Alphabetical Plant Listing

How To Choose The Right Wisteria

Chinese Wisteria, Japanese Wisteria, Silky Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria brachybotrys


The beauty of the pendulous racemes hanging down to form a colorful curtain of scented flowers in spring and summer, the elegant foliage, the fascinating drooping seed pods, the fall colors of most varieties and the attractive gnarled trunks and twisted branches in winter, make Wisteria one of the best ornamental vines.

Most gardeners are unaware of the wide range of characteristics offered by Wisteria species and their cultivars in terms of bloom season, fragrance, length of flower clusters (racemes), flower colors, fall foliage. Consequently, one can not eliminate varieties merely by color alone. 

Moreover, Wisterias are slow to establish. It might be far more satisfying to buy a variety known to produce flowers early, regardless of color or size of bloom, rather than to wait years for the plant to produce its first flowers. Go for named varieties propagated from cuttings, buds, or grafts. They will start blooming within the first couple of years after planting. Avoid buying seedlings as they may take 10 to 20 years to bloom.​

Wisteria Species

  • There are about nine species of Wisterias in North America and eastern Asia. Wisteria sinensis (Chinese Wisteria) and Wisteria floribunda (Japanese Wisteria) have far outstripped the others in popularity, at least in northern gardens, because of their profuse blooms, their large flower clusters, their color variety and fragrance.
  • Wisteria sinensis - Chinese Wisteria. Vigorous climber, twining anticlockwise. Leaves with 9-13 elliptical or oval shaped leaflets, which are usually copper or bronze when young. Scented blue-violet, violet or reddish-violet flowers appearing with the leaves in dense racemes of 25-95 blooms. About 12 in. long (30cm), the racemes form a fragrant flower curtain buzzing with bees in late spring or early summer. Chinese Wisterias bloom in sun or partial shade.
  • Wisteria floribunda - Japanese Wisteria. Vigorous climber, twining clockwise. Leaves with 13-19 elliptical or oval shaped leaflets, which are usually pale green or bronze when young and generally turn yellow in fall. Scented violet flowers appearing with the leaves in pendulous racemes, about 12 in. long (30 cm), in late spring or early summer. This splendid species has given rise to many cultivars, some having dramatic racemes up to 4 ft. long (120 cm)! More decorative than Wisteria sinensis, Japanese Wisteria remains in bloom longer, enjoys a graceful growth habit and attractive fall colors. However, it requires a little more care in its training and pruning to obtain the best results. They bloom best in full sun.
  • Wisteria brachybotrys - Silky Wisteria (Wisteria venusta). Vigorous climber from Japan, twining anticlockwise. Leaves with 9-11 leaflets have silky hair and turn golden-yellow in fall. Broad racemes of strongly scented, heavy-textured flowers blooming early in the season and appearing with the leaves. Short, 6 in. long (15 cm), the racemes feature flowers that open all at once in late spring. Silky Wisterias bloom best in full sun.
  • Wisteria frutescens - American Wisteria. Slender vigorous climber, twining anticlockwise. Leaves with 11-15 leaflets. Faintly scented racemes of 30-65 blue-violet flowers which look modest in comparison to those of the Asiatic species. Flowering occurs when the foliage is well developed, so that the blooms are hidden by the foliage. Native to the east coast from Virginia to Florida and Texas, American Wisteria, while vigorous, is less invasive than the Asian species. Today, it is not widely grown.
  • Wisteria macrostachya - Kentucky Wisteria. Slender vigorous climber, twining anticlockwise. Leaves with 7-11 leaflets. Faintly scented racemes of 70-80 pale violet flowers which bloom late in the season, after the leaves are developed, so that the blooms can be considerably hidden by the foliage. Easy to control, tolerant of wet soils, this American native is not widely grown.

Wisteria Blooms Sequence

Typically, Wisterias bloom throughout a 4-5 week period starting in late spring with Wisteria brachybotrys (Silky Wisteria), the earliest, and ending with Wisteria macrostachya (Kentucky Wisteria), which blooms after the others have all faded. 

