Wisteria 101: everything you need to know

There is no way you enter a garden with wisteria in it, and not be in awe in front of its beautiful purple, pink, white, or blue blooms. Growing wisteria in itself is a pretty easy task, but, without proper care, it can propagate and take over your whole garden.

This plant can be incredibly magnificent, if given proper care. It will lighten up the whole space and cover it with a flowery scent that will leave you dreaming of tropical gardens and quiet Japanese temples.

This colorful climbing vine is native to China, Japan, and the eastern side of the United States of America, and this plant’s woody vines can climb practically anything, from walls to trees.

One thing you should know is that wisteria’s seeds are poisonous to human beings, so make sure to plant them somewhere far from curious children who will put anything in their mouths (children are cute and all, but sometimes, they can be kinda stupid, let’s be real).

Now that you know why wisteria plants are so cool, and why you should definitely have them in your garden, let’s get down to serious stuff!

Planting wisteria 101

Like every other plant, wisteria needs a number of conditions to be planted and grow healthily. You need to know first, which kind to buy. After that, we’ll discuss when and in which kind of soil you should plant your wisteria. Finally, we’ll get down to serious business: the steps to follow to plant your wisteria!

So folks, let’s start this, shall we?

Purchasing the perfect wisteria

Here’s what you need to take into account when you’re purchasing wisteria seeds or an already grown wisteria plant: if you’re buying a wisteria plant, make sure to purchase one that has been grown from cuttings or by grafting.

It would be better to avoid buying seeds, since they are less reliable, and take longer to flower (up to 20 years, yeah).

How do you recognize a grafted plant? Easy, check the base of the stem; if it has a visible bulge of the graft union near it, then it’s good to go!

When and where you should plant your wisteria

The best time to plant wisteria is during the fall, or spring (when the vines can take off as soon as they come through the ground); both seasons are good. First, you need to find the perfect spot, where the soil is fertile and moist, but with good draining, since wisterias don’t like to be drowned in water.

You should also choose somewhere in full sun, where your wisteria can bloom. Even though wisterias can grow in partial shade, there are chances that they won’t flower, which is why it’s essential to choose somewhere sunny.

Another thing about wisteria is that it loves fertile soils, so if your soil is in poor condition, make sure to fertilize it using compost. And finally, it is imperative to choose a spot where your wisteria will grow freely, without overtaking nearby plants, as it tends to grow quickly.

Planting wisteria

And now, let’s get to the serious stuff!

Planting wisteria is pretty easy. After choosing the right spot, and when the conditions are right (fertile soil, perfect time etc…), just dig a hole as deep as your wisteria’s root ball and twice or three time as wide and plant your wisteria. If you’re planting several ones, keep them 15 feet apart from each other.

Caring for your wisteria vine

Here you are, friend! You planted your vine in the right time and the right place, and now, you’re obviously wondering how you’re going to care for it. Well, you came to the right place. To know how to care for your newly planted wisteria, please keep reading!

Caring for wisteria during the winter

Winter care isn’t necessary for your plant, but if your vine is newly planted, then a little care during the colder months of the year won’t hurt, and it can even help your plant grow strong and healthy.

Two things you can do during winter to help a newly planted wisteria are mulch its base so you can give your plant’s roots some protection, and trim away dead growths that you can find on the plant. Before snow has fallen, you can also shape the wisteria vine by pruning it. How to prune it? We’ll get down to that later on the article, no worries mate, we’ve got everything covered!

If you’ve already had your wisteria for quite a time (which means if it’s not newly planted), and it had trouble blooming the year before, then it is possible that your plant is suffering from something we call “winter dieback”. This means your blossom buds are dead, and one way to counter that is to wrap your plant in burlap, which will help keep the blossom buds protected from the nasty winter (sorry winter, I love you, but you’re no good to plants buddy).

Watering and fertilizing your wisteria

Like most perennials, this plant only needs regular watering during the few weeks after planting, just until it’s well established in its spot. After that, you should only water your plant during dry periods, and during times of drought. In those times, it is better to water once a week until you can see that the soil is completely moist.

When it comes to fertilizing, this beautiful vine needs none since it’s an aggressive grower.

Pruning and training your wisteria

Pruning your wisteria vine might be the single game changer in making or breaking your plant. You see, one thing about wisteria is that it can propagate and become out of hand really quickly, which is why training and pruning are important.

Your plant needs regular grooming so it doesn’t go out of control and colonize your garden like in some sort of bad sci-fi/alien movie. So, to avoid the wisteria apocalypse and have a good flowering, here’s what you need to do:

First, train your wisteria by selecting an upright stem and attaching in to your support of choice, you then have to remove the side shoots and continue training the main vine upwards.

If you find any new side branches, you can train them as needed. The best results are obtained when you keep those side branches 18 inches apart from each other, so try to do that too. When you wisteria atteigns the desired height, cut the main vine tip (it helps stunt the plant’s growth).

Wisteria vines also need regular pruning, which is easy to do (and essential, unless you want your house to look like a haunted one). The best time to prune your wisteria is late winter, just before the flowers bloom.

