Alan Titchmarsh gives advice for growing this most glorious of horticultural spectacles.

There’s a lot to be said for a slow start to spring. Yes, it’s frustrating to wait so long for floral joys after a cold, wet and snowy winter, when army-blanket skies were the order of the day, week after week, month after month.

However, late springs reduce the risk of premature growth that can often be severely burned by late frosts. Last year, a friend’s wisteria, which had put on a spectacular annual display for half a century, was dripping with sad, grey flower trails in April, the result of unexpected freezing temperatures at the end of the month.

This year, they have high hopes of the sort of spectacle their house has become renowned for, as the buds didn’t even start to break until the middle of April.

How I love wisteria! It graced the front wall of our modest three-up, three-down terrace house when we got married and I trained it proudly so that, in the six years we lived there, its territory was extended year on year.

It was the common Chinese wisteria (W. sinensis), generally the only kind that existed in our gardens for many years. Today, there are countless cultivars, mainly of Japanese origin, with strange names and, in some cases, strange colours and flower formations.

Wisteria tunnel in full bloom at Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan

If you’re planting a new one, first check that you like the colour and flower form and buy a grafted plant, as it will bloom more reliably and at a much younger age. The graft union will be clearly visible a few inches above soil level. Plants that aren’t grafted and have been propagated by layering or cuttings can be irritatingly flower shy; there are ways to encourage blooming in older reluctant plants.

Wisteria needs a sunny wall. Don’t waste your time giving it a wall facing north or east. South and west are the more favoured aspects, where the wood will ripen most effectively. Then there’s the twice-yearly pruning. In July, tie in all questing growths that are needed to extend the plant’s coverage, but shorten all others to about 1ft. In January, cut back all sideshoots to finger length. Do this every year and your plant should not disappoint.

Meltingly beautiful Lodge House in Smeeth, near Ashford, Kent, has a Georgian façade clad
in mature wisteria.

Your wall will need some kind of support framework, as wisteria is a twiner, with no sticky pads such as those on Virginia creeper or aerial roots on ivy. Stout horizontal wires fastened to sturdy vine eyes screwed into the wall at intervals of 18in give the most unobtrusive support.

A well-affixed trellis can be used, but the snaking stems can get behind it and, as they fatten over the years, they can prise it from the wall – regular untangling during winter pruning will reduce this risk.

Feeding your wisteria with a generous helping of rose fertiliser (rich in flower-promoting potassium and magnesium) every March will help to promote regular flowering and healthy growth. If your wisteria has been pruned and fed and grown on a sunny wall and still refuses to flower after three or four years, give it up as a bad job, haul it out and plant a grafted variety that will make up for lost time.

Gateway to paradise: the wisteria-clad entrance to Dunsborough Park at Ripley, Surrey

Of the many varieties available, I particularly favour the old favourite Macrobotrys, which has flower trails that can be about 2ft long. The white varieties are wonderfully classy and, in the right situation, can be as spectacular as those of lilac purple.

I would never shun the plain W. sinensis, the flower trails of which give off the most delectable scent in spring sunshine, especially if trained around a bedroom window that can be opened to let in the heady fragrance.

Growing wisteria in pots and containers is seldom successful, as the plants are so greedy when it comes to food and water. If you lack a suitable house wall, you can grow wisteria as a free-standing ‘standard’ on a 5ft bare stem. It will need some support, but I remember massive free-standing specimens at Kew Gardens when I was a student there and, even then, they were a good century in age. They scrambled like boa constrictors over a rusted iron framework they’d all but demolished.

All we need now is the sort of sunny weather that was lacking earlier in the year so that we can savour the delights of late spring and early summer in the company of one of the plant world’s most spectacular members.

Tulips bloom in spring on the garden island of Mainau, Lake Constance, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Alan Titchmarsh talks about his love of bulbs, which ones not to bother with, and the difference between a gardener

Wisteria tunnel in full bloom at Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Garden designer Anthony Noel extols the virtues of floral arches that delight the senses.

wildflower meadow thumb.jpg

The Country Life guide to growing, and mowing, wildflower meadows

In much of garden literature, you will find claims that the American hybrids are less tenacious or less inclined to bloom repeatedly. However, ‘less tenacious’ is a very relative term. After all, we’re still dealing with wisteria; healthy specimens can grow five to ten feet in a single season. As for flowering, under ideal growing conditions, and with the correct species for your climate, you will typically get a large flush of spring flowers and often another flush later in summer (usually at about thirty percent of the volume of the spring bloom).

