Some types of this vining plant can quickly take over your garden, but these native species won't smother your other plants.

By Andrea Beck
April 24, 2020
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Wisteria plants are stunning when they’re in bloom (just take a peek at Japan’s breathtaking wisteria tunnel). In spring, they create curtains of purplish, sweetly scented flowers for a week or so. But before you start searching for one to buy, know that not all wisterias are created equal. Some of them will quickly take over your garden. Native wisteria species, however, aren't invasive—and they're just as gorgeous. Keep reading for the best wisteria to plant now.

Credit: Courtesy of The Home Depot

Best Wisteria to Grow

Commit this name to memory and look for it on plant tags: Wisteria frutescens, commonly called American wisteria. This species is native to the eastern U.S., and it’s hardy in Zones 4-9, meaning it'll grow in most areas of the country. American wisteria can reach dazzling heights of up to 30 feet, and spreads up to 8 feet wide. It acts like a combo of a shrub and a vine, growing thick, woody stems over time that can wind around fences and scramble up the sides of a house.

Look for varieties like ‘Summer Cascade’ or ‘Amethyst Falls.’ Both produce huge clusters of fragrant, light purple flowers. As a bonus, native varieties also tend to mature and bloom sooner than invasive species, which can sometimes take a few years to flower. American wisteria is even tame enough to grow in containers (as long as you prune it regularly) if you want to enjoy the breathtaking blooms on a smaller scale.

Invasive Wisteria Species to Avoid

When you're shopping around for plants, steer clear of Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda; they're native to China and Japan, respectively, and both are invasive in several areas of the U.S. They can shoot up 10 feet in a single year, and can quickly reach up to 70 feet; if you don't want them taking over your yard, you'll be stuck doing a lot of pruning. When left unchecked, they can completely twine around shrubs and trees, blocking their sunlight and eventually killing them.

Those long vines are also heavy, to the point where they've been known to collapse fences and arbors under their weight. Once they're established, it's very difficult to get rid of nonnative wisterias because of their tough root system. It usually takes repeated treatments with herbicides and continuous cutting down the vines to finally kill them, so it's a lot easier to just avoid them completely if you can.

Credit: Denny Schrock

How to Grow Native Wisteria

Give your American wisteria a spot with well-drained, moist soil and full sun (where the plant will get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day). They can take some shade too, but if you want to see hundreds of flowers every spring, planting in full sun is the way to go.

Do your planting in the spring or fall. You'll need to dig a hole that’s as deep as the root ball in its nursery container, and two to three times as wide. If you're trying to create your own version of a wisteria tunnel with multiple plants, space them at least 10 to 15 feet apart so each one has plenty of room for its roots to develop. Once you’ve filled in the hole, water well to help the soil settle around the plants, and add a layer of mulch on top to hold in moisture and prevent weeds.

Wisterias are drought-tolerant once they've settled into your garden, but you might still need to water them once a week if you don’t get at least an inch of rain. And for the best blooms, be sure to prune your plant every year in late winter. Wisterias flower on new growth and pruning encourages more stems to sprout on the plant. You can also prune the plant back in late summer after it blooms if you’re trying to keep it a certain shape or height.

The right wisteria vines can be a beautiful addition to your yard, but the wrongs one will quickly become pesky, problematic weeds. Pay close attention to plant tags when you’re shopping for a wisteria, and look for varieties of the native species; they'll add gorgeous flowers to your yard without becoming a nuisance.

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