Wisteria types: the different varieties of wisteria


With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

Although known for their lilac-purple flowers, wisterias are also available in different colours. Read on to discover the most stunning wisterias available to grow.

Archway of purple wisteria flowers
Wisteria flowers are not only highly impressive but also pollinator-friendly [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

With their stunning pendant flowers, wisterias are a highlight of any garden. Whilst wisterias are renowned for their hanging purple racemes of flowers, you can also grow white and even pink flowering wisterias. Keep reading for an overview of some of the different types of wisteria and see which one is best for your garden.

How many wisteria types are there?

Within the 10 wisteria species, there is a multitude of different cultivars to choose from. Originally from parts of Asia and the United States, wisterias are now grown and loved around the world. Wisterias are vigorous climbing plants that form thick woody stems over time and flower in late spring or early summer. To encourage its stunning blooms and keep it to size you can prune your wisteria in early summer and late winter.

The most beautiful wisteria varieties

Being winter hardy, wisterias are well suited to our temperate climate. The most commonly grown wisterias include the Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) Silky Wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys) and American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens). Typically growing in excess of several metres tall, these deciduous climbers need ample space and either training wires or a wisteria trellis to support them. However, if space is at a premium, you can grow one of the less vigorous wisterias that can even grow in a pot.

Wisteria growing on a pergola
Wisterias are well suited to training along walls or over pergolas [Photo: Menno van der Haven/ Shutterstock.com]

Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

As its name suggests, Chinese wisteria originated from parts of China. Unlike the Japanese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis climbs anti-clockwise and tends to produce shorter racemes of flowers. Flowering in May or early June before the first leaves appear, Chinese wisterias can grow more than 12m tall over time but can also be kept to size.

  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’: the originally imported Chinese wisteria.Prolific’ produces racemes around 15 to 20cm long of lilac-blue flowers. Grows to around 9m tall. Awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ (AGM) as it has proven to perform reliably well.
  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Amethyst’: strongly scented purple-violet flowers. Young foliage appears bronze before turning green. Vigorous growth up to 12m high. Also awarded the RHS ‘Award of Garden Merit’.
  • Wisteria sinensis var. sinensis f. alba ‘Jako’: unusual white flowered cultivar that produces sweetly scented white racemes around 25 to 35cm long. One of the less vigorous cultivars. Grows to around 8m tall.
Purple flowers of Chinese wisteria
A Chinese wisteria in full bloom [Photo: LifeCollectionPhotography/ Shutterstock.com]

Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)

Although similar to Wisteria sinensis, the Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) generally develops longer racemes of flowers, is slightly less vigorous and climbs in a clockwise direction. Typically growing to no more than 8m tall, the Japanese wisteria tends to flower in May or sometimes June.

  • Wisteria floribunda ‘Domino’: scented blue-lilac flowers on racemes around 20cm long. Tends to flower from a younger age than others. Grows to around 6m tall.
  • Wisteria floribunda ‘Lawrence’: produces sweetly scented long racemes of blue-mauve flowers up to 50cm in length. Grows to approximately 8m tall.
  • Wisteria floribunda f. ‘Multijuga’: ‘Multijuga develops magnificently long racemes of lilac-mauve flowers around 80 to 100cm long. Best grown over a pergola or archway so it can be appreciated. Grows to around 8m tall.
  • Wisteria floribunda ‘Rosea’: also known as Wisteria floribunda ‘Hon-beni’. Long pendant blooms up to 30 to 40cm long with pale pink flowers. Eventual height of 8m.
Pink flowers of Wisteria rosea
Wisteria floribunda ‘Hon-beni’ produces racemes of pale pink flowers [Photo: jlf06/ Shutterstock.com]

Silky Wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys)

Hailing from Japan, the Silky wisteria develops vigorous growth that twines anti-clockwise. Often flowering earlier than other varieties, the blooms of Wisteria brachybotrys open all at once and are broad and short.

  • Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Okayama’: bronze leaves when young. Richly scented racemes of purple-mauve and white flowers up to 20cm long. Mature height of 8m tall.
  • Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Shiro-kapitan’: scented white flowers with a yellow base on racemes around 15cm long. Grows to around 6m high.
  • Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Showa-beni’: stunning mauve-pink blooms up to 20cm in length. Vigorous growth up to 12m high.
White flowers of ‘Shiro-kapitan’
White flowers of Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Shiro-kapitan’ [Photo: shepherdsatellite / Shutterstock.com]

American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens var. macrostachya)

Originally from parts of the United States, American wisterias are generally less vigorous and slower growing than other wisterias. Flowering around May to June, the American wisteria is also known to be hardier and more suitable for smaller spaces.

  • Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’: short racemes of scented purple-blue flowers up to 15cm long. Grows to around 5m tall over time. Suitable for growing in a large container.
  • Wisteria frutescens subsp. macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’: lavender-blue flowers which contrast well against its dark green foliage. Grows to an eventual 8m tall.
Wisteria blue moon in flower
Wisteria frutescens subsp. macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’ develops lavender-blue flowers in early summer [Photo: Nick Pecker/ Shutterstock.com]

Although beautiful, wisterias are also potentially harmful. You can learn more about how poisonous wisteria is in our separate article.