Wisteria - Vine or Tree or Weed?
Is Wisteria a Vine or a Tree or a Weed?
More often than not the word "beautiful" precedes the word wisteria, with good reason. However, consider these other facts about the wisteria: The beautiful wisteria, a wild vine that can morph itself in old age into a tree. The beautiful wisteria that those with patience can train into a tree. The beautiful wisteria, an invasive weed who can be either poison or a delightful wine. The beautiful wisteria, the Victorian word-speak for over passionate love border lining on obsession. The beautiful wisteria, whose lovely perfume can be a heavenly scent but is secretly a card-carrying member of the pea family. The beautiful wisteria, who dresses in white, lavender, blue, violet, purple, pink, dark purple, and red is often beyond beautiful when it comes to a description.
Wisteria is also a deciduous twining shrub, that is both native to North America and Asia, belonging to the pea family. Wisterias rank among the best of the ornamental vines for temperate regions, and often attain a good old age and large size. Speaking of large size, the among oldest of wisterias known to exist is one in the California Sierra Madres. It covers over one acre, is estimated to weigh over 250 tons, and has been alive and blooming since 1894, when it was planted from a single Chinese lavender wisteria slip.
As beautiful as wisteria's can be, they are coveted and known to be able to grow in almost any soil, but thrive best in a deep rich loam that does not get too dry. They are at their picturesque best when allowed to grow at will, into an old tree. Displayed on a wall or building, it is best to pay attention to training the growth. They are sometimes grown in standard form, but also have been long a favorite of patient bonsai tree growers for centuries.
“In pale moonlight
the wisteria’s scent
comes from far away"
Wisteria can be readily forced to grow in pots. As their roots are long, but not fibrous, the plants are best transplanted when small or from pots rather than field. Wisteria's have a sad side in that they often disappoint by not flowering for many years. These non-producers are usually seedlings, and it's anyone guess how long it will take for them to mature to flowering. Therefore, it is best to plant only grafted or layered wisterias to insure a less lengthy wait for your wisteria to bloom.
Of the many varieties of wisteria, some favorites are the:
- Chinese Wisteria (most vigorous in climbing) with violet-blue flowers
- Japanese Wisteria (most hardy) with more fragrant flowers in either pink or white
- Silky Wisteria (hardy Chinese variety) that grows up to 30 feet that comes in a variety of colors
- Frutescens (North American variety) that is hardy and can grow from Virginia southward, in lilac-purple
- Macrostachya (North American variety) that is hardy from Illinois to Massachusetts, in light blue colors with larger clusters of flowers
Please note that if you want to grow wisteria and live in the South where wisteria can be invasive, always choose an American wisteria variety, such as: Wisteria frutescens, Miletta reticulata, Summer Wisteria, or Amethyst Falls selections to prevent this problem. Wisteria will not do well in certain parts of Florida.
Added Benefit of Growing Wisteria
Wisteria is not only a human favorite for its beauty, it is also a favorite host plant to the silver-spotted skipper butterfly and the long-tailed skipper butterfly. Found especially along the Atlantic coast and other portions of the Southeast, they are among the snowbirds of the butterfly world who winter in Florida each year. They are also a welcome addition to the overall beauty of having Wisteria.