Old Salem Museums & Gardens tells us in its series Seeds with Stories: Wisteria that depending on who you talk to, it is a beautiful, fragrant bloom or an unstoppable, invasive curse that is devastating to gardens & the grounds around them.
The most common varieties are wisteria sinensis, introduced from China in 1816 & wisteria floribunda, introduced from Japan in 1830. These highly invasive varieties were sought after for the larger size of their blooms compared to the native wisteria frutescens, which has smaller, slightly less fragrant blooms.
The introduced varieties offer 2 weeks of blooms in April & May while growing aggressively in sun or shade, up to 25 feet per year. Fuzzy seed pods are often carried by birds to unsuspecting & unprepared innocent landscapes. These varieties can choke out all other plants.
The vines climb on the ground as well as up trees, fences, & woods girdling the trees until they die to get more sunlight to the vines growing upon the ground, which then pushes up more flowers to seed.
If you admire these introduced varieties but don’t want your landscape overrun perhaps the native variety, wisteria frutescens may work. Despite its quick growth, 15 feet per year, it is often considered the dwarf wisteria, because the leaves & blooms are smaller in size.
The fragrant flowers range from purple to blue. The individual flowers resemble pea flowers. This super pollinator blooms on new wood from May to July & can be trained to grow in tree form or on a trellis by astute pruning in the winter.
Old Salem explores the diverse cultural history of the early South, with special emphasis on the Moravians in North Carolina, enslaved & free people of African descent, & Indigenous peoples of the Southern Woodland.