Wisteria is a genus of about ten species of deciduous and evergreen woody vines in the pea family, Fabaceae. It was named after Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818), an American physician and anatomist who contributed to early ideas on evolution. Wisteria can grow to lengths of over 30 meters long but usually grows at 4-8 meters tall, with large leaves that are typically 10-20 cm wide.
The flowers are pendulous racemes up to 120 cm long hanging from the branch tips, often of a deep blue color which was originally thought by Europeans to be violet or purple; they may also be white or yellow in some varieties. In most climates wisteria blooms in spring and early summer, although some varieties are autumn-flowering.
1. Maryland wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)
Maryland wisteria native to the eastern United States, is the only wisteria species that grows wild in North America.
The flowers of wisteria can be purple, blue or white and are strongly fragrant; they are produced in spring and early summer on racemes up to 15 centimeters long.
Wisteria is often confused with its native American cousin, the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). The best way to tell them apart is by looking at their leaves. Wisteria’s leaves are very similar to that of a pea plant, oval in shape and pointed at the tip. During winter wisteria retains its green leaf’s while flowering dogwood loses its leaves.
Wisteria was introduced into Europe in the 1740s and is now widely grown, especially for the spectacularly heavy harvest of conspicuous flowers it provides. It is also a popular ornamental plant in gardens.
2. Carolina wisteria (Wisteria carolina)
This is a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is native to eastern North America from southern New Jersey south to northern Florida and west to East Texas.
Carolina wisteria is a deciduous woody vine growing 10–25 meters (30–80 feet) long with large leaves 10–20 centimetres (4–8 inches) across. The flowers are pendulous racemes 10–120 centimeters (3.9–47.2 inches) long, densely flowered, and blue in color with white or pale purple at the base of each flower inside when newly opened; they are pollinated by bees.
The seeds are large, 20–30 millimetres (0.8–1.2 inches) long and broad depending on species. After flowering in the summer the flowers turn into a pod containing several glossy black seeds that ripen within seven months to two years from flowering depending on species.
Carolina wisteria is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens worldwide; it is also naturalized and often invasive in several areas outside its native range. It has escaped cultivation in many parts of the world.
3. Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria)
Wisteria sinensis is a woody, deciduous climber or vine of the family Fabaceae. It was originally native to central and southern China and adjacent areas in southeast Asia; it has been extensively cultivated for so long that its origin is obscure.
The plant can grow as high up as 20 m (66 ft) high on supporting trees. The leaves are 45–90 cm (18–35 in) long and 2–10 cm (0.79–3.9 in) broad, with an alternation of 3-7 leaflets, the terminal leaflet often absent; both surfaces are hairy. The flowers are pendulous, purple to violet, 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) long and 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) broad; they are produced in late spring to early summer, and pollinated by hummingbirds and sphinx moths.
4. Wisteria brachybotrys (Chinese wisteria)
Wisteria brachybotrys is a woody, deciduous shrub in the pea family Fabaceae. In China it is known as 紫藤 (zi teng, literally “purple vine”).
Wisteria brachybotrys was introduced in Europe by German botanist Philipp von Siebold as W. montana or W. floribunda , but was later renamed and distinguished from European types as W. brachybotrys by William Rickatson Dykes . The species is extremely variable and may be known under other names, including Wisteria sinensis in China, where it is native.
The Latin name Wisteria commemorates the American botanist Caspar Wistar (1761–1818)
Widely used in landscaping in its native China, the species has become naturalized throughout much of southern and central Europe (including France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland), North America (prairie provinces and states east to Connecticut), New Zealand and Australia.
This woody vine is one of several wisteria species cultivated for their large ornamental flower clusters. It is also notable for being one of the largest woody plants in the world.
In Chinese culture, it has become customary for brides to wear a veil made of the vine’s flowers.
5. Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria)
Wisteria floribunda is a woody, deciduous, twining climber in the pea family Fabaceae. It has been widely planted in its native Japan and elsewhere for its large blue or purple pendulous racemes of flowers blooming in spring before the leaves emerge. In many areas, especially on the western coast of the United States, it has become an invasive weed.
