Wisteria is a favorite of gardeners for its absolutely beautiful flowers – think cherry blossoms but purple. You most likely have seen some Wisteria vines in gardens and if you’re like me then you searched for Wisteria varieties and saw a “Wisteria tree”. So, is there really such a thing as a Wisteria tree?
As a whole, Wisteria trees and vines are one and the same. Wisteria is a vining plant often trained to resemble a tree. This requires frequent pruning and a solid trellis structure to encourage upward growth. This technique ensures the climbing plant has a robust base to support its heavy topside.
Below, I elaborate more on this vining-plant-turned-tree and the reality of growing them:
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We also wrote an article on how to hide a dead tree with vines if you’re interested.
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Wisteria Tree vs Wisteria Vine
As mentioned in the introduction, Wisteria is a vine typically pruned to look like a tree. When left to grow on its own, Wisteria, like any vining plant, will wind its way up to reach the sun. They can climb up anything, including a tree, an arbor, a pergola, or even the side of a house. If it is not given something to climb it will grow in a sprawling manner on the ground.
In the horticulture world, non-tree plants trained to grow and resemble a tree are usually called a ‘standard’. Wisteria standards tend to have a well-formed base of thick, curled vines as the reinforced trunk of the plant. Later, the main stem is cut at a desirable height for easier maintenance, usually at 4-5 feet. This doesn’t mean the plant stops growing – it’s actually known as an aggressive grower. It’ll keep developing side branches instead, which is why regular pruning is required throughout a Wisteria’s growth.
People who usually want to plant Wisteria don’t expect it to be a vine. Nor do they expect it to be a high-maintenance plant to care for. It’s hard enough to grow it as is, much less trained into a tree form. In short, Wisteria is not suitable for beginner gardeners and plant owners, especially if they don’t have the time and dedication to maintain it.
Is Growing a Wisteria Tree/Vine Worth The Effort?
Honestly, it depends on your intention and dedication to growing it in the first place.
If it’s just to see them bloom once and have the bragging rights to show it off, then you’re going to be bored and sorely disappointed 90% of the time. Wisterias only bloom once a year – if they grow in a reasonably excellent location, they may bloom a second time but with lesser flowers. Don’t get this tree if you are unwilling to do the work and keep it around for decades.
However, if you have the time and motivation to take care of your very own Wisteria, blossoms or not, then get this plant! I think it’s pretty inspiring that people still continuously choose to grow Wisterias despite its high-maintenance upkeep. I like to think that their blooming period is just a bonus to keeping this plant around in their home; everything else is for the sake of enjoying the hobby.
What does Wisteria Tree/Vine Need to Grow?
- Rich, well-draining soil
The best soil type for plants will always be crumbly, loamy soil full of nutrients and good drainage. Wisteria is no different. However, they are known to grow even in poor-quality soil. Regardless of your garden’s soil type, simply mix compost into the ground, and you’re good to go.
- Daily exposure to full sun for 6-8 hours
Wisterias are sun-loving, so plant them in a location where it’s consistently sunny. If you plant them under some shade, it’s unlikely they will bloom. Due to their aggressive growth habit, they will do anything to shift their direction in search of the sun. This could lead to an imbalance in their developing branches as it leans further to one side where the sun is. Where possible, plant them in an open space under the full blast of the sun with no shade.
- Watering biweekly
Wisterias have a preference for a moist soil environment. But it is pretty drought-resistant, so it can survive infrequent watering. However, this may vary for different regions. I suggest doing a finger-check in the soil during hotter days to gauge whether you need to water more than usual.
- Do not give your Wisterias any fertilizers
Wisterias are from the legume family, like peas and beans. For those not familiar, the plants belonging to this particular family are ‘nitrogen-fixers’. Their roots have beneficial bacterias that help them convert nitrogen from the surrounding air and enrich the soil with it. They are self-sufficient that way, so keep your synthetic fertilizers away from this independent vine who doesn’t need any chemical boost.
- Plant Wisterias far away from other plants, home structures, underground pipelines, and utility lines
Wisterias will grow everywhere and anywhere, penetrate every crevice it can find, and overrun the available space just to claim the free real estate. It’s not like Kudzu (look this up and be horrified by its prowess), but it could easily be if you let it. A good rule of thumb is to plant Wisterias at least 30 feet away from anything around them. Not only do you lessen the probability of property damage, but you also eliminate the need for nutrient competition between the Wisteria and other plants. Also, their seeds are toxic, so make sure to keep your pets and children away from the plant to prevent accidental ingestion.
Now that you know the true nature of Wisterias, feel free to have a go at planting them or just admire them come late springtime in other people’s gardens. If you have any experience with Wisterias or have gorgeous photos of them, feel free to share them down in the comments – I would love to see them. Happy planting!