Wisteria is a sign of Spring. Long, tall vines stretch up the sides of trees of all kinds. Dormant in the winter, trees with these vines can look like a scary monster with the dusk sky lit up in the background. Vines covering the trees take over the branches and connect one tree to another until finally you see a clump of them towering over the landscape.
In the Spring, amid the green leaves, light purple flowers drape over the tree branches leaving a beautiful sight for all.
Once the flowers die off, the vines are forgotten because they simply blend into the trees they hang onto. Their green leaves cover the trees giving a false image of a healthy tree.
While Wisteria is beautiful, it is actually an invasive plant that, like Kudzu, can kill what it covers. Those trees the Wisteria wraps around are, or are about to be, dead from the smothering vines. Thinking they are doing something great, some gardeners will actually take Wisteria a plant, put it near a tall tree in their yard and encourage it to grow up the side. Within years, however, that tall tree becomes a liability. It could be a dead tree that would threaten the nearby house during a storm.
If you like Wisteria, plant it as a vining bush away from anything around. It will grow as a little tree whichever way you decide to trim it. But, be warned, it will need a lot of trimming and training during the growing season. Once the purple flowers are gone, its branches will grow up to 10 feet each season. If you already have Wisteria wrapped around a tree, consider having it removed by a professional so you don’t destroy the host-tree’s roots.
There is a “non-invasive,” native version of the usual Asian Wisteria. It, too, grows as a vine but flowers all summer long. The flowers look a bit different and the seed pod is also different. While this version is easier to control, it will need a large amount of care and training and if left alone, can also get out of control. If you want Wisteria, look at both varieties and decide which you like best.
This gardener, me, does not recommend planting either to vine up a tree.
A great place to put Wisteria is on a fence or a Pergola. Since it grows quickly, it will fill in fast for your enjoyment. You can keep it trim, train it to grow where you want it and still enjoy the cascading purple flowers each year.
My experience with Wisteria:
I bought a house in 2015 and the previous owner had an Asian Wisteria vine started by the only tall pine tree in the back yard. The vine was wired in several places up the pine while several branches grew loosely. It was beautiful; shortly after we moved in, the Wisteria bloomed.
Seeds: Near one of the flowers grew two pods. They were as long as the flowers and were grey and fuzzy. I watched them all season not knowing what would become of them. Nothing. So as winter approached, and I noticed they were starting to dry out, I cut them both from the branch and put the pods on a table on the back porch. The pods continued to dry. They continued to stay together and stay straight.
One day near the end of January, I was sitting near the back window and saw the pods split open and the seeds housed inside flew around the porch, landing in every direction. The pods had twisted and popped opened. Had I left these pods on the branches, they would have dried out, twisted and popped open spreading the seeds around the yard to start new Wisteria plants. So that’s how you get more Wisteria. If you plant Wisteria, be sure to remove the pods before they open, unless you want new plants taking over your yard.
Growth: Some of the Wisteria branches in my yard was training up the Pine tree. Other branches were free and growing where they wanted. Wisteria seemed to grow almost as fast as the Kudzu behind my house. But it’s actually much slower. Wisteria can grow an extra 10 feet each year while Kudzu grows about 7 feet per week. The Holly growing nearby my Wisteria was being strangled by rouge Wisteria branches, so I cut them away. My patio table’s umbrella was about 8 feet away from the Wisteria. I came home from a 10-day vacation to find a Wisteria branch had started attaching itself to the edge of the umbrella that I had left open. I cut the branch away. I trimmed most of the Wisteria back to the trunk and this year I’ve hired someone to take it out. While we won’t have the pretty purple flowers, my pine tree can breathe again and the Holly can stay safe.
Seed Lending Library: I am donating my seeds to the Oxford MS Seed Lending Library at the Public Library on Bramlett Blvd. so if you want them, stop by after March 1. I’m packaging them in threes since I do not know which ones will actually germinate.
What are you growing this year?