A well-established wisteria should be in its bloom cycle in April/May here in the Northwest, with Chinese varieties blooming prior to leaf-out and American and Japanese varieties blooming after leaf-out and slightly after Chinese cultivars. Very well-tended wisterias will sometimes bloom at other times during the growing seasons, but never to the magnitude seen in spring.

Some of you may be shaking your heads thinking: mine has never even bloomed once! This is certainly possible and may be related to one of the following issues:

  • High-nitrogen fertilizers: If your plant is near a fertilized lawn or if you use a very high-nitrogen fertilizer (strength of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K) is listed numerically on packages, with nitrogen being the first number), you will be pushing a high degree of vegetative growth at the sacrifice of flowering. Wisteria is a member of the legume/pea family and as such may have some nitrogen-fixing properties, further compounding the fertilizer factor.
  • Light: While wisteria can be grown in part-shade environments, flowering requires at least six hours of sunlight.
  • Frost: As with many spring-flowering plants, a cold snap or frost can damage and kill flowers or their buds.
  • Pests and Disease: This is very unusual. The biggest pest is wisteria scale, which is not a very big problem here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve seen only one case of wisteria scale brought into Swansons. Treatment is best done through systemic insecticides because, given the size of wisteria plants and the density of the foliage, foliar applications are often inadequate. Sometimes root rot or graft failure can occur if wisteria is planted very poorly or grown in excessively wet locations with poor drainage.
  • Water: Wisteria prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soils. Thus, given our drier Mediterranean summers, some degree of irrigation can help, especially if the plant is in a particularly dry area.
  • Pruning: While wisterias are famous for tolerating all sorts of aggressive pruning, poorly timed or poorly done pruning can greatly mitigate flowering.
  • Maturation: Plants are usually said be “adults” once they’ve reached the capacity for flowering. For some plants this can be in a single season, or it can take decades. Wisteria grown from seed can take 20 years to bloom. Fortunately, this is very uncommon in the nursery trade. The plants we see, particularly hybrids and cultivars, are grafted or grown from rooted cuttings and will bloom quite young, at around 7 years old.

If you planted wisteria this year (or even a few years ago) and it didn’t bloom, don’t worry too much. Wisteria can take time to become established and consistently put out its spectacular flower show. Very young plants may need up to 7 years before they flower freely. I have, however, come across accounts of plants flowering the first year of planting. Fortunately, growers typically make the plants available to us when they are 4-8 years old so you won’t have to wait long for blooms once properly planted.

However, if you’ve got an older plant that refuses to flower, or flowers only sporadically (i.e. once every few years), there are several things you can do to provoke flowering the next year.

I’ll start with the basics: fertilizers and root pruning. In the second part of this series, I’ll go into pruning, which is far and above the best method to promote re-blooming.


The N-P-K reading on fertilizers indicates the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium they contain. Nitrogen is used primarily for the production of vegetative growth. Phosphorous and potassium are used for a wealth of plant functions, but are often understood to be tied to flower development.

Note: it is misleading to say, “Phosphorous makes flowers.” It alone does not; instead bloom formulas or superphosphate fertilizers essentially deny a plant a dose of nitrogen and shift growth from vegetative to flowering.

Give wisteria too high a dose of nitrogen – say if it’s catching fertilizer you broadcast onto your lawn (lawn fertilizers are typically quite high in nitrogen) – and flower production will suffer, but vegetative growth will be prolific.

Sometimes giving wisteria a bloom fertilizer – a generic term for any fertilizer high in P-K but low in N – can help provoke bloom, or create a fuller bloom. This should be done in early spring.

Repeatedly feeding an established wisteria is not recommended. Oftentimes, for established plants or reluctant bloomers, a healthy dose of stress helps to induce flowering.

Root Pruning

Sometimes flowering plants and trees simply languish and the reasons are mysterious or unclear. If you are having trouble deducing a cause, root pruning may sufficiently shock a wisteria into bloom.

Fear not! This does not involve digging up your plant, which is a great thing because wisteria does not transplant well, particularly later in its life.

Root pruning is best done in late fall or early spring. This technique puts the plant through a mild degree of shock, ideally provoking enhanced performance.

The best place to start root pruning is anywhere two feet away from the trunk. Drive a spade or shovel straight into the soil; you’ll want to penetrate at least one foot deep. Cleanly remove the blade, move the spade roughly 14 – 18 inches to the left or right and push it in again, making sure to maintain a distance of two feet from the trunk. With your first circle made, move out another 18 inches and start in a space where you didn’t go into the ground the first time – continue this staggering method to create roughly five concentric circles around the base, assuming you have a well established wisteria.