Cut out at least half of the prior year’s growth, and leave only a few buds in each stem; this will help your wisteria vine flower even more beautifully.

If, after flowering, you feel like your wisteria is going out of its way to ruin other plants’ lives (wisterias can be evil, you know), go on and prune it during the summer.

One final tip is not to prune your wisteria too severely, as the plant can take years after that to flower (and no one has the patience for that, really… or is it just me?)

To know more about training and pruning your wisteria, check out this website.

Propagating wisteria

Now that you know how to train and prune your wisteria vine, how about learning how to propagate it instead? I know, it’s kinda counterproductive since I have been writing about how savage this vine can be, but sometimes, it needs a little push!

It is easy to propagate wisteria if you’re using the right technique; indeed, you just need to know when to cut it! And as it happens, I can give you that info. So, the best way to propagate your wisteria vine is b cutting it during the summer and/or layering branches.

Both techniques will help propagate your wisteria, even though you must remember that blooming will not happen until three or four years later (I told you, wisteria is definitely not a plant for the faint of hearts).

If you’re going with the “layering the branches” technique, the best way to do it is by choosing a flexible branch and bending it to the ground until a few inches of it are deep into the soil, including the leaf note.

In order to secure the branch, be sure to weigh it down and leave it like take all winter so that by spring, you’ll have enough roots to plant.

Discover some wisteria varieties

Like every plant, the wisteria vine has many varieties, each one as beautiful as the next, because why not? (also, because plants are beautiful and colorful, you know).

Want to know more about the wisteria varieties out there? Then keep reading, friend!

The wisteria bonsai

This one is less on another variety of wisteria and more of another form of the beautiful vine. You see, besides from having a really cool name (I mean, who doesn’t want a name as cool as this one?), the wisteria bonsai is what I would like to call a mini wisteria, usually grown from the family of the Japanese Wisteria or the Chinese one.

Those little wisteria vines are mostly used for decorative purposes, but like they giant counterpart, they need full sun to grow and bloom, so keep ’em lit! (I never though I would use the expression “keep ’em lit” to talk about a plant).

Wisteria Frutescens

The Wisteria Frutescens, also known as American wisteria or Amethyst Falls wisteria (which sounds like the name of a fallen pop star), is a native to the wet forests of the southeastern United States.

It’s a little bit different from its Asian counterparts, since it’s shorter (the shortest one in the wisteria family, which means family pictures must be hell for this one), and takes less time to bloom. It’s also less invasive, which makes it a nice guy!

Wisteria Sinensis

Also called Chinese Wisteria, this vine is native to, obviously, China! With shiny green leaves, it makes for one hell of a spectacle, and turns your garden and your house into a fairy tale English cottage, charm and all.

Blue Moon Wisteria

Well, that’s a pretty romantic name (I will thus write a song named “Let’s dance under the Blue moon wisteria” just for the hell of it)!

On a more serious note, this vine is also called Wisteria Macrostachya or Kentucky Wisteria (suddenly, it’s not that romantic to dance under it… all right, I’ll stop with the jokes), and it is native to south-central US. It produces lavender flowers that have a distinct and beautiful fragrance.

Wisteria Floribunda

Also known as Japanese Wisteria, this variety is a fragrant and vigorous wisteria vine. During its blooming season, it produces beautiful lavender, blue, pink, or white flowers.

Some wisteria problems and their solutions

Like every other living being, plants sometimes have problems and diseases which need to get rid of. So, if you’re thinking about planting a wisteria vine, you should know about these problems. Here we go!

Powdery mildew and leaf spots

Both these problems are known as fungal leaf diseases, and even though they might look bad, they’re actually not a big deal, and would rarely give real harm to your wisteria.

If you see yellowing spots on your vine’s leaves, then it’s probably one of those, though powdery mildew quickly turns into a white coating that might engulf a whole leaf (which is, now that I imagine it, kinda gross).

Both these diseases can be treated pretty easily, mostly by plucking out the sick leaves, pruning your vine more aggressively, and spraying the plant with neem oil if it needed.

Graft failure

This one is a little bit more serious than fungal leaf diseases, as it can slowly kill your plant. This problem happens when there was a graft that was only partially compatible. One way to save your plant (if it’s young) is by regrafting them.

Wisteria pests

There is a variety of pests that can harm your wisteria vine, especially the ones named wisteria borers (do they bore it to death? This is what we will discover!).

Those tiny beetles (not to confuse with The Beatles, a famous British kinda hippie band) cut round holes in your vine’s woody part and just live there, like some kind of junkie squatting your basement.

It isn’t easy to control those tiny monsters, so your best shot is to water and feed your wisteria properly when you spot borers.

To know more about how to wage war on those life sucking creatures of hell (I really hate them, if you still haven’t gotten that), click here.

In the end…


Wisterias, like other plants, are living creatures that need feeding, watering, and good care. So if you follow the advice I gave on this article, you will be sure to end up with a beautiful spectacle in your garden!