Wisteria Trees

The pendulous flowers and twisting stems of climbing Wisteria trees have an enchanting quality. The scented flowers come in shades of pink, purple, blue and white, creating long racemes of flowing colour that move beautifully in the breeze. Plant these wonderful climbers along sunny walls or over garden pergolas for the best effect.

Choosing & Growing Wisteria Trees

The abundance of fragrant summer flowers hanging down in pendants, known as racemes, make Wisteria trees exceptionally popular. Some racemes have been known to grow to 1 metre in length! Choose flower colours from white and pale pink to blue and deep purple. All our Wisteria are grafted, helping them to flower considerably earlier and more reliably than other forms (grown from cuttings etc).

Wisteria are woody climbing trees that can be trained along sunny walls, arches or pergolas to create wonderful twisted architectural forms from which the flowers hang down dramatically. They all require strong support in the form of a framework or wires and it is easiest to install this before planting the Wisteria.

Some varieties, such as W. floribunda 'Multijuga' and W. sinensis 'Prematura', can also be trained as a tree. To do this, plant the Wisteria with a stake and encourage the leader stem straight up the stake so it becomes the trunk. The following February, remove the tip of the stem at the desired trunk height.

Full sun is key for Wisteria plants to thrive and so the aforementioned sunny wall or pergola where the flowers can hang down is ideal. Wisteria are relatively easy to grow, requiring some pruning to give them the best start. Wisteria are tolerant of poor soils although they do prefer a moist, well-drained site. Wisteria has nitrogen fixing properties and should not be treated with nitrogen based fertilisers. Instead, use a phosphate or potassium based fertiliser.

History of Wisteria

Wisteria is native to eastern U.S, China, Korea and Japan. It has been bred in Japan and China for over 2000 years and was first introduced to the U.S in the 1830s. An easy way to distinguish between Chinese and Japanese Wisteria is by the direction of their twining vines. Chinese Wisteria (W. sinensis) twines anti-clockwise, whereas Japanese Wisteria (W. floribunda) twines clockwise.

There is some controversy surrounding the origin of the name Wisteria (also spelt wistaria or wysteria). Botanist Thomas Nuttall states he named it after Dr C Wistar and that the difference in spelling is due to euphony (sound pleasantness). However, other sources state it is named after Nuttall’s friend C.J Wister.

In the UK during Victorian times, Wisteria was thought to represent a warning not to become obsessed, in reference to the way it can choke other trees. In Buddhism, Wisteria symbolises humility and reflection. In the Japanese tale ‘The Wisteria Maiden’ a young woman waits for her lover underneath a wisteria tree. The long living plant symbolises the girl’s endurance during heartbreak.

Wisteria are important in Japan, with the Fuji Matsuri Wisteria festival held annually in several locations and the Kawachia Fuji Gardens boasting over 150 Wisteria plants made up of around 20 species. The gardens feature a long archway with a variety of these Wisteria trained over it and when they are in flower, the effect is an ethereal tunnel awash with colour.

Famous Wisteria Trees

Some mature varieties can grow as tall as 20m, with several particularly fine examples achieving worldwide fame. The largest Wisteria today is in California and measures 1 acre in size and weighs 250 tonnes! The largest one in the UK can be found in Wickham Place Farm in Essex. Trained along a wall it stretches for over 75 metres! One of the oldest wisterias in the UK is situated in Wrest Park, Bedfordshire and is thought to be approximately 150 years old.


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