While not an ideal approach, this method can certainly be employed on troublesome plants. Don’t worry about harming the wisteria. Provided it is in good health, its highly vigorous nature will certainly help it continue to thrive even if you resort to this option.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our wisteria tutorial: Promoting Wisteria Bloom, Part 2: A 3-Year Plan.


  • Share this:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Pin on Pinterest
  • Tweet on Twitter

Rabbits aren’t Chickens, but they are both animals, agreed? Evergreen Wisteria is neither evergreen…nor is it a true wisteria. Wisteria sinensis, or Chinese Wisteria vine that we all recognize with its large purple blooms that remind me of grapes, is a very different plant from Evergreen Wisteria, though both are in the same family called legumes. Here is why I like recommending the Evergreen Wisteria over the Chinese Wisteria to my customers…

Plant Characteristics:

Evergreen Wisteria can grow between 15 and 30 feet high, depending on the conditions and is easily trained on any garden structure. The foliage is dark green and deciduous (drops in winter), if we get cold enough for it. They are perennials, so they will flush out new growth each spring. The deep purple blooms emerge in mid-summer, which is a different cycle from the Chinese Wisteria, which will bloom only in spring. The growth habit of Evergreen Wisteria is another noticeable difference from the Chinese Wisteria. Evergreen Wisteria has a refined habit, clumping better and won’t run into the lawn or garden like the Chinese Wisteria tends to do. Also, the foliage is much denser on the Evergreen compared to the Chinese Wisteria.

The blooms on the Evergreen Wisteria are smaller than the traditional vine and have a pea-like appearance and are 6-8 inches long. They bloom in mid to late summer, which is nice when many plants have petered out with the heat. The blooms are a deep royal purple and are striking against the foliage. These blooms are HIGHLY FRAGRANT! The sweet, enticing scent will draw any and every one to this area of your garden. They are also adaptable to many soil and moisture conditions. They are toxic to pets if they ingest the seeds or bark of the vine.

Plant Care:

Evergreen Wisteria should be planted in a sunny area, in well-drained soil. They like regular watering if no rainfall is occurring. Deadheading, removing spent blooms, will help to promote more vigorous flowering. When fertilizing the Evergreen Wisteria, a liquid fertilizer with a bloom boosting ingredient is preferred, but a granular slow release fertilizer is sufficient also. Prune in late winter or early spring when trimming them back for the next growing season.


The Evergreen Wisteria can be grown on pergolas, fences, trellises, arbors, and just about anything else in the garden you’re willing to train it on! They can be used to hide unsightly areas like an A/C unit or to add some privacy where needed. They make great companion plants in the veggie garden. They fix nitrogen in the soil, which is a critical element in soils. This will also positively affect other plantings around it, so, an edible space like a raised or rowed garden with your favorite fresh foods is a wonderful place to incorporate them!

I’ve worked a good bit training Evergreen Wisteria on arbors for customers as well as commercially. It is worth every ounce of labor—truly a labor of love, whose reward is lavish beauty and fragrance in your favorite sitting space in your garden.

You can spot the graft three or four inches above soil level – it will look like a knobbly “thumb” where the flowering variety meets the rootstock. Not only do grafted plants flower more reliably than those propagated by other means, but they also flower in their youth rather than maturity.

A sunny south or west-facing wall is the best position and you need to prepare the ground carefully beforehand by working in lots of well-rotted organic matter. Attach some horizontal wires to the wall at 1ft intervals so that the stems can be unwound from their cane and tied in, and space them out as they grow.

You need not keep them all. Once more stems are produced than you need to cover the area, snip off any that you don’t need. Twice-yearly pruning is best for mature plants – once in July and again in January. An occasional feed with rose fertiliser – in March and June – is all that is necessary to fuel their display. And, hey-presto, the feat is gone and you now know just what to do.

So get out there, choose your spot and then choose your plant for 100 fragrant springs to come.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and every day in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

(EVERGREEN) WISTERIA—Except it’s not.

It’s Ann’s fault.

“Please, please, please write a blog on Evergreen Wisteria???” I’m not a fan of wisteria. My father (tried) to train it to cover a patio in San Antonio. You’ve never seen a more God forsaken vine in your life. The yellow chlorotic leaves limply hung on sad little vines struggling in the limestone caliche. I was told that it had exquisite purple blooms in the spring. Never saw one. My father heard that if you shock wisteria, that it would burst into bloom. Even being sharply rammed with a lawnmower failed to persuade the thing to flower. But I digress.