Wisteria floribunda was named after Caspar Wistar , like other species in the genus.
Widely used in landscaping in its native Japan, the species has become naturalized in many places, including the southern and eastern United States, Europe (including France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland), New Zealand and Australia.
Wisteria floribunda is a vigorous grower which may reach heights of 10 to 20 meters . In favorable conditions it can climb higher than 30 m , although its large size makes it prone to breaking in high winds.
6. Silky Wisteria (Wisteria amurensis)
is native to China and the Korean Peninsula. The botanical name is Wisteria amurensis, (Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae). It is a twining vine with dark green leaves which are composed of three leaflets on each side of the leaf stalks. The leaflets tend to be slightly serrated at their tips and tend to have a blue-green tint on each of them.
The flowers emerge in clusters that bloom from April through May and are composed of numerous white, violet, or purple blooms depending on the variety. It has a sweet scent during its bloom period, usually lasting a short amount of time. The wisteria blooms tend to be quite large on this variety, typically growing up to five inches in length.
These flowers are considered as showy and elegant in appearance, making it an excellent choice for landscaping or for that matter even indoors. Due to its ability to bloom profusely, its ability to withstand cold and its resistance against diseases, it is rapidly becoming a popular choice for landscaping.
Silky Wisteria can grow up to sixty feet in length on its own accord. This variety tends to bloom later than most other varieties, typically around May. The flowers tend to be large and often stay in bloom for one to two months. The blooms tend to be quite fragrant, especially when the flowers are just starting to open. This variety is a hybrid of Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) that was first produced in England during 1866.
7. Wisteria macrostachya
Bluemoon Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya) is a deciduous vine that has flowers sometimes considered as small. It is native to China, Japan and Korea – the botanical name of this type of wisteria is Wisteria macrostachya (Family Leguminosae).
The leaves are dark green and tend to be clustered at the top of the branchlets. The flowers bloom from May to June and are composed of violet, or blue in color. This variety is considered as a very hardy wisteria variety which can withstand some cold weather conditions. It has clusters of creamy white blooms that cover almost the entire vine throughout May to July.
The blooms on this variety tend to be small at approximately two inches in length. The flowers that are produced by this type of wisteria are not as showy as some other varieties and therefore has fewer landscape uses. It is a great choice for smaller areas.
The most common name for Wisteria macrostachya is Bluemoon. This includes ‘Alba’ and ‘Rosea’. ‘Alba’ is white in color while the other has a light pink tint to it. Both varieties tend to bloom during early May. The initial blooming period lasts for about two weeks, with another smaller blooming period occurring the following year after pruning takes place. This variety is not as widely grown or used.
8. Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’
Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’ is a little different from other Wisterias. The botanical name of this variety is Wisteria floribunda, (Family: Leguminosae). This type of wisteria is considered to be the hardiest variety of Wisterias that are grown outdoors. It is also known as the Himalayan Wisteria and has been grown in the United States since 1876.
Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’ is one of the hardiest wisterias that can be purchased and does quite well in most soil types. It shows similarities to some other varieties in that it produces branches which tend to grow downwards. The main difference between Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’ and others, is that this variety tends to have larger blooms.
This type of wisteria is considered to be the hardiest and also has a very long bloom period, usually lasting for two weeks in early spring. It is easy to grow and does well in almost any type of soil.
The flowers on Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’ tend to be extremely large and grow up to about six inches long. They are violet in color but fade to a dark blue as they age. This variety grows quite quickly and can easily reach heights of 20 feet or even more by summertime. The blooms tend to hang in clusters from the side branches and is considered as one of the more attractive varieties.
What kind of fertilizer do I need to feed my wisteria?
A general purpose, high nitrogen fertilizer will be sufficient. The best time to fertilize is in spring, just after flowering or after pruning. If you fertilize at this time, any fertilizer left over following the flowering cycle will be available to plants as they go into their growth period.
