Content Detail

Kentucky wisteria is native to parts of North America.This species produces hanging clusters of purple flowers. It is a good alternative to the Japanese and Chinese wisterias that have become invasive in some areas. Also known as Wistaria frutescens var. macrostachya.

  • 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, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Clay soil, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Vining
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate

Size and Method of climbing:

Kentucky wisteria can grow 20 to 30 feet long. It is a twining vine which climbs by twisting its 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:

Native to North America, mostly in the southern states. It is native to a few counties in Illinois.

Leaf description:

The opposite leaves are pinnately compound, with 9 to 11 leaflets.

Flower description:

Purple, pea-type flowers bloom in dangling clusters which  are 8 to 12 inches long and fragrant.  Flowers are produced in early summer.

Fruit description:

Fruit is similar in appearance to pea pods. The seeds are poisonous to eat, as are other parts of the plant.

Plant care:

Kentucky wisteria prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It likes a moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that is not compacted. 

Wisteria often do not produce flowers for the first 5 to 10 years.  To encourage flowering use a nitrogen and phosphorus based fertilizer sparingly and apply in accordance with the label instructions. Proper pruning will also encourage flowering. After flowering, prune excess growth back to 6 inches. These pruned stems will continue to grow through the season. In winter cut them again so that each stem has two to three buds left. Proper pruning also helps to manage the size and shape of the vine. Wisteria vines are heavy and require sturdy supports.

List of pests, diseases, problems, tolerances and resistance:

No serious diseases, pests and problems are associated with this vine.  It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity

Aunt Dee Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya ‘Aunt Dee’):

Flowers are light purple with a light fragrance.  This plant is considered slightly more hardy than the species and may perform well in zone 4.

Blue Moon Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’):

Flowers are blue-purple. This plant is considered slightly more hardy than the species and may perform well in zone 4.

Clara Mack Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya ‘Clara Mack’):

This is a cultivar with white flowers.

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