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Thursday - October 01, 2015

From: Milwaukee, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Vines
Title: Planting Wisteria frutescens Against a House in Wisconsin
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I have a question about Wisteria frutescens ('Amethyst Falls'). I know it's far less aggressive than the non-native species, but how aggressive is its root system? Can I plant it close to my house like I could a grapevine? Ideally I'd like to plant my vines about 1-2 ft from the exterior wall. I'm not concerned about the vine growing through the windowsills/downspouts as I can keep the tendrils in check, but what I am concerned about is whether the roots will wreck havoc on my basement walls. If Wisteria frutescens is a very poor choice to plant alongside the home, can you recommend any other native vines (other than grapevines - we have enough!) that I can plant alongside the home. I'm not interested in any vines that stick to the house, and prefer ones with nice foliage (flowering is a bonus). I would be planting along two walls of my home that range from full sun to part sun.


Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls' does seem like a good choice for your exterior wall as it is far less aggressive than the non-native wisteria. The native American Wisteria is a lovely, aromatic Wisteria native to eastern North American that is less aggressive and less damaging to buildings than the Asian species, but has equally lovely flowers. Can be trained on arbors, walls, and columns.

Louis the Plant Geek has grown this cultivar of the native American Wisteria and reports the following on his website:

This is the wisteria even for casual gardeners: It's eager to bloom and you have peace of mind that an untended vine won't start dismantling your house.  That said, you still need to provide something for it to twine on, but you don't need to be as concerned, as with Asian wisterias, that it be strong enough to hold a woody vine that will someday weigh hundreds of pounds, or that it can withstand the crushing embrace of foot-thick trunks.

Go ahead: train 'Amethyst Falls' through wrought-iron fences.  They won't get mangled.  I also enjoy letting it race up a metal reinforcing rod "rebar" pounded deep into the ground.  In no time it forms a nice standard, a "tree" wisteria.

This is still a wisteria to "de-whip" whenever you get the urge and have a few minutes.  By July and certainly August, your plant will have put out many thin green tendrils, waving about in space in hopes of finding a new structure to latch onto.  If you need the plant to cover more area, by all means gently (they can snap) tie them back to the structure, and let the twining tip "feel" what it's now supposed to twine on.  Otherwise, cut them all off.  As with the Asian wisterias, you'll find that this encourages the plant to develop the short (in this case, really short) multi-fingered woody projections called "spurs," which are what put out the flowers.

Because the entire vine is so small-scale and slender, you can adjust the position of even major stems (as long as they haven't been twining around a structure, that is), or even unwind the entire vine from that one vertical rebar stake to wind it back up higher or more tightly.

As always, never hesitate to cut off new stems that spring right from the base.  Wisteria always gives you more potential growth than you'll ever actually need.  Go ahead and be the editor.


If you do decide to use another vine for your house besides wisteria, some to consider are Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper), Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet), Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper) or Ampelopsis cordata (Heartleaf peppervine).


From the Image Gallery

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Heartleaf peppervine
Ampelopsis cordata

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

American bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

Heartleaf peppervine
Ampelopsis cordata

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