which can stand up to the weather and bear weight well. Cedar makes a good choice.
Support posts should measure 4×4, and lumber cross pieces size 2×4 at a minimum. Make sure to set all footings of the structure in the cement.
When planting, don’t overdo. Wisteria grows fast and spreads far. It also sends out shoots underground to start new plants on its own.
For this reason, even if you aspire to a massive wisteria planting, you may only need to purchase one plant. Before you know it, you will surely have foliage and flowers in abundance.
A single plant makes a fine choice to cover a round structure such as a pergola. If you want to cover a fence or arbor, you may wish to place one plant at each end for them to grow symmetrically toward one another and meet in the middle.
This choice also enables you to plant two different types for more visual interest. In the first year or two, the two specimens will stay separate; however, as time passes they will intertwine and present a riot of color.
Training Your Vines To Climb In A Controlled Manner
To start training your new plants to climb your structure, let a few of the young shoots twine around the posts and one another. Twining them together adds visual interest as the plant matures. Attach the tender shoots to the support in a secure manner.
You can use galvanized wire and eye hooks to provide support and structure. Place the hooks about eighteen inches apart and connect them with the wire on all four sides of the post. This will provide complete support.
Use gardening twine to secure the shoots loosely to the wire framework as they grow. If you secure the twine too tightly, it can injure your plants and cause great stress on the framework. Your shoots will grow remarkably quickly, and before you know it, they will have arrived at the top of your structure.
At this point, you must guide them back and encourage branching by trimming them. Prune the tips to encourage side shoots to grow. This will cause the plant to spread over the structure. It will also encourage blossoms to form.
As your plant becomes more established, it will cling to the structure on its own. Then you can remove the ties. This will allow better flow of nutrients through the plant and will help prevent girding.
Keeping A Wisteria Bonsai Tree
For the maximum in growth control, you can keep a wisteria plant completely contained as a wisteria bonsai. To do this, you will need a planter that will keep the roots well-contained.
When you plant wisteria outdoors, you want loose, well-drained, naturally fertile soil and very little water. When keeping it as a bonsai, it will become just the opposite.
As a bonsai, plant your wisteria in a small pot with a dense, rich soil and fertilize judiciously. Go light on nitrogen content, though. Too much nitrogen encourages leaf growth and discourages blossoms.
In the summertime, allow the plant to stand in water because this will shock the feeder roots and stimulate blooming.
Prune the wisteria bonsai tree in July leaving only four or five leaves on each stem. Prune again in January leaving only three or four leaves per stem. This will help promote blossoming.
Carefully remove larger old branches from time to time as a way of balancing the symmetry of the wisteria bonsai and discouraging excessive growth.
Training it as a tree makes another good way to keep wisteria under control. What the below video to see complete instructions on doing this.
What If Your Wisteria Doesn’t Bloom?
Remember that it can take several years for a wisteria to become well-established enough to bloom. Many other cultural reasons exist as to why a wisteria might fail to bloom.
In some instances, a seed-grown plant will not bloom as well as a grafted plant. Usually, grafted plants will begin blooming within three years of planting, but seed-grown plants may take twice that long to establish themselves and start to bloom. Sometimes they never do.
Stimulating Your Wisteria To Flower
If you have been waiting patiently for several years for your wisteria to bloom, you may be wondering if you can do anything to speed it up. You may obtain some luck with “shocking” the plant to force it into a reproduction mode.
To do this, get a sharp shovel and drive it into the ground about 18 inches from the trunk of your plant in several places around the plant. Don’t go all the way around the plant continuously, as this will gird the roots.
Slicing through some of the roots should come as your ultimate goal. To achieve this, make sure the shovel penetrates the earth by six or eight inches. You don’t want to slice through all of the roots – just a few small sections will do the trick.
You needn’t worry about damaging your plant. A wisteria plant by nature lives as a rugged and durable plant which can become invasive under ideal conditions. This treatment should stimulate it to begin blooming in the interest of survival.
Choosing The Right Variety For Your Setting
Different types of wisteria also behave quite differently. Starting off with the right makes one of the best ways to keep this plant under control. You can choose from Asian and American varieties. Of the two, the Asian types look far more enthusiastic and likely to get out of hand. See below examples.
- Wisteria Floribunda (Japanese wisteria vine) hails from Japan and can grow as high as 30-60′. Under the best of conditions (i.e. in the southern US), it can get even taller.
- Honbeni or Honko, lovely variety of wisteria, produces headily scented pink blossoms in the late spring.
- Shiro Noda or Alba, a late spring bloomer, produces large flower clusters of dazzlingly white blooms.
Although these types of wisteria did not hail from the US, they grow abundantly well here. These varieties do hardy in zones 5-9, and it appears very easy for them to become invasive, so you should plant and monitor them carefully.
Some types of American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) do not behave like invasive species. This variety comes native to a number of North American states. It produces dark green foliage and masses of purplish/blue or lilac flowers.
Unlike its Asian cousins, the blossoms of this plant do not give out a scent and will only grow on new wood. It can grow up to 30 feet long and does hardy in zones 5-9.
Kentucky Wisteria, another American native, also does hardy in zones 4-9. It looks quite similar to American Wisteria. Moreover, this plant becomes well-established after only a couple of years, so it begins blooming sooner than any other variety.
Kentucky Wisteria has a cultivar known as Blue Moon, a variety producing silver or blue flowers. It blooms in late spring and then again during the summer months. It comes from a very hardy variety and can tolerate temperatures as low as 40F below zero.
Should You Plant Wisteria?
A few plants do work like wisteria, and you will surely find success with this choice if you want to cover a structure. For gardens with huge spaces, wisteria can put on a very grand and impressive show of color and scent without too much effort on your part.
If you own a smaller garden, prepare to provide a lot of care to these vigorous vines. If you choose the right variety, provide a setting and growing method that will keep the plant under control and practice good gardening stewardship, you will gain a lot of satisfaction from growing and caring for wisteria.