Wisteria Tree Guide (or Blue Chinese): The Dwarf Tree Becoming Wildly Popular

The Dwarf Wisteria tree is becoming wildly popular for the beautiful versatility offered by this Blue Chinese tree.

It has the option of being a vine, twisting itself around other objects to gain any sort of height or it can be coaxed to stand on its own and become a fully formed tree.

But regardless, its showy flowers, purple, white, pink, or blue, are gorgeous, and the pleasing scent makes it a welcome addition to any backyard, garden or indoor area.

To understand why the Wisteria tree is gaining in popularity, this complete guide explains exactly what this species is, how to identify it, and some proven methods for keeping your Blue Chinese tree healthy and blooming.

Blue Chinese Wisteria Tree and Other Types of Wisteria Tree (Wisteria Flower Meaning)

In countries like Japan, Korea, and China, the flowers of the deciduous Wisteria Tree are symbolic of good luck, devotion, and longevity.

Although originally native to China, the Dwarf Blue Chinese Wisteria Tree has been cultivated to grow beyond its height of 6 – 10 feet to heights of up to 20 feet plus.

These cultivars have taken this somewhat invasive plant and made it less aggressive.

Wisteria Tree

(Wisteria sinensis)

Wisteria Tree image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Genus: Wisteria
  • Leaf: Pinnately compound and alternate with lengths of 10–30 cm
  • Bark: Light gray/brown and smooth
  • Seed: Flat and disc-shaped. Dark brown with a hard shell
  • Blossoms: Blue, white, pink, and purple-colored flowers bloom in spring
  • Fruit: It has very small pods about the size of a pea
  • Native Habitat: Native to China, Japan, and Korea
  • Height: Between 10 - 20 feet but can be cultivated to grow up to 40 feet
  • Canopy: 10 - 30 Feet
  • Type: Deciduous
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

There are now 10 species with the Chinese and Japanese Wisteria varieties becoming the most popular.11

Some of these have now become naturalized in the United States since being introduced in 1816.

Wisteria Tree NameNative HabitatHeightColor of the Flowers
Wisteria sinensis ‘Jako’China10-30 feetWhite flowers
Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’China10-30 feetBlue-violet
Wisteria floribunda ‘Rosea’Japan10-25 feetPink
Wisteria floribunda ‘Lawrence’Japan10-30 feetBlue-violet
Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’Japan10-30 feetWhite
Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Showa-Beni’Japan10-40 feetPink and white
Wisteria frutescens ‘Longwood Purple’America20-25 feetViolet
Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’America10-15 feetPurple
Wisteria frutescens ‘Nivea’America10-30 feetWhite

Wisteria Tree vs Vine?

When in full bloom, a Wisteria Tree is an impressive specimen of what nature can produce. The colors of the flowers range from the brightest blue to the whitest white, and to an understated pink, every one of them imbued with an equally dazzling array of aromas.

If left to its own devices, a Wisteria plant will become a creeping vine that can be invasive and threatening to nearby plants and trees.

Their threatening behavior is not just a case of being a bit pushy, of trying to aggressively expand the plant’s roots to gather more nutrients.

They do that and more. What they have a tendency of doing in their mission to dominate and overtake the land as far as they can reach, is to actually creep up the trunk of nearby trees or shrubs.

Wisteria tree identification chart showing Wisteria tree leaves, Wisteria tree flowers, Wisteria tree seed pod, and Wisteria Tree bark images in circle frames on a green background.

They slowly wind themselves either clockwise or anti-clockwise in an upward motion, wending their tentacles around branches as they climb higher, all the while tightening their embrace.

Over time that grip becomes so tight that it will cause girdling, the tree suffering a slow decline as nutrients from its roots are cut off. Eventually, it will die.

As a vine, the Wisteria Plant likes to go on a neighborhood rampage and will pull down,4 damage, and wreck anything it can twine itself around. It is a prolific grower, and if unable to climb upwards it rapidly creeps along the ground, and any shrub or plant that gets in its way is promptly run over and smothered to death.

