Wisteria is a beautiful woody deciduous vine, known for it’s unique pendulous flower clusters which bloom in late spring. The flowers form bean-like seed pods in fall, which can be harvested for their seeds at maturity. This guide to planting wisteria seeds will help you to germinate and grow these interesting plants in your garden.
In order to plant wisteria seeds successfully, it’s important to understand germination strategies, as well as proper seedling care. Wisteria is actually a hardy plant if grown in the right location, and with the right care.
Plant wisteria in a sunny to semi-shaded location, and in a moist well drained soil where it will thrive. Wisteria flower buds are also sensitive to frost, so choose a sheltered site to protect the emerging buds. Carefully nurturing young seedlings during early growth stages will go a long way to successfully growing these amazing flowering plants.
Read along for more detailed information on planting and growing wisteria seeds, and important care considerations for young seedlings.
Wisteria is a genus of flowering plants known for their stunning and fragrant cascades of flowers in late spring and early summer.
The wisteria plant is a vigorous climbing vine known for it’s ability to grow quickly, covering structures which provide support, such as arbors, trellises and fences. Some species can also be trained to grow into tree-like forms with the right support.
This climbing plant can live for many decades, and even centuries, becoming large and woody with age.
These beautiful plants are native to Asia, and in particular to China, Japan, and Korea, as well as parts of the eastern United States.
Some of the most popular species of wisteria include:
1. Wisteria sinensis (Chinese Wisteria)
- This wisteria is known for it’s fragrant, pendulous, violet-blue flowers and rapid growth.
2. Wisteria floribunda (Japanese Wisteria)
- Japanese wisteria is popular for it’s long fragrant flower clusters, which are commonly found in shades of white, pink, purple, and blue.
3. Wisteria macrostachya (American Wisteria)
- American wisteria is native to the United States, and is slightly less aggressive in growth habit, and as well has smaller fragrant flowers.
Considerations For Growing Wisteria From Seed
First of all you should know that it will take some time, and by this I mean many years (7 to 15 years approximately), to grow wisteria from seed to bloom.
Although it is not difficult to get the seeds to germinate using the right techniques, or even to care for the tiny seedlings which grow, the process of growing wisteria from seed to bloom will take some time and perseverance.
Difference Between Seed Grown Wisteria And Wisteria Cuttings
Growing wisteria from seeds versus from cuttings results in notable differences between the resulting plants.
Seed-grown wisteria can take longer to flower than cuttings, and often will not produce first blooms until the plants have grown for more than 7 years. Cuttings on the other hand may bloom within a few years.
Seed-grown wisteria will be hybrids, and therefore a combination of two parent plants. The resulting plants may be similar to, or different than the parents.
Cuttings on the other hand, will be clones of the parent plant, preserving the genetic traits of that plant.
Wisteria cuttings are also considered a bit easier to grow than seedlings grown from seed.
While growing wisteria from seed can be very exciting and rewarding, using cuttings is a more reliable and faster method for gardeners who want to replicate a specific wisteria cultivar.
For this reason, some gardeners choose to propagate wisteria from cuttings, rather than growing from seed. However, keep in mind that propagating wisteria from seed can produce a plant that is even better than the original parent plant.
Preparation For Planting
Choose Quality Seeds
Make sure to use quality wisteria seeds for planting.
Fresh seeds are best, so if you have an opportunity to harvest mature seeds off the vine, this will guarantee freshness. It is important that the wisteria seed pods remain on the vine until they are mature, for viable seeds.
Choose seeds that are plump and firm, and avoid those that are shrivelled or show evidence of mould or damage.
Seed Treatment And Germination
When planting wisteria seeds, it’s important to know that there can be some difficulty with germination without proper stratification of the seeds. Both stratification and scarification can assist the seeds to germinate more readily.
Stratification Of The Seeds
Stratification of wisteria seeds is important for successful germination. The seeds have hard seed coats, which will need special preparation in order for the outer coats to break down, and to allow for germination to occur.
The stratification process occurs as the seeds are exposed to cold moist conditions. Over time, this exposure helps to break down the seed coat very effectively.
Stratification can be done artificially, by placing the seeds in the fridge in a plastic bag with a moist medium for a period of time, generally 30 to 60 days. Mediums that work well are slightly moistened peat moss, or moistened vermiculite.
The process can also occur naturally, if the seeds are planted outdoors, and exposed to the cold moist outdoor environment in winter.
I stratified my wisteria seeds both in the fridge, as well as by winter sowing the seeds. Both methods were very effective, with successful germination results.
