Wisteria (part of the pea family, Fabaceae) is native to the southern U.S. (two species) and eastern Asia (ten species). The two most commonly used species are Wisteria sinensis or Chinese Wisteria and Wisteria floribunda or Japanese Wisteria. Out of those two, the Chinese Wisteria is the most popular because of its flowering habits. The flower clusters can be anywhere from six to twelve inches in length. Often, the flowers will fully bloom before the leaves finish coming in. It is a vine which can grow up to twenty meters high and ten meters across.
The largest Wisteria on record takes up an entire acre!
This strong, fast growing and hardy plant can grow in many varied environments, but does extremely well in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with full sun to partial shade (your Wisteria will not flower if it doesn’t have lots of sun, six plus hours per day!) Wisteria has nitrogen fixing capabilities so don’t fertilize with nitrogen, but a mature Wisteria plant could use a little extra potassium and phosphate. They grow best in soil with a pH level between 6.0-7.0.
The peapods/seeds, flowers, leaves and roots are all poisonous on the Chinese varieties, but on some varieties the flowers (and ONLY the flowers) are edible and can even be used to make wine!
It can take some time to see flowers (as only mature plants will bloom) but the wait is well worth it. Plants grown from seed will have an extremely long juvenile period, lasting from ten to fifteen years. However, Wisteria grown from a cutting will flower much sooner. The flowers are fragrant and plentiful, coming to full bloom in the late Spring (mid-May).
Wisteria can live for up to 100 years.
When deciding where to plant your Wisteria, take care. Although this plant is gorgeous, it can be very invasive. If it is allowed to grow into other plants near by, it will kill them. And once it reaches full size it can also cause damage to houses, walls and even large trees. So be sure to properly prune and maintain this new addition to your garden. Build a strong sturdy trellis for it to grow on. It will naturally climb if it has something to climb on, however it is a good idea to encourage its growth in the direction You would like. If left to its own devices it will create an unattractive mound on the ground. And the flowers are best viewed from below, so I recommend giving it something strong to climb on. And yes, it is beautiful climbing up the sides of buildings, but do so at your own risk. Also keep in mind, Wisteria does not like to be moved. It will set back the flowering habits by several years, and older well established plants may not survive a move at all.
The different colors are categorized as follows:
Alba – white flowers
Carnea – flesh-pink flowers
Longissima – light purple flowers, very long clusters
Longissima Alba – white flowers, 15″ clusters
Macrobotrys – reddish violet to violet flowers, 3′ or longer clusters
Praecox – blue-purple flowers, dwarf
Purpurea – purple flowers
Rosea – pale rose tipped purple flowers, 18″ clusters
Rubra – deep pink to red flowers
Violacea Plena – reddish violet flowers, double clusters