Tips on Growing a Wisteria Vine

Few additions to a garden command as much attention and awe as a wisteria vine in full bloom. It is exotic, dramatic and oh, so romantic. The fragrant flower clusters hang like grapes, perfuming the entire yard or even the neighborhood. Wisteria has inspired artists for centuries with graceful twisting branches and profuse flowers. In some parts of the southern United States, the vine covers trees, climbs several stories of old buildings and drapes over balconies. Follow these tips on growing a wisteria vine that will be a focal point of your garden for years to come.

The prolific nature of this vine gives the first clue as to how home gardeners should treat it -- with respect! This is not a plant that can easily be confined, and in the right conditions, its growth rate is rampant. For this reason, growing a wisteria vine means first of all giving it space. The largest wisteria vine grows in Sierra Madre, Calif., and covers an acre.

Pergolas and trellises

Wisteria needs support -- sturdy support. Flimsy trellises will not work. It is best to design a structure away from your home and prized trees. Use landscape 4x4s or larger supports for the uprights and sturdy 2x4s for the lateral support.

When the vines are just getting established, you might need to tie them to the uprights and latticework. Wisteria climbs by tendrils rather than actually clinging, as ivy does. After a few years, you will simply prune and groom to maintain the overall appearance you desire.

Topiaries

Some people train wisteria to grow in a tree-like shape. Begin by supporting the young canes and pruning the bottom branches to form a trunk. When the vine becomes a sturdy trunk, the training support is removed. If you want to grow your wisteria vine as a small tree, you might consider buying one that has been started for that purpose. In that case, routine pruning to keep the shape is all that is required.

Other tips on growing a wisteria vine

Pruning is crucial. Vines that are not properly pruned will produce few blooms. Old vines that do not produce blossoms might benefit from root pruning.

Wisteria needs full sun and well-drained, acidic soil. Master gardener Carolyn Pauw Barden, writing on the Washington State University Extension website, adds that wisteria requires little care once established. Pests generally do not bother the vine, and it does not need fertilizer. Once established, wisteria does not usually require supplemental watering either.

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