Vine choices in the garden? Does it matter?
Yes! And wisteria is a giant. A vine known to swallow landscapes and buildings (I saw this first hand just outside Buenos Aires, Argentina).
But, what about wisteria’s potential and place in a small space or garden? (25 photos below.)
Is it possible for you to enjoy this amazingly gorgeous, sweetly fragrant bloomer despite its desire to take over your property…
All wisteria have similar climbing habits making them good for walls, arbors, pergolas, or grown in bush or tree form.
But, what about a wisteria for your small garden, or even a large pot?
You Can Restrict Wisteria’s Size with Spur Pruning. This Avoids the Rampant Growth and Doesn’t Effect Flowering!
I’d say treat wisteria (in the small garden) like the prized specimen it is. This will keep you realistic about training, growing and maintaining, which is best done with planning.
Wisteria Can Turn Into an Exhausting (Non) LOVE OF LABOR
Don’t let this happen!
Be realistic. Growing/training/maintaining wisteria is a labor of love, but, can quickly turn into an exhausting (non) love of labor. Ask yourself these questions first:
- Growing location – Where do you want to grow it? Wall, fence, wall shrub, large container, espalier or on a structure like an arbor or pergola.
- Commitment level – Is it worth it? Growth can become a tangled mess during the growing season. Factor in keeping this vine under control with a minimum pruning 2-times per year, summer and winter. Prune back to 6″ in July; shorten to 2 to 3 buds in December or January. Keep in mind that pruning controls growth, which keeps wisteria neat and enables you to restrict size.
- Wisteria forms – Your preference? (1) vine (2) tree (3) bush.
After assessment. Are you on board with training + annual maintenance pruning this vine requires?
Q: Wisteria Tree or Vine? What’s Best for a Small Garden?
A: It depends. Both work, let’s have a look…
Wisteria tree – Thumbs up to this priceless addition to the small garden! In bloom it’s breathtaking and fragrant. You could grow one in a large pot, too, so don’t be shy! Take a look below (photo #13) of a wisteria tree just beginning to flower.
Wisteria vine – Like the tree wisteria, this can also be a wonderful addition to the small garden. I’d recommend 1 to 2 vines for a pergola. And no, not a problem, just stick with the recommended training and pruning. You train initially with 3 stems and prune back other growth to 3 to 4 leaflets. A wisteria wall espalier is a personal favorite but it can be a bit more technically challenging. Take a look below at the espaliered vines, one on each side of the garage ( photo #2. ) Trained with a permanent framework using spur pruning this wisteria is kept very neat and flowers beautifully every spring (photo #18.) So, if you have a small space and like this aesthetic, espalier or wall shrub is an excellent way to go. And finally, take a look at the numerous photos below to see how wisteria is grown and trained in the small home garden.
Tip: See horizontal vine training wire method here.
About Wisteria Vines
Wisteria is a deciduous, woody stemmed vine. A twining and vigorous habit with fast growth is synonymous with wisteria. With age wisteria’s size increases as does its weight, which will grow substantially thicker and more woody. It’s very important to match a durable support structure and hardware to this plant’s future weight where necessary. Adequate support, like a metal trellis (photo #4, #12 ) or wooden arbor (photos #7 -9) can make an excellent marriage with this vine as well as add to the design.
Wisteria has extremely showy, large, cascading flower clusters. Flowers are strongly fragrant, drooping on long racemes. Flower size: anywhere from 8 to 24 inches long. Flower color: blossoms range from violet, blue-violet, white and pink. Flowers festoon in abundance whether growing up arbors, trellises, upon walls as an espalier or in tree form. Bloom time: spring in SF Bay area -March, April, May. In colder climates, a bit later. Most wisterias will bloom within three to four years after planting. Because wisteria is in the Pea family, interesting seed pods form after flowers fade. Note: Seed pods are poisonous.
Most Popular Wisteria Vines
(1) Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) – Chinese wisteria typically have shorter flowers up to 12″ long which usually open all at once. Chinese wisteria twines counterclockwise, and new foliage is often bronze, turning green with age. Flower color: Bluish-purple, mauve and white.
Popular varieties: ‘Blue Sapphire’ ‘Amethyst Falls’ most powerfully and sweetly fragrant; ‘Caroline’ and ‘Cooke’s Special Purple’
(2) Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) Japanese wisteria flowers tend to be longer and open later than their relative – the Chinese wisteria. They also frequently bloom while their leaves are forming and twines clockwise.
Popular varieties: ‘Snow Showers’ ‘Black Dragon’ ‘Hon-Beni’ ‘Kuchi Beni’ and ‘Blue Moon’
(3) American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) American wisteria grows in eastern United States from Texas to Florida and north to New York. Short lavender flowers are lightly scented. Bloom time is in summer, later than other species. Growth is less vigorous than Asian species, but still gets big given time. Size: 8-10′ in 3 years; 30′ given time. Sun-part shade. Zone 5.
Popular varieties: ‘Nivea’ ‘Kofuji’ good for bonsai; ‘Lavender Lace’
Buying a wisteria tree (trained as a standard) is the way to go if you want instant gratification. You can also train your own. If your local nursery sells a wisteria tree (typically 5 or 15 gallon size) a grafted base grows like a small tree. Two wisteria tree examples are:
‘Cooke’s Purple’ Std. or ‘Carolyn’ Std.
Mature size: 12-15′ tall x 6′ wide.
How to prune: Same pruning, summer and winter, is used to maintain framework. More pruning will probably be needed to control growth of long twining branches produced in summer. Note: Branches have a crooked form, which is natural. If training, you want those branches to radiate out from the center. Support: Tree wisterias often need support. A wooden stake or heavy steel pipe are pretty common. These will be necessary as head grows and trunk expands. Where to grow a tree wisteria? Large pot… or use as a focal point in garden bed or border. (Photos #13, -15)
Photos: How Wisteria is Grown and Trained in the Small Home Garden
Wisteria’s trunk diameter can reach 8 inches in 20 years so as mentioned above you want to match appropriate support. Take a look at the examples in this post for ideas and inspiration. As long as you’re willing to do the work (or hire), you can see how much beauty wisteria adds. Small gardens with thoughtfully placed + designed-in plants, like wisteria, will make a seasonal statement every year. Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. 🙂
Looking to Buy Wisteria?
Here are some mentioned in this post, found on Etsy.
For vine training info, see these posts: