Japanese wisteria

Japanese Wisteria

Wisteria floribunda
  • Division: Tracheophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons)
  • Order: Fabales
  • Family: Fabaceae (legumes)
  • Genus: Wisteria
  • Species: floribunda

 

OVERVIEW

As its name suggests, Japanese wisteria came to the US from Japan. Here it has been delighting gardeners—and garden visitors—since the 1930s. As a vine grows, its stems twist and twine—always in a clockwise direction. Supported by trees, shrubs, and structures, a Japanese wisteria vine can extend 30 feet (9 meters) or more. Long, hanging clumps of fragrant flowers grace the vine when it blooms. The lush, green vine is lovely when not in bloom, too. The woody, twisted gray stems can reach 15 inches (38 centimeters) in diameter on older plants, and provide garden interest even after the leaves fall in winter.

CHARACTERISTICS

A bee pollinates Japans Wisteria by carrying pollen on its legs from bloom to bloom.

A wisteria's leaves are bipinnate: A leaf is divided into leaflets, and each leaflet is further divided. One individual, fernlike leaf can be a foot (30 centimeters) long, with 13 to 19 leaflets that alternate across the midrib. Emerging leaves sometimes show a tinge of red. In early spring, flower-bearing stalks called racemes appear, bearing grapelike clusters of blossoms. Flower clusters droop gracefully and can be as long as 18 inches (46 centimeters). Seeds are produced in velvety—but poisonous—beanlike pods.

CULTIVATION

You can find several cultivars of Japanese wisteria. All create graceful arbors and screens when properly supported. A wisteria can also be shaped and pruned into a small, freestanding tree or shrub. These vines aren't too picky about soil, but they like full sun. And, they require regular pruning to prevent them from taking over. In fact, these beauties are troublesome, invasive weeds in some parts of the US. Prune yours regularly throughout the growing season to keep the vine growing only where you want it. In fall or winter, it will need a heavy pruning. This is also the best time to remove suckers—the new shoots that inevitably spring from the base or roots of the plant.

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WORK IT

With its invasive tendencies and its need for regular pruning, Japanese wisteria requires high maintenance.

PRETTY

Japanese wisteria flowers typically come in shades of lavender or lilac, but they can also be blue, white, or pinkish.

ABUNDANT

Japanese wisteria's species name, floribunda means "producing abundant flowers."

OUR COLLECTION

At the Safari Park, enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Japanese wisteria blossoms that dip below the covered walkway in Nairobi Village.

CHILLY

Because Japanese wisteria bloom early in spring, flower buds are prone to damage by late-season frost.