In some parts of the Southern states where the warmer temperatures encourage faster growth spurts, entire ecosystems have been decimated, and local wildlife has been displaced.

Be careful when planting this ornamental beauty in your garden and letting it grow out of control as a Wisteria Trellis. At first, it will look great, and smell fantastic, but the havoc it can leave in its wake will give you nightmares.

Growing Zones for Wisteria Tree: Where To Grow and When To Plant Wisteria Tree for the Best Yield

The best time to plant is in spring or in fall when the plant is still in its dormancy phase.

The Wisteria Tree requires full sun and fertile soil that drains well and at least 15 feet should be the minimum distance when considering how far apart to plant Wisteria Tree away from other trees and structures.

The best growing conditions for Wisteria Tree is in USDA hardiness zones 5-9 although some cultivars are hardy enough to grow in zone 4.

How To Train Wisteria Into a Tree (Growing Wisteria Tree From a Seed: Wisteria Tree Seeds)

Wisteria frutescens, the American Wisteria has a calmer demeanor in comparison to the Chinese or Japanese varieties and is a lot easier to coax into a tree. And the most amazing thing is that when grown as trees they are remarkable.

The cascading clusters of colorful flowers with fine, heady aromas are simply breathtaking.

But how do you turn a Wisteria Vine into a Wisteria Tree? The process begins at, well, the beginning.

Remove the seeds from the pods or wait for them to crack open on their own and then follow these planting tips for Wisteria Tree:

  1. Place in a jar and fill with warm water.
  2. Allow them to soak for 24 to 48 hours.
  3. Drain off the water, and screw the lid in place to create a humid interior.
  4. Over the next few days until germination occurs, unscrew the lid to freshen the air.
  5. Take out the germinated seeds and place them in an individual small pot filled with potting soil.1
  6. Cover with the potting soil and water.
  7. Leave any seeds that have not germinated in the pot until they have done so and are ready for potting.
  8. As they begin to sprout after a few weeks it can be prudent to keep them indoors to protect against birds and excess sun until they are hardy enough to be transplanted outside.
  9. As they become seedlings, it becomes time for the next stage.

Growing a Wisteria Tree From a Seedling (How To Grow a Wisteria Tree)

When the seeds have become seedlings, odds are they have outgrown the small pots they were originally buried in.

Close up of Wisteria Tree seedlings growing in a seedling tray.

(Image: Michael Hiemstra12)

Select a bigger container and fill will a 50/50 mix of perlite and potting compost and then follow these steps:

  1. Create a space deep enough in the center of the pot to cover the root of the seedling, place it in the hole, and then cover it completely.
  2. As the leaves are quite heavy now, inserting a stake for support is recommended to start training the Wisteria Tree to grow upright.
  3. Add water.
  4. When the roots have outgrown the container, and if the weather is right for transplanting, the tree can be taken outside.
  5. Ensure the planting location chosen is far away from buildings to avoid the temptation of the Wisteria Plant to climb over and into everything and drag them down to the ground.
  6. The soil needs to be fertile and well-draining.
  7. Dig a hole just a fraction deeper than the size of the root ball, but three times as wide.
  8. Mix compost with the soil and fill in the hole, tamping down as you go to remove any air pockets. Thoroughly watering the soil will wash dirt into any remaining pockets of air.
  9. Slightly away from the growing seedling, tap a sturdy 6-foot wooden stake 30 cm deep into the ground and loosely tether the seedling to it in several places with a piece of cloth to prevent drooping.
  10. Mulch around the base to prevent weed growth and lock in moisture.3
  11. The best watering needs for Wisteria Tree plants at this stage is for 2 – 3 times a week heavily for the first 2 -3 months, then regularly thereafter to keep the soil moistened.

