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growing american wisteria

Growing American Wisteria

Like Mandevilla, wisteria is another vining plant, but growing American wisteria will require some daily work.  Of course, the fruits of your labor will result in a beautiful cascade of bluish purple blooms.  

There are 10 wisteria species with blooms ranging in creamy white, light pink, rich pink, purple lilac, and lavender blue.  And any of these colors will certainly liven up any garden.  But, you’ll have to exercise care when it comes to where you  showcase certain varieties.  Even though the Chinese and Japanese species grow quickly, they’re considered invasive in the US.  If planted near trees, the vines can wrap around and damage the tree because they tighten as they grow.  Also if planted near the home it can damage drain pipes and overcome gutters.  For that reason, we’ve opted for the non-invasive American Wisteria.  

Specifically, American wisteria comes in three varieties.  Nivea, and Alba both have white blooms and Amethyst Falls, the one we planted has purple blooms.

Photo: Andie Cumber

The Chinese and Japanese varieties will produce blooms that can grow over 3 feet long.   Unfortunately,  some of those varieties may smell like cat pee, yikes!   However, growing American wisteria will produce smaller blooms of 6 – 9 inches long.  In addition the fragrance is deliciously sweet like lilacs.  I’ll take that over a cat pee smell any day!   

On the whole, wisteria can grow anywhere from 25 -100 feet high.   American wisteria can reach upwards to 30 feet high.  For this reason a sturdy support system like a pergola, trellis, arbor or fence is needed to accommodate its vast vines.  

How To Care For Your Wisteria

American Wisteria aka Kentucky wisteria, Texas wisteria, 

Botanical Name & Family Wisteria Frutescens from the Legume family called Fabaceae 

Other Wisteria Species:

Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria), Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria), Wisteria brachybotrys (Silky wisteria), Wisteria macrostachya (Kentucky wisteria).e

Light: It will survive in full sun or partial shade.

Benefits: Attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators like moths making it a food source for them.  Some species have antioxidant and antibacterial benefits.  

Soil: Use well draining air permeable soil with a pH value at 6-7.

Watering: Water once a week or when the top 1 inch of soil is dry.  Make sure you water until the soil is completely saturated and the excess water has drained from the drainage holes.  During drought-like conditions you may need to water daily.

Fertilizer: Fertilize in the spring and summer once every two weeks or every month with a 20-20-20 nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio.  Switch up with a phosphate & potash fertilizer to encourage blooming.

Repotting: Repot in the spring or summer preferably in deep pots.  American wisteria has long roots, so keep roots and surrounding soil intact to prevent root damage.  Use pots with drainage holes so water can easily pass through to avoid root rot.

Toxicity: The seeds and pods are poisonous to animals if ingested causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,   However the flowers are safe for consumption although it is not promoted for culinary purposes.  Do not plant near trees to avoid water and nutrition competition.

How big will it grow: It can grow anywhere between 25 -100 feet high

Propagating: Use the sowing, cuttings, or grafting technique

Temperature:  It likes an ideal temperature range of 64-82°F and can tolerate temperatures as low as -22°F.  If in temps above 95°F it may not grow as well.  Best in Hardiness Zones 5-9.

Pruning: It requires regular pruning of excess foliage in lower areas to improve ventilation.  Because withered flowers can absorb nutrients reserved for healthier flowers you’ll need to prune them.  If you see any pest infested, or disease infested branches, prune immediately.  

Photo: Andie Cumber

If you’re looking for other vining plants then check out my post on the mandevilla plant