We have both Chinese wisteria (two different, unidentified varieties) and an American wisteria, "Amethyst Falls". When we bought the Chinese wisteria, (naively, without doing due diligence in the research department), everyone who knew I'd gotten them told me I was nuts to even consider planting them. And even more than that, what was I THINKING, buying $3 bargain wisteria plants at Wal-Mart??!!??
They bloomed the second year we had them, one a true lavender and pale purple and the other a rosy shade of lavender and deep mauve. While their fragrance isn't unpleasant, it's certainly not something I would care to wear as a perfume. On the other hand, our neighbors have a purple wisteria that looks identical to ours and blooms a week earlier with a fragrance they find so off-putting, they keep the windows closed.
The Chinese wisterias are early bloomers, blooming a full 3-4 weeks ahead of the their American cousin. Like kids, they need boundaries, firm guidance, and frequent supervision. They do send out runners quite enthusiastically, and likewise curling tendrils that look for new places to gain a foot hold along a fence or wall, but as long as you stay on top of them and clip their wings occasionally (I usually trim mine once in spring, right after they finish blooming), you can keep it in check quite nicely.
I also know one gardener who trained it over his porch and a covered passage to an outbuilding and it was well-behaved and stunning.
As climbing vines go, American wisteria is much less aggressive, much slower growing, a very laid back plant. It does twine just as strongly and just as vigorously about whatever you are letting it grow onto, but it does not spread as assertively as the Chinese wisteria. And while it does send out occasional runners, like the main plant, they are slow to take hold in the garden.
On the other hand, the American wisteria was a one year old plant when we got it in 2008. It arrived with buds and has bloomed every year since we got it.
Regardless of which type of wisteria you decide to grow, it will need to be able to anchor itself to something sturdy. We grew the Chinese wisteria on a wooden picket fence, and if I had to do it over again, I would have put it in a slightly different area of the garden where we have sturdy chain link.
The main trunks have literally fused with the pickets and rails of the fence and while I don't think this fence is coming down any time soon, if left to it's own devices, it would have taken over the gates and posts as well. While it does grow rapidly, it's not nearly the headache that kudzu is, so it's not a major job to stay ahead of it.
|The mauve blossoms of one of our Chinese wisterias are a full 18 inches long and have a milder fragrance that is more pleasant than that of the lavender blooms of the other variety.|
|The lavender blossoms of the other variety are a 6 inches shorter, with slightly larger individual blossoms and a more prominent fragrance. Neither plant was identified as to a specific cultivar when we purchased them.|
|We planted them together, hoping at least one would grow. The mauve bloomer is the one on the right and has sent a main stem to each side of the fence.|
|The blooms of the American wisteria are more compact.|
|A week after they finished blooming, the vines are fully leafed out and beginning to send twining tendrils in search of new places to set anchor.|
|The American wisteria at peak bloom in this photograph taken yesterday, anchors our "yellow" garden.|