Welcome to another plant of the week post. This week we are taking a peek at the beautiful Wisteria. This attractive, deciduous climber produces lightly fragrant, purple flowers in spring, with lush green foliage to follow and typical legume seed pods developing in late summer to early autumn. Wisteria grows by twining its stems around other plants in an anti-clockwise direction. They will also grow this way up other supportive structures, such as pergolas. Though it is slow to establish and can take several years before flowering, the beautiful blooms are well worth the wait.
Wisteria enjoys fertile, moist but well-drained soil in a sunny, preferably south or south-west facing position. It will also do well in partial shade, however be sure to grow the plant in a position sheltered from early morning sun, frosty mornings and cold winds. In alkaline soils Wisteria can become chlorotic so if you know your soil is alkaline, growing this plant should be avoided.
For those who may be unaware, chlorosis is a condition that prevents leaves from producing enough chlorophyll (the green pigments in plants that absorb sunlight in order to create energy to fuel plant processes and growth). Not only is this detrimental to the overall health of the plant, it also results in pale, yellow to yellow-white foliage, making the plant look rather sickly and unattractive.
Wisteria is very tolerant of pruning and can fully regenerate from old wood. When pruning, if you are wanting to remove excess side branches, be sure to leave 2 – 3 leaves on a branch as this will encourage the growth of flower spurs. If you are planning to perform any drastic pruning, do so immediately after flowering in spring.
Like all members of the pea family (Fabaceae), Wisteria plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria within the soil which form nodules on the plants roots and convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form which can be absorbed by plants. Other plants growing nearby can benefit from this nitrogen fixation so be sure to carefully consider what plants you will grow in the vicinity of Wisteria.
Not only is Wisteria great for hiding hideous walls and fences it is also a great plant for wildlife. Whether it is providing shelter for birds and insects or feeding bees with the nutrient rich nectar and pollen in it’s flowers, wildlife will make great use of this plant within your garden.