      Wisteria Blooming Sequence

Week 1 Wisteria venusta and varieties
Week 2 Wisteria floribunda macrobotrys, Wisteria formosa, Wisteria sinensis and varieties
Week 3 Wisteria floribunda and varieties
Week 4 Wisteria macrostachya

Wisteria with strongest Fragrance

All Wisterias are scented. Some varieties release a musky fragrance while others exude a sweet scent. Their fragrance ranges from faint to strong to almost overpowering. Most of the cultivars of Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria brachybotrys are noted for their delicious scent. Among the most richly fragrant cultivars are 'Murasaki Kapitan' (sweet), 'Okayama' (sweet), 'Shiro Kapitan' (sweet),  'Kuchi-Beni' (musky), 'Lawrence' (sweet), 'Royal Purple' (sweet) or 'Jako' (musky).

Length of Wisteria Clusters

The length of the Wisteria clusters (or racemes) varies with the species, variety and growing conditions. A same variety might produce longer or shorter clusters depending on weather and growing conditions. Moreover, the flower clusters will get longer as the plant matures and becomes well established.

  • Wisteria frutescens has the shortest clusters, about 2-5 in. long (5-7 cm), thus eliminating it as a spectacular ornamental vine.
  • Wisteria floribunda has the longest, some of its varieties having clusters 36 in. long (90 cm). Most floribunda cultivars range between 12-14 in. long (30-35 cm).

The length of Wisteria racemes is an important factor to consider when buying.

  • If you wish to cover a pergola, the best effect will be obtained by Wisterias with long racemes. Wisteria floribunda, which has the longest racemes of all the species, provides a dramatic display on garden structures such as pergolas where the racemes can hang free, unimpeded by branches or foliage.
  • If you wish to cover a wall, while most wisterias would be effective grown in this manner, the short-racemed Wisterias would be more successful. Wisteria sinensis is the species most suitable for walls where its shortish racemes are displayed to advantage.

Here is a list of Wisteria cultivars organized by their raceme lengths.

Wisteria Colors

Wisterias are available in a wide range of color ranging from white, lavender-blue, lilac, pink mauve, purple lilac, rich pink. While color is a matter of taste, it should be noted that some Wisteria cultivars exhibit remarkable flower colors such as 'Alba' (white), 'Kuchi-Beni' (pale pink), 'Rosea' (pale pink), 'Lawrence' (pale blue), 'Macrobothrys' (pale violet), 'Royal Purple' (deep violet) or 'Violacea Plena' (double deep violet).

Wisteria with Attractive Fall Foliage

Wisterias are deciduous climbers. Despite the fact that they lose their leaves in the fall, some varieties and cultivars reward us first with brilliant golden-yellow foliage before falling. Most Wisteria floribunda display attractive fall colors, but 'Violacea Plena' is by far the best with its foliage turning butter-yellow. 
A few other cultivars are also displaying remarkable fall colors such as 'Rosea', 'Kuchi-Beni', 'Lawrence', 'Macrobothrys' or 'Royal Purple'.

Popular Wisteria Varieties

If you are still undecided which species or cultivar to select for your garden, you may want to review the most popular Wisteria varieties or those rewarded with prestigious awards.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 8
Heat Zones 5 - 8
Climate Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Climbers
Plant Family Wisteria
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance High
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Plant of Merit, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Drought
Attracts Butterflies
Landscaping Ideas Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Wall-Side Borders, Walls and Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Wisteria Great Plant Combination Ideas with Wisteria Guides with Wisteria

sepavo / 123RF Stock Photo

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 8
Heat Zones 5 - 8
Climate Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Climbers
Plant Family Wisteria
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance High
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Plant of Merit, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Drought
Attracts Butterflies
Landscaping Ideas Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Wall-Side Borders, Walls and Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Wisteria Great Plant Combination Ideas with Wisteria Guides with Wisteria

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