Susan has planted the most breath taking vine at the garden called—evergreen wisteria. It has grown from a little start planted this spring into a stunner filled with purple blooms—and get this—it flowers mid-summer to fall when other more sane plants have thrown in the towel.

Millettia reticulata, Evergreen Wisteria in our Garden

Usually when we think of wisteria, we dream of southern arbors covered with long purple blooms for two to three weeks in the spring. The often-used Chinese wisteria Wisteria sinensis has a dark side. (Does that infamous southern vine, kudzu, come to mind?)

Wisteria gallops over companion plants, prompting Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Dale Groom to write, “Because wisteria has been known to literally take over other plantings, plant it on structures that are separate from other landscape locations.” In other words, if you can’t play nicely, you have to play alone. All 35 mature vining feet of you.

Wisteria sinensis

Ah, but if you want the Southern Landscape Look, without the hassle, consider American wisteria Wisteria frutescens. It blooms in the spring, but is better behaved than its Japanese or Chinese relations. I’ll put my money on evergreen wisteria Millettia reticulata, which isn’t a wisteria at all. (Refer to my opinion of wisteria in paragraph two.) Its oval leaves are evergreen, and it blooms when everything else in the garden is gasping in the heat. At 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide, evergreen wisteria grows less than half the reach of Chinese wisteria. And the purple/magenta bloom is lovely. The vine is suggested for zones 8 to 10, so gardeners in colder climates would need to bring it into the greenhouse in the winter.


Evergreen pictures by Starla.

You can observe Evergreen Wisteria growing at the garden and have a Harvest Lunch with us on October 29th. Details here.

Plants help your aquarium in a variety of ways, such as: providing shelter for fish and keeping the water clean and oxygenated.

Picking the right plant prevents problems down the road.

Water wisteria is a species that will cause you very little hassle. It’s undemanding and hardy, so it can tolerate a variety of conditions. It only needs small amounts of maintenance so it doesn’t take up much of your time.

You can find it in most aquarium shops and you don’t have to buy many stems because it’s such an easy plant to propagate.

In addition, it provides your tank with bright greens colors, and can be grown as a carpet if you want it to be.

This article explains everything you need to know about caring for water wisteria, such as ideal tank conditions, propagation and much more…

Category Rating
Family: Acanthaceae
Care Level: Easy
Growth Rate: Fast
Maximum Size: 20 inches
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Water Conditions: 70-82°F, pH 6.5-7.5, KH 2-8
Lighting: Moderate to High
Propagation: Side Shoots/Cutting
Placement: Background or Carpet

Water Wisteria Overview

Water wisteria (Hydrophila difformis) is a freshwater plant from the Acanthaceae family. It’s native to the Indian subcontinent, covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Just like other plants, water wisteria provides lots of different services for your tank. This includes being a shelter or nursery for fish, and keeping the water cleaner.

As one of the hardier aquarium species, this plant is popular for both beginners and experts because of its ability to handle common fishkeeping mistakes.

It’s easy to propagate too which helps people to multiply their populations from a relatively small supply.

These plants have attractive green leaves which brighten up any tank, just watch out for fish that get carried away when nibbling on them for food.

Uses for Water Wisteria (Carpet, Floating and More)

There are lots of different types of aquatic plants and they all have different uses. The classic image of a plant is one that’s rooted into the sediment with the stem growing upwards towards the surface, but this isn’t always the case.

Water wisteria can either be rooted in the sediment or spread across the substrate surface as a carpet.

The biggest difference between these is visual. Carpets form a thick green layer that brighten the bottom of the tank. If the stems are growing upwards they add colors and shapes to the middle levels of the water which tends to be emptier.

Another difference is the shelter that they offer. Since carpets are so low down they’re mostly home to bottom-dwelling fish like loaches, whereas plants that are higher up can be shelter for mid-level fish.

Where you plant your water wisteria will depend on what you want to use it for.


Stems of water wisteria can reach a height of up to 20 inches, and a width of around 10 inches. This means it covers a lot of the tank and might block out too much light if left uncontrolled.

The leaves are a bright green, forming narrow protrusions along their length. They can take a few different forms, making them useful for scientists to study heterophylly (this is where leaves change their shape in response to environmental conditions).

The stem is slightly darker. It’s firm which helps to support the weight of the relatively large leaves.

Their thin white roots are buried beneath the substrate to anchor the plant in place.

Depending on how you plant it, this species can climb up to the surface of the water or spread across the bottom as a carpet (like Staurogyne repens).

Buying Water Wisteria

It’s important to find some strong specimens to buy, as they will have the best chance of survival.

