Storm season is officially here in Oklahoma. I love the rain's effects on the foliage, but I really don't love tornadoes. I hope each of you have a safe place or a storm shelter to get yourselves into should the need arise.
As I drive around Oklahoma City, I see everything blooming and beautiful. One of my favorite plants is wisteria. Right now, the wisteria is blooming everywhere you turn and the scent is intoxicating! But I know wisteria are sneaky plants that can and will destroy your garden if given the chance, so today, we are going to talk about all things wisteria.
There are ten species of wisteria, and Marco Polo took wisteria seeds out of China in the 13th century. Eight of these wisteria species are Asian, native to Japan and China, and these species are on the USDA list of invasive plants.
In the early 1800s, wisteria seed pods were imported to the United States from Japan and China, but the seeds did not produce the lush, large blooms seen in Asia. Eventually, people began importing actual cuttings of the plants, which thrived in the United States.
Wisteria is a climbing vine, closely related to the legume family. Wisteria is also similar to a shrub as it is often used to provide shade and privacy on pergolas, gazebos and porches. Most of the wisteria seen in Oklahoma is a beautiful blue, though other varieties are red, purple and even white. Wisteria blooms in the spring and prefers full sun. Wisteria is hardy to several zones, including zone 7 (Oklahoma) and requires good drainage and plenty of water.
If you decide to plant wisteria, do your research first! Newly planted wisteria can take 4-6 years to start flowering, and the vines can grow 10 feet or more in one year. Because wisteria can quickly get out of control and "devour" other plants in your garden, location is very important. You want to choose a location with few other plants, if any. It grows beautifully in open areas, and if you choose to plant wisteria in a place that will allow it to climb a fence, gazebo or pergola, be sure the item you want the wisteria to climb is very sturdy, as over time, if left to its own devices, the weight of the wisteria vines along with the constant "pulling" will destroy the item climbed.
After you have chosen your location, plant your wisteria in the spring or fall. You may plant seeds that have been soaked overnight. The seeds will sprout after a few weeks, but the plants will not bloom for 10-15 years. It is best to choose a plant with a good sized root ball for planting. You will dig a hole as deep as the root ball and about 2.5 times as wide. If you choose to plant several plants, the minimal spacing recommended between the plants is 10 feet, though 15 feet is ideal. Add a layer of compost after planting, and then water regularly. Wisteria can grow in many types of soil and rarely needs fertilizer. Should you choose to fertilize your plant, be sure to choose a fertilizer that is specific to peas and legumes to provide the proper nutrients.
Pruning is key for wisteria, as it is notorious for sprouting "runners" that travel underground and often pop up far from the main plant. Wisteria will also twine itself around pretty much anything standing still. Wisteria is very easy to "train," to keep it from devouring everything in its path. During the growing season, it is critical to continuously prune new shoots. Removing the new shoots every couple of weeks will help your plant flower more. If you want a more orderly plant, you will want to prune the plant during the summer. Sometime between late fall and late winter, wisteria require a heavy pruning. Cut away crowded branches or dead wood. The side branches need to be cut to about a foot from the main vine, and you will want to cut away nearly half of the new growth, which will allow the plant to bloom heavily in the spring. Do be careful that you don't prune too much of the original plant, as it can take it several years to begin flowering again.
Overall, wisteria is a low maintenance, beautifully fragrant plant that can be enjoyed for years to come. Some Chinese varieties have lived in excess of 250 years! Now I am off to build a pergola.
Until next week, flower friends!
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