The Good and Bad of Wisteria

Close up of a wisteria panicle

Close-up of a wisteria panicle

white wisteria

White wisteria panicles

Great use of wisteria trained on a trellis

Great use of wisteria trained on a trellis

wisteria covered tree

Wisteria covered tree in Hueytown

Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) is one beautiful fragrant vine that loves our climate. Controlled and properly cared for, it is a great vine. Left alone, it can eat trees and even whole areas of a forest. From the photos, you can see two examples– one good, the other bad. I have grown this plant for years and was able to contain the top growth, and its runners, with severe pruning after it flowers. But the roots are just as vigorous as the top growth, and I did not succeed in keeping them out of my garden. Several years ago, I removed it from the garden, poisoned the base of the plant I cut down, and I am still getting root sprouts every spring. That is the bad side of wisteria. The good side is the lovely panicles of flowers and their sweet fragrance. There is also a white selection that is not as vigorous. While I have not grown the native American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), friends that have, rave about it because it is not as vigorous as the Chinese type. But the drawback is the flowers; the panicles of flowers are not as long, and it does not produce as many flower clusters as the common one you see.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

6 thoughts on “The Good and Bad of Wisteria

  1. Wisteria is (beautifully) invading my back yard. The scent is intoxicating! But I fear it will kill the foliage in its path. We thought we had removed all of the roots, no vines, but it is very prolific and has returned with a vengeance…moving now into our front yard and our neighbors yards.

    • As you can see in my post, the root system is in some ways equal to the vines’ runners. Be prepared to take years to kill it. Here’s one of the most effective ways to really knock it back: At every cut, quickly paint the cut with concentrated Roundup (straight from the non-mixed bottle). Most folks say it has to be done in less than a minute for maximum effectiveness. I use one of those sponge-type paint brushes to apply it. It took me several seasons doing this, but eventually I have it almost eradicated. I have been vigilant doing this every time I made a cut.

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