The Q&A Archives: Growng wisteria

Question: how difficult is wisteria to grow. Is it hardy in my area, Niles, Ohio? Is it fast growing?

Answer: Wisteria is easy to grow in a sunny spot and is quite vigorous once established. Two species of wisteria are typically grown in home gardens: Wisteria sinensis or Chinese wisteria, and Wisteria floribunda or Japanese wisteria. The Chinese wisteria is the more popular plant due to its flowering habit. It grows to a height of 25 feet or more and has flower clusters six inches to a foot in length, which open before the foliage has expanded. Individual flowers in the clusters open all at once for a very showy display. Flowers are violet-blue and slightly fragrant. Plants are most showy from early to mid-May in most seasons. There is also a white flowering form of Chinese wisteria, W. sinensis 'Alba,' which is very fragrant. Two cultivars include: 'Black Dragon,' which has double dark purple flowers and 'Plena' with double, rosette-shaped, lilac flowers. Chinese wisteria may bloom within three to four years after planting; however, the juvenile period may be much longer.

Japanese wisteria grows to a height of 25 feet or more and has violet-blue, fragrant flowers that bloom as the foliage is also expanding. Individual flowers open gradually from the base of the cluster to the tip. Clusters can be 12 to 18 inches in length and are effective in late May in most seasons. The plant has yellow fall foliage color. There are numerous cultivars of Japanese wisteria with various flower colors. A few include:

'Alba'-white flowers;
'Carnea'-flesh-pink flowers;
'Longissima'-light purple flowers, clusters very long;
'Longissima Alba'-white flowers, clusters 15 inches long;
'Macrobotrys'-flower clusters to 3 feet or longer, reddish-violet to violet;
'Praecox'-more dwarf, blue-purple flowers;
'Purpurea'-purple flowers;
'Rosea'-pale rose, tipped purple, 18 inches long;
'Rubra'-deep pink to red flowers;
'Violacea Plena'-reddish violet flowers, double.

In order to bloom well, wisteria require full sun (six or more hours of direct sun per day) and a deep, moderately fertile, moist soil that does not dry out excessively. They will adapt to most soils, though they prefer a neutral to slightly acid soil pH of 6.0-7.0 for best results. Some type of support will be necessary as mature plants can be quite heavy.

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