What does wisteria smell like?

floweryearth(8a NW GA)February 18, 2010

In spring, I see this invasive beauty everywhere. I have been wanting to grow a vine simply for the fragrance I hear it has. The thing is, I don't want to go out of my way to make room for a plant that is hard to keep in control and turn out not to like the fragrance I planted it for.

So I guess what I want to know is what the fragrance of it evokes in those of you who grow it. (I have heard it is like honey.)

Also, which is more fragrant-- the Chinese (sinensis) or the Japanese (floribunda)?

I appreciate all feedback.

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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

How do you define a scent? You ask what it evokes? Well it is a highlight of my walk to work for a brief moment in June. Wisterias over here are generally kept well pruned and are often grown up houses for shelter and reflected warmth. It doesn't become invasive since it requires warm weather to set seed and it often fails to do so in our climate. The advice given is to always buy a named variety and to preferably see it in bloom before buying as seedlings are sometimes sold which will take years to bloom and then may be of inferior quality. The link shows the wisteria I pass every morning on my way to work (this is not my blog and I don't know the people personally). It is growing out of stone paving in the basement area of the house. The root is like a tree trunk and it must be at least 100 years old if not more (The house itself is ca 250 years old.) On a June evening I have been known to drag DH across town just to visit this plant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wisteria

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 5:17AM
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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

Hard to define a scent. But it is very nice, IMO.
Similar to freesia. Not as strong as a gardenia.
After it has bloomed prune it back like you would a rose bush. Be sure to cut off the ends of tendrils as they grow.
My SIL had one is LA like the picture linked.
She said she kept it cut back as needed, but only pruned hard after it bloomed.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 9:12AM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

Agree that it is a very nice fragrance but difficult to describe. It is a fragrance that I associate with my grandmother's house as she had several plants that she kept trained into shrubs. It just required judicious pruning to keep it in bounds.

As far as its invasiveness, Chinese wisteria tends to be the invasive one and in my experience it is not from the seeds developing but from it shooting up runners several feet out from the main plant. Having it planted in the lawn allows you to control those shoots as you mow the yard.

There are several species of wisteria that tend to be better mannered in the garden and Dan Long at Brushwood Nursery sells quite a few. You might want to contact him and ask him which variety might be best for you and your situation. He might be better suited to telling you what the different varieties smell like to him, being surrounded by the ones he sells.

Here is a link that might be useful: Brushwood Nursery

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 9:27AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I on the other hand (Lol! Always contrary) HATE the smell of wisteria. My relative has an ancient wisteria growing on an arbor near their house. It is acrid scent to me-- highly unpleasant.

Maybe it would be a good idea to take a whiff of one in bloom before buying any, since you are wondering about the scent anyway. Better than than being stuck with something you don't like!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 12:29PM
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blueberryhills(7 NW AL)

mmmmmm... just the thought of the intoxicating sweetness of wisteria makes me all the more impatient for spring blooms.
I would compare it to the fragrance of hyacinths

I'll agree that they are a commitment - once they get established they're the devil to get rid of. My Mom had one she planted too close to the edge of the retaining wall for the carport. It got so big it was making cracks in the concrete block - Daddy finally had to pull it up by the roots with the tractor. LOL!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Propaganda Garden Design

Love Wisteria flowers. Not a fan of the smell. It is OK in small doses but it that sort of overwhelming heady scent like Lilacs or peonies that give me a headache if I partake too much.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 3:35AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I suspect temperature may impact scent a lot. Mine is in peak bloom the May long weekend. The scent is pleasant but you have to be close to it to smell it, in part I suspect because the lilacs are still in bloom and their scent overwhelms that of the wisteria.

I planted a Japanese one a couple of years ago but it hasn't bloomed yet so I don't know if it is scented. Both of them are planted out in the open to make pruning access easier and both are grown as 'trees' (more like big shrubs) It took five years for the Chinese one to bloom for the first time, partly because of flowerbuds getting killed by late frost. Last year it put on a spectacular show but I fear our weird winter (virtually no snow cover) may not bode well; if the strange weather continues into spring and the cold catches up to us at the wrong time...

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 9:24AM
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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

For what it's worth, I live in the historic district of my town where the houses are closely situated. I say that because my next door neighbor has a huge wisteria that is quite close to my front door (about 8 feet?). I don't remember the fragrance at all. So, it certainly wasn't objectionable to me. Now that you've raised the question, I'm sure I'll be smelling it when it blooms this year! I've read that American Wisteria stinks.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 9:55AM
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Propaganda Garden Design

Never noticed a fragrance on Wisteria frutescens but it does stink in that isn't nearly as nice as the Asian species.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 12:54AM
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smells like heaven...

sort of a mix of lavender & clean laundry & honey, & it's intense.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 11:06AM
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First, the answer to your question, "what does wisteria smell like?" To me there is nothing like the smell of wisteria. You have to stop and smell it. It's like a very sweet perfume that one could never get tired of. I am biased though, this smell brings me to a very fond memory as a child. My grandmother, who has passed away many years ago, grew a wisteria near her house. It was in the shape of a small tree. My favorite cousin and I had just finished hunting easter eggs and wanted to enjoy our prizes (the boiled eggs!). So we sat ourselves down underneath the gorgeously blooming wisteria, but little did we know that the bees loved it too. We ran away screaming because there were so many.

Now as a professional horticulturalist I will not plant chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) because it is highly invasive. I am in zone 8 myself. At my school there was a Natural Resource Conservation department and they spoke of the problems this plant caused to the natural areas. It is irresponsible to plant it if you know the damage it causes. There are alternatives though. The two most popular are Summer Wisteria (Milletia reticulata) and Amethyst Falls Wisteria (Wister frutescens).

The summer wisteria is very very stinky. I was waiting on a customer one day at a nursery I worked for and one was near in full bloom. I thought it was the customer's breath! I felt so bad when I realized the smell was still in that area later. The Amethyst Falls, which is in the same genus has a similar fragrance, but somewhat different bloom, but still very beautiful (I will be planting this one myself). The gardens at the campus I went to grows it. I hope this helps.

The wisteria at my grandmother's, even though my grandfather passed a few years ago and the land has been sold, it is still there and blooms every year.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 2:31PM
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floweryearth(8a NW GA)

Thank you all for your replies.

I have smelled the native one (frutescens)at my neighbor's house and at HD, and completely agree that it stinks. I found it interesting that flora said it does not commonly set seed in the UK b/c of its cool climate. LUCKY YOU!

I have a weeping cherry that got borers last year and I never got around to treating it. For this reason, I thought it would die this year and I might replace it with a tree-pruned wisteria.

As much as I want to smell it, I feel a little uneasy planting it because like darstar is a professional horticulturist, I was going to school for the same thing. I know I was taught many of the same things she was, so I can't plant it with a clean conscious.

But you know, I always see the invasive sinensis, but never the more beautiful floribunda (with much longer clusters). Do any of you know if the latter is less invasive? Is it close in scent to the former? If so I may give it a try.

Thanks in advance,


    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 7:48PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

flora_uk: I love seeing your pictures and links. They make my day.

I swoon over Wisteria despite it being invasive. Reminds me of a chandler of flowers.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 8:47PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I don't know what it smells like, but I ran across these photos today that took my breath away.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazing Wisteria Photos

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:31PM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

Gorgeous pictures hosenemesis.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 6:24AM
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