Caring for Your Wisteria

Wisteria, native to the eastern United States, Canada and Japan, is a woody, deciduous climbing plant. Cultivated for their spectacular and fragrant flowers, wisteria provides a dramatic accent to any home garden or landscape. Before planting wisteria in your location, be aware that it requires specific attention. Here are some points to consider in caring for your wisteria.

Varieties Of Wisteria

Popular wisteria varieties include two Japanese, one American and one Chinese.

  • W. brachybotrys, also called Silky Wisteria, is a Japanese variety with broad racemes (a type of flower cluster) of highly scented flowers appearing early in the season. Cultivars come in white, pink and mauve.
  • W. floribunda, a hardy Japanese variety, has racemes that reach 3 feet long. This variety is perfect for covering pergolas. Look for lavender-mauve (Caroline), and pale lilac-blue (Macrobotrys Burford).
  • W. frutescens, the rare American wisteria, has lilac-scented flowers from June through August. Lilac-blue Magnifica is a popular variety.
  • W. sinensis, the Chinese variety, has early and highly-scented flowers with shorter, fatter racemes. Colors include white, pink and mauve. 

Staking Large Vines

Wisteria can be trained to grow over pergolas and arches or to climb a wall. You control how they climb by attaching them to their support with twine. The lower parts of the wisteria branch do not flower. For this reason, large vines need to be staked. When the stems reach the top of their support, they fall horizontally and begin to flower. Place horizontal supports 1-1/2 to 2 feet apart.

According to gardening experts, staking wisteria against a brick wall is best accomplished using heavy gauge steel wire threaded through vine eyes and held taut with strainer bolts.

Planting Location

Wisteria will do best in an area receiving full sun, although they will tolerate partial shade. Wisteria likes a well-drained soil, but not one that has too many nutrients. That will result in more leaves and fewer flowers.

Fertilizing Requirements

Young wisteria plants should be fertilized twice a year using a balanced organic fertilizer. Once wisteria is established and filling out a trellis, pergola or wall, it doesn’t need much in the way of fertilizing. However, you should give your wisteria a good compost feeding with organic mulch, as this will help it retain moisture and protect its roots.

Don’t Overwater

Use care when watering your wisteria plants. They don’t require much at all, once they’re established. As a general rule, only give them water when there’s a drought, or if the leaves turn yellow and there’s little flowering.


The right time to prune wisteria is after it blooms. Prune all the new shoots back to 2 or 3 leaves from the base of the new growth. This practice encourages more short shoots to be produced, resulting in the appearance of more flower buds. Light pruning is okay during the summer months, and you can clean-up of unwanted shoots in autumn.

Have Patience

If your wisteria plant was propagated from seed, be aware that it can take 10 to 15 years to bloom. If this is the case, you may be better of removing the plant and purchasing one that was grafted or cut. Check with your local nursery to see which types they carry. Why wait that long for these spectacular blooms when you can shorten the time and maximize the enjoyment?