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American Wisteria

articles_2011_GS-baptisia.jpg_IMG_8226American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is a woody, twining, deciduous vine that has lavender pendulous blooms in spring and needs sturdy support.

Compared to Asian wisterias, this one is less vigorous, so a better choice for small gardens, and has smaller 4-6-inch clusters of flowers. It blooms earlier than the Asians and its blooms are less fragrant, with a fragrance that’s very different (and not universally appreciated).

The variety ‘Amethyst Falls’ blooms from a younger age than the plain species and reblooms sporadically throughout the summer. ‘Nivea’ has white blooms.

Native to most of Eastern U.S. south of Maine.


Doesn’t climb on its own but can be trained up onto a structure. As to what wisteria climbs onto, mere lattice just won’t do, so make it a strong arbor, column, fence or tree.


  • Deciduous (leaf-dropping)
  • Can grow to 25-30 feet.
  • Hardy in Zones 5 OR 6 through 9 (sources vary).
  • Blooms in early summer.
  • At least ½ day sun is needed for good flowering, and flowers best with full sun.
  • Highly resistant to deer.
  • All parts of the plant are poisonous.
  • No serious disease or insect problems.
  • Attracts butterflies and bees.


  • If it becomes too large it can be severely pruned in late winter or early spring to keep it within bounds (because it blooms on the current year’s growth).
  • Moderate drought-resistance, so water in periods of drought.
  • Seeds freely, so remove the unwanted seedlings.
  • Over-fertilization can lead to excessive foliage. Most gardeners don’t fertilize it at all.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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