American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens; syn. Wistaria frutescens) is a woody vine that produces beautiful hanging clusters of purple flowers. This species is native to North America. It is a good alternate to the Japanese and Chinese wisterias that have become invasive in some areas.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large plant (more than 24 inches)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer
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.
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 size and shape of the vine.
Wisteria vines are heavy and require sturdy supports.
Disease, pests, and problems
Disease, pests, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to North America, mostly in southern states. Native to a few counties in Illinois.
The opposite leaves are pinnately compound, with 9 to 15 leaflets.
Purple, pea-type flowers in dangling clusters. The clusters are 5 to 6 inches long (shorter than those of Asian species). Mild fragrance. Flowers are produced in mid-summer.
Fruit are similar in appearance to pea pods. Seeds are poisonous to eat (as are other parts of the plant).
Cultivars and their differences
Amethyst Falls American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'): Lilac flowers. Flowers produced at a younger age (2 to 3 years old).
Nivea American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens 'Nivea'): White flowers.