There are a few things to look out for before you buy water wisteria. First of all, the roots should be long and abundant, otherwise the plant won’t be able to hold itself up or gather many nutrients.

The plant should be standing upright and able to support its own weight. Drooping specimens at the bottom of the tank should be avoided.

Make sure the colors are bright and consistent. If there are areas of yellow or brown, then it’s usually an indicator of a plant in poor health.

It is not hard to find this species, it’s stocked in most aquarium stores because it’s so popular. They range in price depending on the amount and size of the plants you buy. Expect to pay $5-10 for a good bunch. You don’t need to buy too much as you can propagate it over time at home (more on this later).

How to Care for Water Wisteria

Aquatic Plants

Tank Conditions and Requirements

These days water wisteria can be found all around the world, but in its native waters around India, this plant thrives in warm shallow waters where it has lots of access to sunlight.

The roots bury themselves in the sandy substrates of these waters, which might be either slightly acidic or slightly alkaline.

Fortunately these wild conditions are easy to recreate at home. Water wisteria is an undemanding species so can tolerate a range of different setups.

Firstly, you need the right size tank. This species can be kept in setups as small as 10 gallons.

Ideally, stems should be planted in a sandy substrate to mimic their natural conditions, but fine gravels are suitable too.

You’ll need to heat the water to between 70-82°F. Temperatures outside of this range will slow the rate of photosynthesis, potentially stopping plant growth. Avoid extremes in pH. This species prefers neutral water values of 6.5-7.5. They prefer soft to moderately hard water as well (2-8 KH).

The rest of the tank is free for you to design. The only other thing that water wisteria will need is access to light, but most aquarium lights are fine for photosynthesis as long as you make sure the plants aren’t in shaded areas.

How to Plant

You need to think about how you’ve set up your tank when planting. It’s important to use the right substrate or they won’t be able to grow properly. In the wild they’re rooted in sandy substrates, so this is the ideal option for your tank.

Fine gravels are suitable too but avoid any larger grained substrates. The roots need to be able to easily move through the grains to firmly hold the pant in place and gather nutrients.

Plant your stems in areas where they have plenty of access to light for photosynthesis, otherwise they won’t be able to grow.

Make sure that your plants aren’t kept too densely, or they will compete with each other. Start with just a few, spaced a couple of inches apart. You can propagate some stems later if you have extra space.

If you want the carpet effect, plant your stems on their side and root them in place. Only the leaves facing upwards will grow to create a carpet effect. If you don’t want the carpet effect, you just have to plant the roots in the substrate and leave the stems to grow towards the light like they normally would.

Care and Maintenance

Water wisteria is one of the faster growing species of plant, so perhaps the biggest issue you’ll have is keeping its size down.

You can easily control this by trimming the stems back down to the size you want. If you let it grow too large it will start to crowd your other plants or block out light to the areas below.

When trimming, make sure to remove your cuttings from the tank or they will fall to the substrate and gradually grow into their own plant.

Since they grow so fast they use up more nutrients than other species, sometimes causing a nutrient deficiency. You could try adding some nutrient supplements if you don’t think your plants are growing as well as they should. Watch that you’re not promoting excessive algae growth though.

Water Wisteria Propagation

The process of propagation is quite simple both in captivity and the wild.

Naturally water wisteria would grow to a point where parts of the plant begin to fall off. These would then develop into new plants.

The process occurs in the same way in an aquarium, but you’re able to manipulate it a bit. You can take cuttings and plant them where you like. This species grows fast so would quickly fill a paludarium.

Once you have a mature plant reaching full height, you can cut the top 5 inches or so from the stem. Plant these somewhere else in the substrate and they’ll start to grow roots and develop into their own plant.

Make sure the cutting you make has leaves so it can photosynthesize.

Compatibility and Tank Mates

You can keep it with other plant species, just be careful the tank isn’t too densely planted. Consider the areas that your plants will grow into, making sure there’s little overlap. You don’t want them competing or some may die off.

Most fish can be introduced without any problems, but there are a few that should be kept separate. The leaves of water wisteria are ideal for nipping and some fish will take advantage of this.

Research fish before you add them to check if they eat plants. Goldfish, rainbow fish and silver dollars are just a few examples that might destroy your plants.

Water wisteria is a hardy plant that can survive some nibbling but only to a certain extent. Most cichlids are usually fine, except a few that might uproot the stems (like Oscars). Other ideal tank mates include: Bettas, Cherry Barbs, Corydoras Catfish, Danios, Dwarf Gourami, Guppies, Mollies, Rasboras, Swordtails and Tetras.

