How to grow wisteria. Beginners guide to growing and caring for a wisteria vine. Plus tips on pruning this fast growing plant.
You may have seen wisteria vines growing in nearby parks or gardens. The beautiful light purple flower hanging down form a trellis as the vine twists up and around the pathway.
It inspires you to go to the local plant nursery and take your own wisteria home to plant, until you do a little research on them and become completely intimidated by this invasive vine that so many seem to have trouble with.
But with the right kind of wisteria, paired with good gardening practices, you can have a gorgeous fast growing plant that flowers each spring with a light floral fragrance that’s just as beautiful.
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We built our pergola several years ago and the second it was completed we planted a wisteria at the base of the 6×6 post to climb up to the rafters and become a canopy full of flowers. Over the years we’ve been able to train it to grow along the beams and prune this aggressive grower without too much fear of hurting the vine.
Even with it’s beauty, we have seen first hand the havoc they can cause when not cared for properly. Taking over trees or becoming to heavy along a fence.
The once beautiful and innocent looking vine ends up becoming too much for both the tree it takes over and the fence that collapses under it’s heavy weight.
Growing a wisteria vine in your yard is not for the faint of heart. It will take pruning and training on a regular basis and maybe even some tough love.
This is a beginners guide. Be sure to talk with your local nursery for more in depth information and to ask additional questions that may apply to your area.
HOW TO GROW A WISTERIA + Beginners Guide
Different types of wisteria
There are a few types of wisteria vines with some being more aggressive growing than others.
Chinese and Japanese wisteria are both aggressive growing vines and neither are recommend for growing in North America. Each can easily grow 10 feet or more per year and can reach 70 feet in height. They are invasive in 19 states reaching from Massachusetts to Texas.
American wisteria are less aggressive but still take a lot of care, training and pruning. They are known to reach upwards of 25-30 feet once fully mature and need a strong structure to climb along.
How can you tell them apart- Chinese and Japanese wisteria both have longer blooms, where as American wisteria flower’s grow shorter and rounder, with the blooms being only 4-6 inches long.
Another way to tell them apart is by the seed pods. The Chinese and Japanese wisteria both have fuzzy seed pods and the American wisteria have smooth seed pods.
WHERE TO PLANT A WISTERIA
When picking a location for a wisteria vine you need to keep several things in mind including keeping it away from the house as it can wrap around gutters and cause future problems to the home.
- Do not plant near any trees that it can climb up and take over
- Do not plant near a fence as it will become too heavy and cause the fence to fail over time
- Do not plant near a pool (the dropping flower petals can cause a mess)
- Do not plant near sidewalks
- Plant along a strong structure such as a pergola or trellis
- Plant in full sun
- Plant in well draining soil
HOW TO PLANT A WISTERIA
Once you pick the proper location, dig a hole the same depth as the wisteria’s root ball and two to three times as wide. Insert vine level with the earth and fill in with surrounding dirt.
If planting more than one wisteria vine, space them at least 10 feet apart so they’ll each have enough space to spread out.
As the vine grows encourage it to wrap around the areas you desire. The vines will also twist together, so carefully untangle them and wrap them around the structure to continue their growth.
* Fun fact- American and Chinese wisteria grows in a counterclockwise spiral, where as Japanese wisteria twines clockwise.
HOW TO PRUNE A WISTERIA
Pruning a wisteria can be a bit intimidating for beginners. All year you’ve watched this vine grow and finally it has a bit of height to it. You might be tempted to leave it but it’s best to prune wisteria’s twice a year.
Once in the late summer, and then again in late winter.
Not only does this help keep the vine in check, this will also encourage the growth of more flowers.
Throughout the summer the wisteria will grow a lot, and by late summer you’ll find lots of runners that don’t really seem to have a home. The runners look like whippy green growths and when first starting off, you may want to keep some of those runners and train them to climb along a trellis or pergola.
Other runners will seem out of place and will grow in a direction that is not wanted. For those you’ll want to follow the stem back to the main vine and count 5 nodes (or knots) from the vine and clip it there.
During the winter months you’ll come back and clip back another two nodes (knots). This will encourage blooming and keep your wisteria maintained.
For the runners you wish to keep, wrap them around the pergola or trellis gently and tie them in place using string or twine.
WHEN WILL MY WISTERIA FLOWER
Wisteria’s bloom in spring and continue to bloom throughout the summer. If you have a newly planted wisteria it can take some time for those first blooms to appear. Flowers will only appear on new growth.
My fear when we first planted our American wisteria (which was already over a foot tall) was that it could take up for 3-5 years like other websites suggest, but happily after the first year in the ground it came back the next spring with tiny buds. It was a spindly looking thing, but the buds were there.
Sunlight will play a roll in how well your vine flowers. Wisteria’s like full sun and even though they are drought tolerant, we did keep it well watered that first year.
Once in bloom, the blooms can last anywhere between two to three months.
HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF TRIMMINGS
Once you’ve finished pruning you may find that you have given this vine quite a haircut. Since wisterias are aggressive growers this is not a vine you’ll want to throw in the woods and forget about.
The best way to dispose wisteria trimmings properly is to place them in a large, black, plastic bag and allow them to die off. Another option is to keep them in a wheelbarrow until fully dead and dispose of them then. Burning them is also an option, although that seems a bit over the top.
HOW TO GROW WISTERIA FROM CLIPPINGS
To grow wisteria from a clipping you’ll want to cut into softwood and leave at least one node. The softwood is going to be any new green shoot and a node will be the little bumps you find along that stem. Cut back the softwood giving yourself about 4-6 inches with green leaves and at least one node.
From there you can transplant it into a 12 inch planter along with several other clippings. For the soil you’ll want a mix of course sand and peat moss along with a root hormone powder. Dip the end of the wisteria into water and then into the powder. Make a hole approximately 2-3 inches deep and plant the clipping. Repeat for each clipping.
Place a plastic bag over the pot to create a warm green house. Once the roots take, you can transfer the vines into their own individual container before moving them into the ground a couple of months later.
ARE WISTERIA POISONOUS
Wisteria vines are not toxic to human touch. However, the seeds, pods, and bark are toxic to humans and pets if ingested. For more information about this topic visit Poison Control – Wisteria Toxicity.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR THE WISTERIA TO GROW UP TO YOUR PERGOLA RAFTERS
We bought our wisteria at a garden center and at that time it was already over a foot tall. We planted it in May of that year and one year later it had grown almost to the top of the pergola.
May – One year after planting
June – One year after planting
This wisteria vine has been trimmed back many times to keep it from growing out of hand, but I can happily say that it’s finally at the point where we can train the vines to twine under the pergola to make a canopy.
May – Four years after planting
May – Four years after planting
This wisteria vine was intimidating when first learning how to properly prune and train it. But over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s not as delicate as I once thought. At times the vine can get a bit out of control, and some new vines always try to pop up at the base of the plant. But after a good pruning it’s back to where it needs to be.
Since it has grown tall, it’s at the point where I do need to get a ladder to maintain it on top. And you’ll even find me on a ladder through the pergola roof pruning it back and training the vines throughout the rafters.
This is not a plant that you can leave and forget. So before you pick one up at the garden center, make sure you have the time and energy this gorgeous vine needs to be properly maintained.
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