Growing a Wisteria Tree From a Cutting (How To Propagate Wisteria)

Growing these types of trees from a cutting is actually one of the easiest methods of propagation. It involves snipping off a still green shoot at an angle about 7-15 cm long that still has some leaves attached to it.

Do this near the end of spring or the beginning of summer and then follow these steps:

  1. Remove all the leaves from the lower half that will be planted.
  2. Apply a rooting hormone to the cut end to be buried.
  3. Fill a small pot with potting soil and make a hole in the center. Place the cutting inside and tamp down the soil around it to hold it in place.
  4. Place a couple of sticks alongside the cutting as a support structure for the plastic that needs to be draped over the pot. This creates humidity to speed up the propagation process.
  5. Place in indirect sunlight and water regularly.
  6. It will take about 6 weeks for the cutting to take root.
  7. As the cutting starts to grow, staking will be required. Loosen the ties as the tree grows and until the new tree has forgotten that it could ever have been a vine.
  8. To create the canopy, and once it has reached the desired height, pinch off the top stems. Side shoots will start to sprout outwards to form the canopy.

A proper pruning technique is crucial to the formation of the Wisteria Tree from this stage on.2

Wide shot of a Purple Wisteria Tree situated in a garden showing its purple flowers.

(Image: Charles Miller13)

Remove all lateral shoots not in the crown and aggressively trim whatever growths occurred during the season, perhaps leaving about 6 buds to flower for the next season.

Wisteria macrostachya (Blue Moon Wisteria: Wisteria Tree Leaves and Wisteria Tree Flower)

The Wisteria macrostachya, more commonly referred to as the Kentucky Wisteria or the ‘Blue Moon’ Wisteria, is native to the south-central states of America, grows to heights of 15-25 feet. It has been specifically cultivated to withstand temperatures as cold as -40°F that are experienced in USDA hardiness zone 3.

Harvey and Brigitte Buchite are the developers who bred the ‘Blue Moon’ in 1983 and were no doubt so enamored by the Wisteria Tree species that they wanted one that could survive the bleak winters in the back gardens of Minnesota.

As a tree, the trunk is created as the vine twists around its stake tightly, thickening as it ages to support the spreading canopy. As a climbing vine, it drapes itself over trellises and other support structures without dragging them to the ground.

The scent is similar to the American Wisteria but the main variation is that it only takes between 2 – 3 years for its bluish-purple flowers to bloom. The clusters are up to 30 cm long and can blossom 2 or 3 times a season when the soil and sun are well-watered and well-sunlit.

Applying an organic fertilizer rich in phosphate in early spring and the dense, ovate green leaves crowding around the flowers will maintain their deep green healthy appearance for as long as they’re hanging on the vine.

Wisteria Tree Disease Prevention (How To Stop Wisteria Tree Disease)

Like most plants that prefer well-draining soil, the Wisteria Tree is intolerant to overwatering and will quickly develop a fungus if the roots are sitting in pools of water for a long period of time.

Closeup of Wisteria Tree root showing signs of root rot.

(Image: Jerzy Opioła14)

The first signs of the problematic Phytophthora Root Rot are yellowing and drooping leaves,8 and this penetrating pathogen will attack the root cortex. A serious infection will cause the decline of the plant past the point of no return.

If caught in time, adjusting the irrigation levels will help as well as using gypsum to neutralize the spores.

To prevent the formation of the fungus in the first place, water carefully and mulch around the base but away from the trunk.

Common Pests of the Wisteria Tree (Natural Pest Control for Wisteria Tree and How To Kill Wisteria Pests)

Wisteria Borers are the ones to watch out for when caring for your Wisteria tree.

Not so much the adults who can cause their fair share of damage as they burrow into the stems and disrupt nutrient transportation, but from the multitude of larvae that the female lays on the leaves before ducking inside the tree for cover.

When the hatching larvae emerge, their first instinct is to burrow out of sight of predators and search for food. For the following 12 – 24 months, the Wisteria Tree will be their shelter and a ready source of food – and they have a voracious appetite.