Scarification Of The Seeds
Many perennial seeds have hard, impermeable surfaces, which can make germination difficult.
Scarification is a process which helps to break or weaken the seed coat, by gently nicking the outer surface of the seed. This process allows water to penetrate the seed, which then aides in germination.
One of the most common methods of scarification is mechanical scarification. This method involves mechanically damaging the surface of the seed with a tool, such as a sharp knife, a nail file, sandpaper or even with a pair of clippers.
With a sharp knife, or similar tool, slightly nick or scrape the hull of each seed. Some people will soak the seeds after scarification for approximately 24 hours to soften the seed coat before planting.
When performing the scarification procedure, be careful not to injure or damage the embryo inside the seed.
Planting Wisteria Seeds
Timing And Season
There are a number of different methods for planting wisteria seeds, and the method used will determine the season and planting time.
Direct sowing is best done in the fall, to allow the seeds to naturally stratify over winter.
Winter sowing is done at the beginning of winter, and will also allow the seeds to become naturally stratified in the outdoor environment over the winter months.
If you are starting the wisteria seeds indoors, they will first need to be artificially stratified in the fridge. Place the seeds in the fridge in fall, and stratify for several months before planting into containers in late winter or early spring.
Methods Of Planting
Wisteria seeds can be direct sown into the garden in fall, winter sown into special containers in winter, or started early indoors in early spring.
1. Direct Sowing Method
- If directly sowing your wisteria seeds into the garden, sow in fall into a prepared bed.
- There is no need to stratify these seeds in colder climates, as the seeds will naturally receive this treatment throughout the winter months.
- Sow the seeds into holes approximately 1/2 inches deep, and 10 to 15 inches apart.
- Cover with soil, and tamp down well.
- Make sure to mark where the seeds are planted.
- Water in well after planting.
- The seeds will germinate the following spring after they have been stratified, and the weather warms up.
2. Winter Sowing Method
- Winter sowing involves planting the seeds into a specially prepared container with drainage holes and venting, and then leaving the container outdoors in winter, to naturally stratify the seeds.
- Similar to the direct sowing method, the seeds are planted into a seed starting mix at the same depth.
- Close up the container and label it, then place outside in a secure location, where the seeds will be exposed to the cold and moisture throughout the winter months.
- In spring when the timing is right for your growing zone, the seeds will germinate.
- Winter sown seedlings are hardy, and will easily be hardened off naturally in their outdoor location.
- The seedlings can be transplanted into the garden when they are approximately 4 inches high or more.
3. Starting Seeds Indoors
- If you have stratified your wisteria seeds in the fridge for 30 to 60 days, you can then remove them from the cold, and plant the seeds indoors.
- You may find that the seeds may begin to germinate in the baggies soon after they are removed from the fridge, so make sure to plant them before they sprout.
- If they have sprouted, they can still be planted. Just make sure not to damage the bottom of the root when handling.
- Plant into a deep cup, such as a solo cup, to give lots of room for the roots to grow.
- Avoid planting in a seed tray with planting cells initially, as the plants will grow quickly after germination, and will need to be potted up into larger pots. They can also get tangled together if growing in a cell tray.
- Be sure to make drainage holes in the bottom of the container, and fill with a good seed starting medium.
- You can place the containers on a heat mat until germination, however this is not necessary. Just place the containers in a warm location.
- If your seeds germinate in the baggie used for stratification, just gently plant with the root side down. Be careful not to injure the bottom of the root while planting.
- Grow the wisteria seedlings indoors under grow lights, until the risk of frost has passed outdoors.
- Harden off the seedlings prior to planting outside.
Transplanting Into The Garden
Seedlings that have been winter sown, or grown in pots indoors, will need to be transplanted into the garden.
- Remove the young plants from their containers, and transplant into a prepared garden bed.
- Space the new wisteria plants about 10 to 15 inches apart if you wish, although they will eventually need to be transplanted again as they get larger, to provide more space between them.
- Plant close to a wall or similar structure, so that you can provide some support for the growing plants.
- Make sure that the level of the surrounding soil is at the same level as the soil in the pot.
- Water in well after planting to remove air pockets from the soil.
Wisteria Seedling Care
Let’s discuss the best place to plant and grow wisteria seedlings in the garden, and some of the requirements for optimal growth.
1. Growing Zones
- Some species of wisteria, such as the Native American wisteria, are suitable for USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9, however some cultivars may require winter protection in colder zones.
