Wisteria is a woody climbing plant that produces beautiful flowers in the shape of clusters and of which the colour varies depending on species. It is easy to grow, does not like a soil that is too rich, and requires no special care other than regular pruning after each flowering or during the period of dormancy. It enjoys the sun and its flower buds fear the frost as well as cold winds.

Wisteria is a plant that was introduced in Europe around 1830 and its name means soft or sweet in Greek, because of the mucilaginous substances it contains. This woody climbing plant of the legume family constitutes the genus Wisteria. Several species exist, the most commonly cultivated of which are Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens or Wisteria speciosa) which was discovered in 1724. Typically, they flower from April to June and give butterfly-shaped flowers that vary according to species. These may as well be white, pink, blue, purple or blue with a shade of purple. Some of them are sometimes slightly fragrant. The leaves also vary depending on species and develop according to the seasons. In the spring they have a soft green colour, in summer they become darker, in the fall their tone has golden shades and in winter they fall off.

Conditions for growing wisteria

Wisteria is not a demanding plant and can be planted during frost-free periods, preferably in the spring from March to June, or in autumn from September to November. If you want to grow several plants, it is essential to keep a distance of 13 feet (400 cm) between seedlings. It is advisable to plant it in a relatively sandy soil, that has a low limestone content or that is slightly acidic to stimulate flowering and prevent the yellowing of leaves. Wisteria loves the sun and grows well in a sunny location. It is important to note that the cold, wind and frost can damage its floral buds or delay flowering.

How to grow wisteria?

In regard to sowing, you can use a container, of which the bottom will be pierced for drainage, and fill it with previously dampened soil. Make a few holes in the centre, put 2 or 3 seeds in each hole and cover them up with soil which you will lightly pack. Next, use a glass to cover the container so that the seeds are kept warm during germination. Once the plantlets have at least three leaves, they are put into another larger container to help them grow better. When there is no more frost around the month of May, it is possible to plant the young seedlings, making sure that the temperature is above 68 ° F (20 ° C). But it is also possible to propagate wisteria by proceeding to layering, which is primarily carried out in the spring. For this, choose a healthy branch with a 2-inch (5 cm) diameter, remove part of the bark, smear a bit of rooting hormone on the bare spot and complete the operation by covering the whole with damp moss and perforated plastic. When roots appear, cut off the branch and replanted it in draining soil to favour its growth.

The plant’s maintenance

When the plant has reached a good height, it must supported with a straight stake. If it has multiple stems, it is possible to weave them around the stake, before leaving the plant to develop on its own until it reaches the desired height. We can cut the trunk at a height of 6.5 to 8 feet (2 to 2.50 m) if the plant is planted in the ground, but a little less if it is grown in a container. To do this, remove all stems and leaves on the trunk, only leaving the top branches and buds. They will thus have the opportunity to develop into a frame that will be pruned by lopping the secondary shoots. When wisteria is well cultivated, it grows up to 6.5 feet (2 m) per year. By the time they reach maturity, wisteria plants have a height of 33 feet (10 m) even reaching 100 feet (30 m) in some cases. It is imperative to monitor the strength of the stems. If they are not strong enough, it is fundamental to uphold them carefully using a support. Wisteria can be mixed with other plants, such as climbing roses, to give the garden more colours. If the foliage darkens or whitens, it is advisable to water the plant with an anti-chlorosis product. After the first bloom, amend the soil with a little fertilizer rich in phosphorus but low in nitrogen, while extra or too bulky branches will be cut off.

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Published in Climbing plants by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011