Other types of insects to be wary of are:

  • Aphids
  • Wisteria Scale insects
  • Potato Leafhoppers
  • Mealy Flats
  • Caterpillars

These pests either suck the sap from the leaves or devour them to such an extent as to cause defoliation.

Treatment will range from spraying water to knock them off, spraying an insecticidal soap, or a clever trick is burying a banana or orange skin around the base to ward them off. In the case of borers, snipping off the infested limbs is the first solution, but if that’s not feasible then a chemical wisteria borer spray can be applied before the larvae hatch.

If this is done when they hatch they will consume the poison and die off before they can start their feeding frenzy.

If it’s too late and they have already hatched and burrowed away to their heart’s content, then a non-toxic substance called Bacillus thuringiensis can be inserted into the borers’ entry points.

This will be quickly consumed. The reaction from the borers will be a loss of appetite and to involuntarily stop eating, and in no time at all they will starve to death and die away.9

Companion Plants for Growing Wisteria Tree

Despite the fact that the Wisteria Tree has become an invasive species in 19 states in America due to its aggressive nature and not playing well with its neighbors, there is one plant that likes to climb alongside this unfriendly vine.

Clematis is a perfect companion plant as the two climbers together add a contrast of colors and style that compliments trellises or walls.

Closeup of Clematis plant showing its dark green leaves and purple flower.

(Image: Bernt Fransson15)

Any other plants or types of trees have to keep a distance of 15 – 20 feet or face the consequences.

Common Trees Mistaken for Wisterias

There are several purple trees with cascading vines that closely resemble the Purple Wisteria. The Desert Willow Tree (Chilopsis linearis) is one such doppelganger.

The Texas Mountain Laurel has been confused with the Wisteria Tree Texas, and even the Hibiscus Tree, the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), and the Jacaranda tree, (Jacaranda mimosifolia)  have been known to indulge in a bit of Wisteria impersonations from time to time.

Even the White Wisteria Trees are not immune from this phenomenon with the Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia impetiginosa) getting in on the act.

Is Wisteria Poisonous? Wisteria Tree Dangers

All species of the Wisteria Tree are poisonous, and all parts of the Wisteria Tree are poisonous.

If the seeds are ingested symptoms can be as mild as nausea or a burning sensation around the mouth. More severe reactions can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis if not complete unconsciousness.

These symptoms are caused by a substance called Wisterin that has hospitalized children all around the world who have been unfortunate enough to have eaten a few of the seeds.

Lectin is another toxin that affects the blood and can lead to strokes and death.

When animals, dogs, cats, or deer foraging for food, consume these flat discs the onset of pain is so delayed that by the time their body realizes that the food is poisonous, it is already too late and can sometimes prove fatal. Even the bark, leaves and eye-catching flowers are known to inflict adverse reactions and should never be consumed in any shape or form.

Wisteria Tree Facts

The versatility of the Wisteria Tree appears unlimited as it can be both a tall tree, a ground-hugging creeper, or a climbing vine.

Wisteria tree growth chart showing full grown Wisteria tree on a line graph with Wisteria tree age on the x-axis and Wisteria tree height on the y-axis.

But there are even more interesting facts to be amazed at:

  • The Wisteria Tree can live for 100 years or more.
  • The Chinese species was introduced in 1816 to the United State and Europe, and the Japanese version 14 years later.
  • Wisteria frutescens is the American Wisteria,6 Wisteria sinensis is the Chinese Wisteria and Wisteria floribunda is the Japanese Wisteria.5,7
  • Sierra Madre, California has the largest Wisteria that was planted in 1894 and covers an area of 1 acre.
  • Japan has the oldest Wisteria at 1200 years old.
  • In 19 states the Wisteria has been categorized as an ecological threat to native plants.
  • The Wisteria Plant can be cultivated to become a bonsai tree.