Type of Soil: Wisteria requires a well-drained soil; therefore, avoid heavy clay soils and do not plant in an area that is too wet. Light and sandy soils are favorable for wisteria.
Where should I plant my Wisteria?
Wisteria prefers locations that are a minimum of six feet away from the house due to the long, heavy vines. They can be trained on an arbor or trellis placed near the house where they will not interfere with wallpaper or paint but be close enough to enjoy their presence. Another popular option for many gardeners is to plant the wisteria near or at the base of a privacy fence, which also serves as a support structure.
Wisteria does not require soil that is constantly moist and well drained is important for long term success. The roots can quickly grow through the ground in search of water if the soil is too heavy. Avoid planting wisteria in areas that have standing water or recently had puddles from rainfall. If the area you intend to plant wisteria is somewhat shady, it will benefit the plant and its growth if a sunny location can be provided for at least a few hours each day.
Wisteria does not do well if planted in a windy location. The vines are very heavy and can cause injury to people or structures when the wind blows them without support.
How deep should I plant my Wisteria?
Wisteria should be planted so that the plant is above ground level following planting, but not deeper than eight inches deep in the soil. If planted deeper than eight inches, it may never be able to generate the roots needed to support the long, heavy vines.
Since Wisteria is planted as a vine, it will need to be supported after planting by a trellis or other object that can support its weight.
Which side of my Wisteria should I plant facing?
The best way to plant wisteria is by digging a hole that is large enough for the entire root ball and then carefully remove the plant from its container.
You can then place the plant in the hole and fill it with the removed soil. Make sure that there is ample space between the root ball and surrounding soil to ensure proper watering of your wisteria plant.
At this point, if you have a trellis or other structure nearby you will want to make sure that your wisteria will be able to reach the structure so that you can train it to grow vertically.
Once this has been determined, simply back fill around your wisteria plant with the soil removed from the hole. Add a layer of mulch over top and water well.
What kind of pruning should I do to my wisteria?
In spring, cut back new growth and deadhead older woody stems by cutting them off near the base of the plant. With more information about types of wisteria , you will be able to enjoy your wisteria even more than before.
You can also consider pruning a wisteria bonsai . This will help it achieve greater symmetry and shape. The process of training and pruning your wisteria is rewarding as you watch the plant transform from ground level to an almost tree-like status.
If your wisteria is in flower when you perform this maintenance, you will want to be sure that your work is not visible from the public sidewalk or street. This will create an unsightly sight and could likely result in complaints from neighbors.
What are the maintenance requirements for Wisteria?
The average annual rainfall in most places where wisterias are grown is about 35 to 50 inches. As long as the plant has a good, well-drained soil and plenty of water throughout the entire growing season, it will produce several times during the course of the year. Wisteria prefers acidic soil however it can tolerate a slightly more neutral or alkaline pH in its growth medium.
Wisteria is very sensitive to salt and will not do well with low-quality, hard water that contains high levels of sodium; this includes softened or distilled water. It is much better to use tap water since you know the quality. If you do use well water, it would be a good idea to have the pH of the soil tested before planting. It may need modification with an acidic amendment like peat or pine bark to help prevent salt build up in your soil.
Wisteria produces spectacular blooms and is one of the tastiest and healthiest edible greens in the world. Its flowers are great for drying and the fresh leaves can be boiled, steamed or sauteed with the stems and served like any other vegetable green.
When planting a Wisteria, it is very important to bear in mind that each year the plant will grow up to 20 feet or more and each leaf can span over 10 inches wide. Just one vine can produce as many as 1500 flowers, which means you should plan where you will have room for the plant as it grows.
Wisteria is an extremely popular woody vine in North America and Europe. It’s a great choice for a garden border or fence, being very tolerant to soil conditions. Wisteria can also be trained over pergolas, arbours or made into a beautiful hanging basket.
As you learned about types of wisteria , I hope that you can take an active role in planting your own and taking care of it. Having your own Wisteria will provide hours of pleasure and enjoyment for years to come.