DESCRIPTION: This group consists of about ten hardy, deciduous, woody vines that are native to North America and eastern Asia. Wisterias belong to the Pea family, Leguminosae, and are most valued for their pendulous racemes of beautiful blue, purple, rose, mauve or white flowers in late spring and early summer, which are followed by long, flat seedpods. They usually bloom again later in the year. Their compound pinnate leaves are also very pretty. These plants are great for growing on walls, pergolas, and trellises. They can even be trained into bushes and small standards. There are primarily two types of Wisterias - those that twine from left to right and those that twine from right to left. W. floribunda (Japanese Wisteria) can climb up to 30 feet high and has leaves consisting of 13 to 19 leaflets. The fragrant flowers appear as the leaves unfurl and are produced in racemes up to 18 inches long. The bluish-purple or violet blue flowers open from the base of the raceme upward. The stems of this variety twine in a clockwise direction. W. floribunda form macrobotrys Multijuga has 1-to 3-foot long racemes of aromatic, lilac flowers shaded with bluish-purple. It is wise to grow this form on a pergola or arch to allow room for the long flower clusters. W. sinensis (Chinese Wisteria) can grow from 60 to 100 feet high with suitable support. The leaves consist of 9 to 13 elliptic to elliptic-oblong leaflets. In late spring, before the foliage appears, 8- to 12-inch long racemes are produced. The pretty, 1-inch long, mauve or deep lilac flowers open all at once and are followed by velvety seedpods. This variety usually produces another small batch of flowers in late summer. W. venusta (Silky Wisteria) is a vigorous growing plant that can reach a height of up to 30 feet. The leaves consist of 9 to 13, oval, velvety leaflets. In late spring and early summer, 4- to 6-inch long racemes of large, white flowers are produced. They are also followed by velvety seedpods. (*It should be noted that Wisterias are poisonous if eaten*)
POTTING: Grow Wisterias in good, fertile, loamy soil that has excellent drainage. Choose a location that receives full sun. Large, quick-growing varieties may need a yearly hard pruning in late winter to keep them within bounds. This can be followed in late summer by a second trimming, which consists of shortening the leafy shoots to five or six buds. However, when you first plant your Wisterias, focus on forming a strong framework of primary branches.
PROPAGATION: Dormant shoots can be grafted onto pieces of roots in a warm greenhouse in the spring. The lower branches may be layered in the spring. Root cuttings may be taken and seeds may be sown.
VARIETIES: W. floribunda & var. Alba, Lawrence, macrobotrys, Rosea; W. sinensis & var. Alba, Black Dragon, Caroline, Jako, Plena; W. venusta.
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