Related Reading: 10 Types of Bonsai Trees (Pictures): Juniper vs Ficus vs Japanese vs Indoor

There are many words to describe the Wisteria Tree, but none of them do it justice. The only way to see what all the fuss is about is to plant one in your garden and study this Wisteria Tree guide (or Blue Chinese): the dwarf tree becoming wildly popular, so you’ll no longer be blue with envy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wisteria Tree

How Do I Tell How Long It Takes To Grow Wisteria Tree?

It can take from 3-5 years for Wisteria Trees to bloom but can take 20 years to mature fully.

How Fast Does Wisteria Grow? When Does Wisteria Bloom?

These trees are very fast growing, capable of adding an extra 10 feet in height in one year, and bloom in some states in late April and in other states that warm up slowly, it can be as late as June.

What Is an Easy Way on How To Identify Wisteria Tree?

The main method of identification lies in the vines. Chinese and some American varieties have vines twisting in a counterclockwise direction, whereas Japanese vines twist clockwise.

What Is the Wisteria Tree Growing Zone?

The USDA hardiness growing zone is 5-9.

How Much Sunlight Does Wisteria Tree Need Each Day?

As a creeping vine with blue flowers or a Wisteria Tree standing upright, it will require a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight a day.

How Much Carbon Does Wisteria Tree Sequester?

How much carbon does a tree capture will depend on its size and its age. Input the tree’s data into an online calculator to determine how much your tree is contributing towards the reversal of climate change. But on average 50 lbs of carbon emissions are absorbed each year by a healthy tree.

Is There Evergreen Wisteria?

There is a plant from the legume family that is and isn’t a Wisteria that retains its leaves all year round in South Florida but is only semi-evergreen in the rest of the state. It is called the Summer Wisteria (Millettia reticulata) and is not invasive so can be planted in your garden with confidence.10


1Bennett, M. B. (2021, February 1). Germinating Seeds. WVU Extension. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/news/2021/02/01/germinating-seeds>

2Fair, B. (2020, April 7). General Pruning Techniques Pruning Trees & Shrubs. NC State Extension. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/general-pruning-techniques>

3Kluepfel, M., Polomski, R. F., Williamson, J., & Scott, J. M. (2016, June 20). MULCH. Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/mulch/>

4NC State University. (2023). Wisteria. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/wisteria/>

5NC State University. (2023). Wisteria floribunda. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/wisteria-floribunda/>

6NC State University. (2023). Wisteria frutescens. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plantbox. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/wisteria-frutescens/>

7NC State University. (2023). Wisteria sinensis. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/wisteria-sinensis/>

8Rajotte Ph.D., E. (2017, November 21). Phytophthora Root Rot. PennState Extension. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://extension.psu.edu/phytophthora-root-rot>

9Royer, T. (2022, August). Shade Tree Borers. OSU EXTENSION. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/shade-tree-borers.html>

10University of Florida. (2021, September 20). Evergreen Wisteria. UF IFAS Gardening Solutions. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/evergreen-wisteria.html>

11University of Maryland. (2023, February 22). Chinese and Japanese Wisteria. University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from <https://extension.umd.edu/resource/chinese-and-japanese-wisteria>

12Michael Hiemstra. Wikimedia, Retrieved from: <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/Wisteria_seedlings_%2814365474601%29.jpg>

13Charles Miller. Wikimedia, Retrieved from: <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/Wisteria_at_the_Vyne.jpg>

14Rhododendron-Phytophthora Root Rot Photo by Jerzy Opioła / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhododendron-Phytophthora_Root_Rot_(2).jpg>

15Clematis 4269 Photo by Bernt Fransson / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clematis_4269.jpg>

16Species Information Image: Wisteria,puple,flower Photo by SEOHYEON JANG. (2023, May 4) / Unsplash License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved January 10, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/purple-flowers-are-growing-on-the-branches-of-a-tree-KqiK09blJsQ>