Most, but not all, species of snail will tear through your plants when they get hungry. If your heart is set on adding snails then assassin snails are less likely to eat plants.
Shrimp are another option and shouldn’t impact on your plants too much.

Is Water Wisteria Suitable for your Aquarium? (Summary)

There aren’t many tanks that this species can’t be added to. Water wisteria is a hardy species, so it can be added to lots of different setups.

Check that your water conditions are suitable and make sure that you don’t have any problematic fish that are likely to destroy the plant. These are the most common causes for the death of this plant.

The popularity of this species makes it cheap to buy. It’s one of the most accessible hardy aquarium plants in the fishkeeping industry.

Their fast growth rate means you can propagate stems quickly.

It will prove that it was value for money by helping to keep the tank clean, solving problems before they arise.

Is water wisteria one of your favorite aquarium plants? Have you tried using it as a carpet species? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below…

Everything there is to know about keeping fish.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the best information straight in your inbox.

By signing up you agree to our terms

Water Wisteria Guide

The water wisteria, or Hygrophila difformis, is a very hardy and easy-to-grow aquarium plant, which is very popular among beginner as well as advanced aquarists.

This plant is native to India and neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of Malaysia. It usually grows during the rainy season in shallow waters, but in the home tank it will grow all year round.

In its natural habitat, the water wisteria can either be found floating on the water’s surface or rooted, growing partially immersed.

It usually grows up to 20 inches high and 10 inches wide, but with lower lighting it will be considerably smaller.

Tank Requirements

Due to its size, the water wisteria is not recommended for Nano aquariums. It can be kept as a mid-ground or background plant in tanks of a minimum 10 gallons.

The water should be soft to moderately hard and pH should be 6.5-7.5, but it has been noticed this plant will thrive in any conditions, though fertilizers should still be added.

The water wisteria does best in water temperatures of 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check out the correct type of plants for your tank.

Planting your Water Wisteria

The best substrate for this plant is a specialty plant substrate very rich in nutrients. It can still grow in small grain gravel or sand substrate, as long as you keep fertilizing it with fertilizing tabs, but be careful to anchor the wisteria if you plant it in sand until the roots are well established in the substrate to avoid accidental uprooting.

The water wisteria makes a good mid- to background aquarium plant, but can also be grown as a carpet. For this, you have to plant it on its side and make sure the roots are developed along the stem.

This way, leaves will only grow on one side and extend along the substrate to create a carpet effect.

For a more striking effect, plant it between rocks or pieces of wood or next to other contrasting plants.

Care for your Water Wisteria

The water wisteria is very easy to care for, as it thrives in many conditions even without CO2 supplementation. For the best look and sturdy leaves, make sure you provide a nutrient rich substrate or at least constant fertilizing with tabs.

Fertilizing is very important, as the plant needs nitrate, phosphate, and, most importantly, iron to have a healthy development. Iron deficiency can easily be noticed if the leaves turn pale and yellowish.

Remove any dead or brown sections to prevent infections from spreading throughout the plant; this also allows it to use its energy and nutrients only for the healthy leaves and stems.

Occasional trimming may be needed to make sure light and nutrients reach all the stems and roots. You can always replant the stems you trimmed if you want lush vegetation.

It will grow well under moderate light, but strong light will help accelerate the wisteria’s growth rate and maintain the most intense colors.


Propagation is conducted through stem or leaf cutting near the base of the mother plant.

Plant cuttings will soon grow their own roots and develop into a new plant; if you keep cutting and replanting, newly developed shoots from each plant will form a bushy effect and you can even leave the plant to propagate by its own shoots to allow it to cover a larger surface.

Suitable Fishes

Water wisteria is best kept together with smaller fish, shrimp, or snails that won’t try to eat the plant. Avoid cichlids, especially those that like to redecorate their tank and constantly uproot plants.

Goldfish are known to devour most plants in a matter of hours so, if it’s lucky enough, the water wisteria will keep a few lonely stems, which is why goldfish are not friendly tank mates for the water wisteria.

If you still want to keep this plant in a goldfish tank, you should consider growing some stems in a separate tank to be able to replace the eaten ones.

The water wisteria makes a good plant for breeding tanks, as its wide leaves provide a multitude of hiding places for spawning females and very young fry who run the danger of being consumed by adults.

Also, smaller fish in community tanks may hide between this plant’s leaves for some privacy or to avoid being harassed by larger fish.

With such an easy-to-grow plant, why use artificial ones? Live aquarium plants provide natural water filtration and a natural and tasty snack for fish that like to nibble on vegetable matter from time to time.

The water wisteria is one the most beautiful aquarium plants to add to your tank!

