Plant profile – Wisteria

Thinking about adding one of these fabulous climbers to your life but not sure which one? Here’s some pointers to help you choose!

Named after Caspar Wistar, the North American anatomist

The genus unusually has species distributed over East Asia and North America and as such is considered a Tertiary (formed in the first period of the Cenozoic era, which lasted for 69 million years, during which mammals became dominant) relic. During this time many of the landmasses were still connected.

Wisteria sinensis

Wisterias have become for many of us synonymous of late spring, their wonderfully scented abundant flowers dripping from pergolas, bowers and houses across the length and breadth certainly of southern england!

However their flowering times can be rudely cut off by am unseasonably late frost!

In the UK there are two main species you will see grown.

Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria sinensis, the Chinese wisteria, native across wide parts of the chinese provinces and used in many of its works of art across millenia.

First introduced to Britain in 1816 by John Reeves.

The Chinese wisteria winds counter clockwise and produces its flowers before its leaves. The flowers are smaller than that of its Japanese counterpart and are scentless. Leaves have fewer than 11 leaflets per leaf.

Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria floribunda

Wisteria floribunda or the Japanese Wisteria, growing up to 9M in height it can attain the longest flower racemes of any wisteria. It twines clockwise and its flowers are heavily scented. Its leaves have more than 12 leaflets per leaf.

Introduced to the UK in 1830.

Wisteria floribunda

Hybrids between sinensis and floribunda are now relatively common.

Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’

If you haven’t got a huge space one species that might be of interest to you is Wisteria frutescens (AKA: American Wisteria)

I grow the variety ‘Amethyst Falls’ which is a dainty, late flowering plant up a steel support I had made to my design. I keep it in a large pot as I never know when I might have to move again and I wouldnt want to leave it behind!

Clockwise twining stems, prefers moist soil. Tolerates shade but flowers best in full or partial sun.

Its much later flowering, June, so is less likely to be damaged by frosts. Dwarf – reaching a maximum of 5M by 3M. However its flowers are not scented and they have a shorter flowering period

7 Replies to “Plant profile – Wisteria”

  1. Hi Lou, I have trouble with this direction of twining concept. It does depend on whether you’re looking up from the ground, or down from above! I’ve recently become aware of Wisteria brachybotrys. There’s a white flowered one called W. brachybotrys f. albiflora ‘Shiro-kapitan’ (what a mouthful!) I’m not sure how this fits in with the genus, or how it differs; if it does.
    Great post, with lovely photos – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya, glad you enjoyed it and regards twining direction, imagine a vine is growing from the floor to the sky and it gets level with your eyes. You can only see the direction the tip is traveling. If from right to left it is clockwise, if from left to right it’s anticlockwise. I hope that makes it clearer?


  2. Okay, so I’ve just experimented on this using a stake, and some wire to represent the shoot. Whether the stem is twining clockwise or anti-clockwise, seen at eye-level, the tip will appear to grow both right to left, and left to right, depending upon whether it is in front of or behind the support. The circular direction of travel can only be defined by looking up from ground level, or down from above! Sorry, but this troubles my obssessive mind. Do I need to get a life?:¬]


    1. Short answer, yes 😉
      Long answer, as you cannot see the tip when it is behind the stick the only direction you should be taking note of is the one you can see 👍

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When growing up we lived in Wisteria Cottage, so they are a favourite plant. We have the white floribunda, which is fantastic when in flower.

    Liked by 1 person

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