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Wisteria for Florida

American Wisteria growing in a Gainesville, Florida backyard
American Wisteria growing in a Gainesville, Florida backyard
Brian Harfe

When the correct variety and location are chosen wisteria can be a wonderful addition to the home garden. Wisteria is a vine that can grow up trees, houses and just about any structure that it can attach to. In Florida, wisteria flowering occurs in April/May (Chinese and Japanese varieties) or in June through August (American variety). Flowers are usually pink, purple or white. While the flowers are beautiful and fragrant, most common varieties of wisteria are considered invasive in the Florida landscape. The major problem with wisteria is that it is an aggressive climbing vine that can quickly grow into the tree canopy reducing the ability of native plants to flourish.

By choosing the correct variety and planting location, wisteria can successful be grown in the Florida backyard. Wisteria thrives in locations that receive almost full sun and when planted in well-drained soil.

Bad wisteria: Chinese (W. sinensis) and Japanese (W. floribunda) wisteria – These types of wisteria can easily be found for sale in large retail stores. They were introduced in the United States in the early 1800’s as ornamental plants but quickly spread throughout wilderness areas. Individual plants can survive >50 years and can grow to >65 feet in height. These varieties should not be planted in Florida.

Good wisteria: American wisteria (W. frutescens)– This is the only native wisteria and is found throughout wetlands in the Florida panhandle. Although it prefers wetlands it can be grown in much drier soils and in areas that receive almost full sun. The flower clusters, called racemes, are generally smaller than what are found on Chinese or Japanese wisteria but are highly fragrant. The flowers appear after leaves, which distinguishes this variety from non-native wisteria where flowers appear prior to leaves. American wisteria can reach ~30 feet and grows slower than the invasive varieties of wisteria. American wisteria flowers on last-years growth so it is important to not trim the plant during the dormant winter months. This plant is much less commonly available for sale but can be found at local nurseries.

In North Central Florida, outstanding examples of wisteria can be found growing on trellises at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and at Silver Springs.

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