Do you need a lush, ornamental vine to cover an unsightly trellis? Maybe you need a quick-growing plant as a privacy screen. Either way, wisteria could be the solution. This vigorous grower is famous for its exotic flowers and ability to cover almost any outdoor structure, regardless of its size. If this is your first time caring for wisteria, our guide has all the tips to bring out the best in your vine!
Table of Contents
The Benefits of Choosing Wisteria
- Highly ornamental.
- Lives for many years.
- Provides cover and privacy.
- Easy to grow.
- Not fussy about soil types.
Origins and Appearance
Wisterias are native to North America and Asia, and belong to the pea family. Although they are cultivated all over the world for its iconic flowers, some countries consider wisteria an invasive species because it can rapidly overtake other plants.
Wisteria is a sturdy plant with woody stems. During the warmer seasons, the vine sports lush, green leaves and drops them during the fall. The plant is most famous for its flowers. They appear in clusters that droop downward, almost resembling thick fox tails. The blooms are available in different colors such as rose, white, blue and purple.
While most wisteria are kept as vines, some nifty gardeners prefer to grow the plant as a freestanding tree. So, if you want a stunning, ornamental tree in the garden, you can also consider wisteria.
Training Your Wisteria
Before we get into the care tips, let’s get the training part out of the way. Wisteria can be encouraged to grow as a bonsai, a trellis vine or a tree.
Growing a wisteria bonsai from seed is not for the faint of heart. It can take years before you are rewarded with a cascade of flowers. But if this is a project you would love to tackle, check out these tips to grow a wisteria bonsai.
The good news is that wisteria kind of trains itself. As a vine, it will instinctively curl around any available structure for support. You just have to lend a helping hand here and there. In the beginning, hook free-hanging tendrils around the fence or post you’re training your wisteria to climb. Eventually, the vine will get a solid hold and train itself up the beam or along the wall. Once that happens, your duties are basically reduced to pruning.
Interestingly, despite its appearance, a wisteria tree is not a true tree. It remains a woody vine. Even so, you can train this romantic, flower-filled vine as a tree to add an ornamental touch to your garden.
Get a young vine and tie the plant to a strong support beam. After this, simply allow the wisteria to grow. Readjust the ropes as it grows thicker so that the twine does not cut into the stem. Check the post regularly for stability and prune your wisteria into the desired form. The pruning part will happen over months and even years. Eventually, the plant will be thick and strong enough to resemble a freestanding tree.
Temperature and Humidity
Wisteria is a tough guy. But under certain conditions, things can damage its ability to flower. The main concern is severe and prolonged cold. Wisteria will refuse to flower when temperatures drop and stay below -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-28 degrees Celsius). The plant also flourishes in full sunlight and high humidity but it can tolerate lower air moisture as well.
Watering and Feeding
Young wisteria plants are still developing their root system, so provide it with frequent watering but without leaving the soil waterlogged. Once your wisteria is established and growing well, it can live off rainwater and extra, weekly watering. Don’t overwater the plant as it can tolerate dryer conditions. Waterlogged soil also invites diseases.
Wisteria is one of those rare garden plants that will do just fine without fertilizer. The only time when the vine needs nutrition is when the soil sucks. If the earth in your garden has poor quality, prepare the patch with compost. Very young wisteria can get a yearly feed of a phosphorous-rich fertilizer to help them get started.
Soil and Repotting
While wisteria is known for its ability to weather almost all soil types, you will get the best result when the vine is planted in a specific type of earth. Wisteria thrives in humus-rich soil that drains well. It also prefers slightly acidic conditions.
Wisteria is not fond of being repotted or transplanted multiple times. For this reason, after you purchase your wisteria, make sure that the vine is planted directly in the pot or spot where it’s intended to spend the rest of its life.
Get all the best tips on how to re-pot your house plants.
You might want to invest in a good pair of pruning scissors! Wisteria needs pruning on a regular basis. This maintenance is necessary to control the vine’s aggressive expansion and also to craft the wisteria into its desired form.
Prune in Winter for New Growth
The best time to prune wisteria for healthy, new shoots is when winter is almost over. Remove a quarter to half of the previous year’s growth but make sure to leave a couple of buds on every shoot. Without buds, the plant cannot sprout new foliage.
Prune in Spring for a Better Shape
Allow your wisteria to flower and during the late spring, or the start of summer, trim away messy-looking foliage that is ruining the vine’s appearance. Remove wayward stalks, dead material or anything that shows signs of disease.
Pro Tip: Never over-prune your wisteria. It could cause new growth to take years to produce flowers. Rather cut away too little than too much.
Pests and Diseases
For the most part, you can look forward to a beautiful and healthy wisteria. But all plants are vulnerable to bugs and illnesses and, unfortunately, wisteria has its fair share of problems. Let’s look at the most common problems and their solutions.
Wisteria sometimes has infestations of aphids, mealybugs, Japanese beetles, and scale insects. All of them can cause serious damage when their population is allowed to grow freely. The good news is that a decent organic pesticide or horticultural soap will control their numbers or wipe them out entirely. You can also apply these products as a preventative measure to avoid infestations.
The most serious problem is crown gall. This condition is caused by soil bacteria. The latter is dangerous enough to finish off your beautiful wisteria. Needless to say, after spending years caring for your vine, watching it die from a bacterial infection is devastating.
The best cure is prevention. Before you plant the vine, purchase a plant product that specifically controls the crown gall bacteria (Agrobacterium) and dust the wisteria’s roots right before planting. This pest also prefers moist soil, so avoid overwatering the plant.
Q: Is wisteria safe around pets and children?
No, wisteria is considered toxic for both humans and animals. All parts of the plant are poisonous but the seed pods are particularly toxic. Most symptoms include vomiting, stomach troubles and pain. Some pets and people can even collapse.
Q: Can I propagate wisteria at home?
Yes, wisteria can be propagated at home. Two successful methods are stem cuttings and growing wisteria from seeds.
Q: When will my wisteria flower for the first time?
Only mature wisteria plants produce the iconic flower clusters. Once your plant reaches maturity, roughly at the age of 20 years, it will bloom for the first time.
Q: Should I deadhead my wisteria?
Yes, it is a good idea to deadhead your wisteria when you have kids or pets. The flowers and their fruit are toxic. By removing the flowers yourself, the chances of accidental poisoning are reduced.
Q: Why are my wisteria’s leaves turning yellow?
When the leaves turn yellow in the fall, then there is no reason to worry. This is normal. However, when it happens during other times of the year, the plant is unhappy about something. Reasons might include overly wet soil or pH levels that are too alkaline.
Q: How long will my wisteria live?
Your wisteria might outlive you! Under optimal conditions, this vine can live up to 100 years.