Growing, Selecting, and Pruning Wisteria Successfully
Let's grow some Wisteria.
To begin with, this vine is found in two basic species in garden shops.
They are W. floribunda
or Japanese W and W. sinensis
For gardeners south of zone 7, this plant - particularly W.
- is a noxious weed able to strangle unsuspecting trees
at a single bound.
Mind you, it is a pretty noxious weed but still it grows quite
rampantly in the warmer parts of the continent.
Those of us in colder areas can only wish.
is the most cold tolerant, growing up into
USDA zone 4 (C5) and is differentiated easily from the more tender Wisteria
(USDA 5/6) because it twines around branches clockwise
while W. sinensis
winds itself counter-clockwise.
is deliciously sweetly scented (more so than W.
) and once you have it blooming, you'll never want to be
You'll be able to find attractive colours in both Wisteria species.
Think of these plants as woodland edge plants. They like a semi-shaded
area with full afternoon sun or even full sun. They do not like shady
areas and will seldom bloom there.
Want Best Soil
They do want the best soil you can give them.
Again, think woodland edge with lots of leaf mould, good supply of
moisture, deep soil and no clay to hold the winter wetness. Give this
plant your best soil or make it your best. There is little point in
trying to grow it on poor soil.
Use very little nitrogen. N promotes the excessive growth of leaves
rather quickly with this plant and if you've been feeding with one of
the liquid fertilizer products, you've been too nice to this plant.
Several shovels of compost in the spring should suffice but if you're
really concerned and need to feed something, you can add some rock
phosphate or liquid fertilizer with a ratio something like 0-15-5 or
As long as the first number is 0, the second number can be higher or
equal to the third.
Note - treat wisteria seed as a perennial seed for germination.
Or you can take tender tip cuttings.
You'll get better plants if you pick named varieties rather than
The seedlings are cheaper but do plan on looking for one of the more
interesting and intense colours.
Assuming this plant is in the garden and not in some wooded area, the
objective is to get it to bloom and in this I can safely say it is all
in the pruning. It is not about whether the wisteria is a named variety
or seedling, it is all about how you treat the plant. If you let any
wisteria grow willy-nilly and feed it, it will seldom bloom because it
is producing leaves.
It will bloom in this unpruned state when it is good and ready to do so and then it will bloom reliably year after year.
And fragrant too!
Pruning is fairly straightforward. Identify the main leader. From the
main leader, there will be offshoots or laterals. These laterals can
either be pruned back hard to 3 or 4 main buds to keep the vine in
check on a regular sized trellis. Or, the laterals can be allowed to
grow out for five or six feet before being tipped and stopped from
These laterals will now throw shoots of their own in subsequent years.
In the larger version, it is the shoots produced by these laterals that
are then pruned back hard to 3 or 4 buds. It is this hard pruning back
that will produce flower buds on the growth and you'll be able to
quickly see the difference in the dormant wood between a small vine bud
and a bigger flower bud. Every year, you'll have to prune back the
shoots to 3 or 4 buds if you want to see flowers the next year.
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If You Don't Prune
But bottom line, if you don't prune, Wisteria will take its own sweet
time producing a flower. If you want fast flowers, you have to prune.
The good news about this plant is that it is really tough to kill by
poor pruning. Winter might get it, a cold winter will "burn off" the
flower buds but it will outgrow poor pruning. So go right to growing
Propagation is by seed (easy) and direct sowing in the ground in the
fall when the pods ripen or by rooting up a semi-tender cutting in
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