Comparing Chinese Wisteria and Japanese Wisteria Comparing Chinese Wisteria and Japanese Wisteria

Chinese and Japanese wisteria, are hardy deciduous members of the pea family. They have extraordinary climbing abilities and can reach seventy feet tall if a suitable support system is provided. Chinese and Japanese wisterias are both very draught resistant and have fantastic blooms with a fragrance resembling grapes, making them tempting additions to you landscape design.

Both types of wisteria, however, are considered a voraciously invasive species because the vines can quickly kill any live support system they are growing on. They can also damage they your home if you let them get out of control. Be sure you are prepared to aggressively and repeatedly prune them before adding them to your landscaping.  Both varieties will climb on just about anything. You can train them horizontally or even bonsai them. Your imagination is the limit. If you feel you’re up to wisteria but just can’t decide between Chinese and Japanese what follows are the differences between the two.

Identifying Chinese Wisteria

Chinese wisteria, also known as wisteria sinesis, has shiny green, alternate, odd and pinnately shaped leaves, four to ten inches long, with seven to thirteen leaflets on four to sixteen stalks.

The fruit is a flattened, velvety bean pod about two to four inches long containing poisonous seeds. In late summer the bean pod cracks open and releases the seeds.

The flowers are white, violet and blue, about six to nine inches long. Typically, Chinese wisteria flower clusters are more abundant than the Japanese wisteria.

Identifying Japanese Wisteria

Japanese wisteria, also known as wisteria floribunda, has shiny, dark green, alternate, odd and pinnately shaped leaves, four to ten inches long, with thirteen to nineteen leaflets on four to sixteen stalks.

The fruit is a flattened, velvety bean pod about two to four inches long containing poisonous seeds. In late summer the bean pod cracks open and releases the seeds.

Japanese wisteria has a more whitish bark with blooms of white, pink, blue and violet. The blooms can reach twenty inches long with a fragrance resembling grapes.

Spiraling Opposites

A curios difference between Chinese and Japanese wisteria is that Chinese wisteria vines spiral clockwise while Japanese wisteria vines spiral in the opposite direction.

Timing of Blooms

Chinese wisteria is popular for its distinctively showy flowers. The bloom clusters reveal themselves all at once before the leaves have developed usually around mid to late May.

Japanese wisteria is popular for its huge blooms reaching twenty inches long. It blooms earlier in spring than Chinese wisteria making it more vulnerable to early freeze which can stunt the flowers. The blooms begin revealing themselves at the top of the cluster then make their way to the tip as the leaves are still developing.

Special Considerations

A fully bloomed wisteria is a bee magnet. Use caution, especially if someone in your home has bee allergies, before adding it to your landscape design. The root systems can spread forty feet wide and destroy underground plumbing and crack concrete slabs. The vines can tear the siding and gutters right off your home. With careful site selection and aggressive pruning you can grow Chinese and Japanese wisteria.

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