Wisteria is a woody climbing vine that is part of the pea family of plants and originates from China, Korea and Japan. In Japan, Wisteria floribunda is a common sight in woodlands where it clambers up trees much like our native honeysuckle. Wisteria has become a popular climber in our gardens and is grown for its stunning display of hanging flower spikes in spring. Here is a guide to some stunning varieties and advice on how to grow and maintain wisteria in your own garden.
Wisteria is a hardy climber and very fast growing. It prefers fertile, moist well-drained soil and thrives in full sun. Being legumes, wisteria does not need feeding, as they fix their own nitrogen, but they do like lots of water, particularly when they are flowering. For wisteria to look its best, it needs some form of climbing support such as a tree, pergola or wall. But whatever support you choose, make sure it is sturdy as wisteria can become very strong with thick trunks and stems.
Perhaps one of the most common questions asked about the care of wisteria is about pruning. The flowers develop in buds near the base of the previous year's growth, so pruning back side shoots to a few buds near the base of a stem in early spring can enhance the show of flowers. Some general tips on pruning wisteria include pruning all basal growth right back to the main trunk from the word go and in summer remove all the whippy growth which can get up to several feet long! Prune your wisteria again in winter to give it a general tidy up. The main thing to remember when pruning wisteria is not to be scared of pruning it back hard, even if you don't follow the rules and look for buds, it will still flower well the following year. However, if you do have a plant that hasn't flowered for several years it is best to get rid of it, as its lack of flowers will almost certainly be due to the dominance of the original root stock onto which your wisteria variety was grafted.
Wisteria comes in a variety of colours from white to pink and darker purple. Different varieties also have varying amounts of scent. Wisteria 'Kuchi-beni' has clusters of fragrant pale mauve-pink flowers, tipped with purple in June. 'Lavender lace' is a vigorous climber with pale blue flowers and a sweet scent. Wisteria 'Macrobotrys' has particularly long fragrant trailing violet coloured flowers. For small gardens choose the short flower spike floribundas such as 'Domino' with its lilac-blue flowers. You can also grow wisterias in containers, and train as a standard. This is particularly suitable for a small garden.