Wisteria sinesis Chinese Wisteria1

Edward F. Gilman2


Chinese wisteria is a shade-tolerant vine, but it blooms only when grown in the partial to full sun (Fig. 1). It prefers a deep, rich loam, but will grow in any soil. Wisteria has a fast growth rate and may be hard to transplant due to a coarse root system. Planting from containers is easy. The roots are aggressive and could disrupt a nearby garden. The violet-blue flowers, borne in showy, drooping racemes, are produced in late winter (hardiness zone 8 and 9) to early summer (hardiness zone 6). They cover the plant for several weeks each year.

Figure 1.

Chinese wisteria

General Information

Scientific name: Wisteria sinensis Pronunciation: wiss-STEER-ree-uh sye-NEN-sis Common name(s): Chinese wisteria Family: Leguminosae Plant type: vine USDA hardiness zones: 5 through 9 (Fig. 2) Planting month for zone 7: year round Planting month for zone 8: year round Planting month for zone 9: year round Origin: not native to North America Uses: espalier; container or above-ground planter Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant Figure 2.

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: depends upon supporting structure Spread: depends upon supporting structure Plant habit: spreading Plant density: moderate Growth rate: fast Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound Leaf margin: entire Leaf shape: ovate Leaf venation: pinnate Leaf type and persistence: deciduous Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches Leaf color: green Fall color: yellow Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: violet-blue Flower characteristic: pleasant fragrance; spring flowering


Fruit shape: pod or pod-like Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches Fruit cover: dry or hard Fruit color: brown Fruit characteristic: showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; can be trained to grow with a short, single trunk Current year stem/twig color: not applicable Current year stem/twig thickness: thick


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam Drought tolerance: high Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: not applicable Winter interest: no special winter interest Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more Invasive potential: potentially invasive Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Pruning is needed to keep this 30-foot vine contained. The vine can be seen when it is in flower in many urban areas where it has escaped its original bounds in a nearby yard. It is probably best used for training to grow onto an arbor where flowers can droop, forming a showy, fragrant ceiling of color. It can be maintained as a shrub in a landscape with plenty of room, provided it is pruned several times during the growing season. Avoid excessive applications of nitrogen fertilizer, because that will lead to foliage growth to the detriment of flowering. No fertilizer is needed in many situations.

Pests and Diseases

No problems usually limit growth of wisteria. However, black vine weevil may attack wisteria. Crown gall causes formation of galls on the main roots or stems. Remove and destroy infected plants. Leaf spots may be seen, but infected leaves can be picked off. Powdery mildew coats the leaves with a white, powdery growth.


This document is FPS-613, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.


Wisterias are gorgeous climbing plants, perfect for covering walls and fences or grown over pergolas and arches where their flowers can be appreciated cascading overhead. They flower from mid-spring into early summer, producing delightfully scented flowers in shades of purple, white or pink.


Wisterias need a sunny, sheltered position to flower well. They can be grown in very lightly shaded positions, but won’t flower as well.

They also need a soil that retains plenty of moisture in summer, but doesn’t become overly wet or waterlogged. If grown up against walls, the soil can become very dry, as can light, sandy soils, so may need watering during prolonged, dry periods – and certainly while plants are establishing. Give the soil a 7.5-10cm (3-4in) thick mulch to conserve soil moisture.

Types of wisteria

There are two main species of wisteria commonly grown in gardens:

  • Wisteria sinensis is vigorous and only really suitable for covering large areas. It produces its flowers before the leaves appear.
  • Wisteria floribunda is more compact and more suited to growing in smaller areas. It produces its flowers and leaves at more-or-less the same time.

Interestingly, the stems of Wisteria sinensis twine anticlockwise, whereas those of Wisteria floribunda grow clockwise – useful to know if you want to distinguish between the two.

Buying wisteria

Be wary when buying wisteria plants! Cheap, seed-raised plants can take many, many years to start flowering and the flowers are often a disappointing size and colour.

Grafted plants on the other hand, will reliably flower at even a young age. You can tell if the plant is grafted by looking for the graft union (a visible bulge) near the base of the main stem. Named varieties are nearly always grafted. Grafted plants are also much more expensive.

Wisterias are one plant that it is a good idea to buy in flower if at all possible, so you know it will flower early and you can see the size and colour of the flowers.

Suggested planting locations and garden types

Walls and fences, pergolas and arches, patios, containers, city and courtyard gardens, cottage and informal gardens.

