Wisteria sinensis, also known as Chinese wisteria is a very vigorous climber. It can be used to grow against a house wall, using wires to support it, to cover a pergola, to climb a tree or you can create a standard which in spring will be like a purple lollipop in the garden.
Wisterias in nature grow in a woodland environment with roots in the shade and leaves in the tree canopy receiving lots of sun. They love lots of organic matter and this is vital for good flowering. Wisteria is a very hungry plant.
In spring the bare branches of Wisteria sinensis positively drip with gorgeously scented, long purple or white flowers.
Wisteria plants grow incredibly quickly and so if you have a pergola to cover quickly or a shed you want hiding this is a very good choice.
This picture is taking at the lovely water garden at Latour Marliac and shows what you can achieve with a mix of purple and white wisteria.
Wisteria should be planted in good soil and will appreciate the regular addition of well rotted compost or manure. Keep the roots shady and provide a support for the supple stems to climb. The stems twine in a clockwise direction around the wire or cane.
Be aware that wisteria can become a very heavy climber. I have an old specimen in my garden whose trunk is as large as a small tree. Make sure your support is strong enough.
Flowers are produced on flowering spurs from the stems. To encourage lots of flowers encourage lots of the wisteria stems to grow in a horizontal direction, for example on a pergola.
Wisterias do need pruning, both to encourage flowering and to keep the prolific growth in check. In the winter (around February) cut back all shoots of wisteria, that are not part of the desired structure, to 2 or 3 buds. This is a severe prune and will reveal the main framework of your plant.
In the summer cut back the new shoots to about 30cm leaving longer only those you wish to incorporate into the main framework.
Flowers appear in early spring on bare branches but there is often a much lighter flowering in summer when the leaves are covering the plant.
There are three main reasons why you may not have flowers
- Plants can take a few years before they start flowering
- Wisteria are hungry feeders. Try adding lots of well rotted compost or manure.
- If the parent was not a good flowerer your plant may never flower well. The best thing is to buy a specimen which is in flower so that you can see that it is a good flowerer.
Wisterias are a very versatile climber with great flowers and great scent. They are however hungry feeders and extremely rampant and can take some time to effectively prune an established specimen.