Content Detail

American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens; syn. Wisteria frutescens) is a woody vine that produces beautiful hanging clusters of purple flowers.  This species is native to North America.  It is a good alternative to the Japanese and Chinese wisterias that have become invasive in some areas.

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Tree or plant type Vine
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early summer, late summer, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Vining
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate

Size and method of climbing:

American wisteria can grow 20 to 30 feet long.  It is a twining vine.  Twining vines climb by twisting their stems or leaf stalks around a support.  This type of vine grows well on trellises, arbors, wires or chain-link fences.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

American wisteria is native to North America, mostly in southern states, as well as a few counties in Illinois.

Leaf description:

The opposite leaves are pinnately compound, with 9 to 15 leaflets.

Flower description: 

Purple, pea-type flowers in dangling clusters.  The clusters are 5 to 6 inches long (shorter than those of Asian species).   They have a mild fragrance.  Flowers are produced in mid-summer.

Fruit description:

Fruit are similar in appearance to pea pods.  Many parts of the plant including the seeds are poisonous to eat.

Plant care:

Full sun is preferable, but this vine will also tolerate partial shade. A moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil is best. Avoid compaction. Wisteria often do not produce flowers for the first 5 to 10 years.  To encourage flowering use nitrogen fertilizer sparingly and use a fertilizer that provides phosphorus (follow label directions). Proper pruning will also encourage flowering.  After flowering, prune excess growth back to 6 inches. These pruned stems will continue to grow.  In winter cut them again so that each stem has two to three buds left. Proper pruning not only encourages flowering, but it also helps to manage the size and shape of the vine. Wisteria vines are heavy and require sturdy supports.

List of pests and diseases:

American wisteria is not susceptible to any serious pests or diseases. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Alba American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Alba’): 

This cultivar has white flowers.

Amethyst Falls American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’):  

this cultivar has lilac flowers.  Flowers produced at a younger age, from 2 to 3 years old.

Nivea American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Nivea’):  

This is another cultivar with white flowers.

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