Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

More Vines Questions

Non-native, invasive Asiatic Jasmine from Austin
October 25, 2012 - Is Trachelospermum asiaticum considered a native texas plant? Is there an example growing at the Center that can be viewed?
view the full question and answer

Discouraging Poison Ivy
June 27, 2015 - Is there a fern that discourages poison ivy from growing?
view the full question and answer

Slow flowering wisteria
May 09, 2007 - We have a young wisteria growing on the side of the house. It began to flower this year for the first time. Whereas my neighbors' wisterias all bloomed in February, ours has only begun to bloom in mi...
view the full question and answer

Identification of prickly vine in north Texas
July 07, 2008 - While trimming the shrubs around my suburban house I noticed (and my legs were torn up by!) a vine-like plant with small green serrated leaves and millions of small, very sharp thorns. I search Invasi...
view the full question and answer

Vine for trellis in California
August 15, 2008 - What type of climbing flower/plant would grow best on a trellis in an alcove that receives morning sun from a south eastern direction? I live in San Luis Obispo, CA. I have had good luck with jasmine ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.