The Plant Native

American Wisteria

Highlights

American Wisteria is a simply beautiful vine. They can be trained to grow on a trellis, structure, or fence, or can be pruned to a shrub. The native species blooms with blue-purple flowers in the spring and sometimes again in the fall. Dig up (or stay away from) Japanese or Chinese Wisteria, both of which are invasive plants. American Wisteria is native to a wide swath of the United States, from Pennsylvania down to Florida, and west to Illinois. Scroll down to learn more.

Full Sun – Part Shade
10′-30′ tall

You’ll need a fence, arbor, or trellis!

Flowers in spring (and sometimes fall)
Wisteria Frutescens
American Wisteria is related to peas, and you can see the family resemblance in their vines, buds, and seeds

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native American Wisteria

Table of Contents

Why is it important to plant native plants like American Wisteria?

Planting native plants makes our yards and spaces gorgeous while helping the birds, butterflies, and animals (and helping save us time!) Here are three reasons why planting native is worth it:

  1. Without native plants, iconic animals like Monarch butterflies and songbirds won’t have the food or homes needed to survive
  2. Native plants save time and money: after the first year of getting established, native plants are happy with rain
  3. Native plants are gorgeous! American Wisteria is a perfect example of how beautiful and resilient native plants are—they are always the best choice for our gardens.

Beware of invasive wisteria!

Be mindful when planting wisteria to stay away from non-native species. Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) are infamous for their rapid growth and ability to smother native plants.

When selecting a wisteria for your garden, always choose native varieties like American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) to avoid ecological disruption and enjoy minimal-care gardening.

How can I tell the difference between native and non-native wisteria?

Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to tell native and non-native wisterias apart! All three make purple flowers, and all have similar-looking vines.

The easiest way to tell non-native and native wisteria plants apart is to look at their seed pods.

  • Chinese and Japanese Wisteria make seed pods that are fuzzy
  • American Wisteria’s seed pods are smooth
NATIVE American Wisteria has smooth seed pods
INVASIVE Chinese or Japanese Wisteria have fuzzy seed pods

How do I make sure I’m getting native wisteria?

When buying wisteria, look at the Latin name to ensure it’s the native variety. If you see the Latin name ‘Wisteria frutescens’ —you’ve found American Wisteria. Plant away!

When does American Wisteria bloom?

American Wisteria blooms in June/July and sometimes again in the fall. There is also a cultivar called ‘Amethyst Falls’ that is cultivated to always bloom in June/July and again in the fall.

If you see wisteria blooming in the south in early spring (Apr/May), it’s one of the Asian varieties. Bloom times are another way to tell non-native and native species apart.

Do you have a fence, trellis or arbor? This is a plant for you!

Where should I plant American Wisteria?

American Wisteria is perfect for fences, trellis, or arbors. Its showy flowers will cascade down in the spring. When the plant is happy and mature, it often blooms again in the fall.

American Wisteria is a perennial, meaning plant once and enjoy it for years. 

Gardener enthusiast P. Allen Smith has a helpful overview video that gives inspiration on where to plant American Wisteria and examples of how to train it using twine.

No pesticides or herbicides

Avoid using pesticides or herbicides near American Wisteria, as they can harm the butterflies and pollinators that visit the plant.

Does American Wisteria need to be pruned?

While native wisteria is less aggressive than its invasive counterparts, it can still benefit from regular pruning. Trim American Wisteria in late winter or early spring to encourage a bushier, more controlled shape. Remove any dead or diseased branches to keep the plant healthy.

American Wisteria native map from the USDA

Where is American Wisteria native?

American Wisteria is native to a large part of the eastern US, from Massachusetts and New York down to Florida, and west to Texas.

What should I plant with American Wisteria?

American Wisteria prefers full sun or part sun, much like dozens of other native shrubs, vines, and flowers. If you’re planting in a wetter area, pair with Buttonbush and Cardinal Flower. If the area is drier and sunny, pair with Coneflowers, Asters, Sweetbay Magnolia, and False Blue Indigo.

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Buttonbush

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Cardinal Flower

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Coneflower

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Coral Honeysuckle

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False Blue Indigo

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Joe Pye Weed

A white Sweetbay Magnolia flower blooming, photographed growing on a branch of the Sweetbay Magnolia tree.

Sweetbay Magnolia

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Tulip Poplar

Native American Wisteria is a gorgeous, easy-to-grow native vine (or shrub if you prune it!) Because they are perennials, plant them once and they will come back year after year. Spend a morning or afternoon planting an American Wisteria and it will return decades of fuss-free beauty.

Wondering what else to plant that’s native? Find your region and find inspiration: 

UPDATED —
04/10/2024
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