- The ideal growing zones for wisteria to thrive without winter protection are zones 6 to 9.
2. Soil Requirements
- Wisteria prefers rich, well drained, organic soil with a ph of 6.0 to 7.0.
- Amend the soil with organic material such as a layer of compost at planting time.
3. Light Requirements
- Wisteria vines grow best in a full sun location, however will also tolerate partial shade.
- Provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for best flowering.
4. Water Requirements
- Wisteria grows best in a moist well-drained soil. Ensure that the soil remains moist, but not waterlogged, especially during the growing season.
- Consider mulching the wisteria plantings to help maintain moisture in the soil.
- Mulch around the base of the wisteria stem after planting, and add mulch yearly to help to provide moisture for the plant.
6. Spacing Needs
- When planting wisteria seedlings, it’s important to consider the eventual mature size of the plant, as wisteria can grow to be quite large, and need ample space to thrive.
- Mature wisteria plants will need at least 10 to 15 feet between plants, and should be planted the same distance from other structures as well.
- Wisteria can spread quite extensively, both in root system and canopy, so be sure to eventually provide this important distance for growth. Space wisteria vines a good distance apart to prevent overcrowding, and to encourage healthy growth of the plant.
- Younger seedlings can be planted closer together, at 10 to 15 inches or more, as long as the intention is to eventually transplant them later when they grow larger, to provide more space.
- Wisteria roots are quite vigorous, so planting them close to other plants and trees will result in competition for nutrients, which you want to avoid.
- Pruning and maintenance can help to manage the size of the plant above ground, however it’s important to give the plant lots of space to grow it’s root system.
7. Training The Vine
- Training the wisteria seedlings is important for healthy growth, and establishing a healthy structure for the vines.
- Choose a strong healthy leader stem for the vine, which will serve as the plant’s primary vertical stem.
- Remove side shoots, leaving only 3 to 4 leaves on each shoot. This will allow for further growth down lower on the stem, providing for a bushier plant.
- Stake the leader stem to provide support, and help to guide the plant’s growth. Tie with a soft string or twine, being careful not to injure the plant’s stem.
- As the plant grows and climbs, train it to follow the desired path of growth.
- You can guide the vine to grow along a fence, pergola, arbor, or other structure. Make sure that the structures are sturdy and well spaced.
8. Pruning The Vine
- While beautiful, wisteria does require regular pruning and maintenance. The pruning can help to control growth, as well as promote flowering.
- This fast growing vine can become invasive if not managed properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Wisteria Seeds Difficult To Germinate?
Wisteria seeds can be somewhat difficult to germinate without providing the right preparation prior to planting. This is due primarily to their hard outer coating, which is a natural protection for the seed.
The toughness of the seed coat makes it difficult for water to penetrate and initiate the germination process.
To overcome this issue, the seeds can be scarified by gently nicking the seed coats, allowing water to penetrate more easily. Also stratification mimics the natural winter conditions, helping to break the dormancy of the seed.
Germination time after stratification is generally fairly quick, and you will likely see evidence of growth within 2 to 3 weeks of planting, if not sooner.
During Which Month Is It Best To Plant Wisteria?
The time that you plant your wisteria seeds is dependent to the planting method that you have chosen to use.
Direct sow the seeds into the ground in fall, during the months of October to November. The seeds will be safe and snug in their planting location until they germinate in spring.
Winter sow wisteria seeds in early winter, after the winter solstice in late December. These winter sown seeds will also be safe and sound, planted in their mini greenhouse containers, until they germinate in spring.
Artificially stratified seeds can be sown into containers in late winter or early spring, and then grown under lights until the conditions are favourable for planting outdoors.
How Long Does It Take Wisteria To Bloom From Seed?
It will take several years for the plants to flower when grown from seed, and often up to 7 to 15 years before you see your first wisteria blooms.
The timeline to first bloom can vary, and is dependent on growing conditions and care, as well as genetics. Regular pruning, fertile soil, and adequate sunlight can help to encourage healthy growth, however patience is key.
Planting wisteria seeds is a gardening journey that requires some patience, however is well worth the effort.
Careful nurturing and training of the wisteria seedlings are important steps in the process of growing these beautiful flowers.
While it may take several years, and possibly 7 to 15 years for the first blossoms to appear, the spectacular display of wisteria flowers will be a testament to your efforts and perseverance.
Have you ever tried planting wisteria from seeds? How long did you wait before you had first blooms? Be sure to leave a comment below to share your experience!