How to care for wisteria

For best results, feed wisteria plants every spring. You can use Miracle-Gro Growmore Garden Plant Food or Miracle-Gro® Fish, Blood & Bone All Purpose Plant Food, but a rose or flowering shrub feed will generally give better results. In very well-drained soil, also feed with sulphate of potash in summer.

Pruning wisteria

Wisterias don’t need pruning – but they can grow out of control and and the flowers hidden by the foliage, and they will flower much more profusely if you do. The aim is to build up lots of short flowering spurs.

Initially, it is more important to train the plants to produce a main framework of main branches, and tie them in to their support to ensure they fully cover the support evenly, than worry too much about flowering.

Once the framework has been produced, you can start pruning for flowers – which needs to be done twice a year. In summer (July or August) shorten the current year’s shoots to around 30cm (12in) long, or 5-7 leaflets from the main stem/framework. Then in winter (December – February) cut back the shoots that were pruned in summer to around 2.5-5cm (1-2in) or a couple of buds.


Wisteria may be susceptible to the following pests, diseases and problems: Birds, frost damage and graft failure.

Flowering season(s)

Spring, Summer

Foliage season(s)

Spring, Summer, Autumn


Full sun

Soil type

Chalky, Loamy, Sandy

Soil pH


Soil moisture

Moist but well-drained

Ultimate height

Up to 10m (33ft)

Ultimate spread

Up to 10m (33ft)

Time to ultimate height

10-15 years


Wisteria is a perennial vine with wonderfully fragrant flowers, often lavender, that grow in clusters, similar to grapes.

But the wisteria common throughout the Southeast is actually an invasive from China. Chinese wisteria grows so rapidly that it covers plants, shading out others and even killing trees.

Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) is able to damage local ecosystems because of its rampant growth and ability to thrive in a number of different conditions. While Chinese wisteria won’t produce its trademark flowers without sun and prefers rich loam, this resilient vine will still grow in shade and tolerates any soil.

Wisteria can climb up tall trees and will continue to grow in the tree canopy where it can shade out smaller trees and plants below. Additionally, individual wisteria plants can live for more than 50 years; wisteria’s longevity only increases its ability to invade an area and choke out native plants.

Removing Invasive Wisteria

If you want to remove invasive wisteria species from your landscape be sure to do so carefully. The best way to eliminate wisteria from your landscape is to cut the vines off as close the root as possible and “paint” the cut stem with glyphosate (i.e. Round-up) or Garlon (i.e. Brush B Gone). This process can be repeated if you wisteria resprouts. Remember, wisteria can grow from seeds or rooted stolons, so be sure to properly dispose of your cut vines to prevent an infestation. Proper disposal of wisteria involves putting it out for curbside pickup where available.

If you don’t want to use herbicides you can simply cut the vine off as close to the root as possible, but be aware that wisteria will continue to sprout after being cut, so you will have to cut it back every few weeks until fall. You can also remove the entire plan by digging up the roots. Any root pieces left in the ground may resprout so be on the lookout for wisteria growing back. Again, be sure to properly dispose of your unwanted wisteria.

Non-Invasive Wisterias

For those who wish to incorporate flowering vines into your yard, do your landscape and the environment a favor and find a nursery that can recommend a non-invasive plant. Another good reference is the EDIS publication “Flowering Vines for Florida,” which provides photos, information on growing regions, and flowering times on a number of flowering vines ideal for Florida landscapes.

American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) and evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata) are two lovely, non-invasive options for your home landscape. The native American wisteria cultivar ‘Amethyst Falls’ has deep blue/purple flowers and blooms in the spring and summer. The blooms may not be quite as fragrant, but won’t need the constant pruning and caution associated with Chinese or Japanese wisterias.

An added bonus, American wisteria is a larval host plant to both the silver-spotted skipper and the long-tailed skipper butterflies. American wisteria is only hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9, so it will not perform well in all parts of Florida.

Luckily, gardeners throughout the state can replace invasive wisteria with the fragrant flowering vine evergreen wisteria, sometimes called summer wisteria. Evergreen wisteria is a non-native, non-invasive vine with glossy, leathery green leaves and small, fragrant flowers that bloom during the summer. Evergreen wisteria (which is not truly a wisteria), is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 10 and will grow best in areas with full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.

Both of these vines are more delicate and grow less aggressively than invasive wisteria, making them ideal for cultivation in your home landscape.


  • Native: American Wisteria
  • IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Chinese Wisteria

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Alternatives to Invasive Plants Commonly Found in North Florida Landscapes
  • Silver-Spotted Skipper; Epargyreus clarus (Cramer)
  • Wisteria sinensis Chinese Wisteria

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Evergreen Wisteria

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *