Learn When To Prune Wisteria Plants And How To Do It Right

The first time we looked at wisteria plants, we were completely hooked. Their sheer beauty was so mesmerising and their strong and long-lasting nature won us over. Therefore, we individually decided to give it a try. 

Purple wisteria in a garden

When it was time to prune them, we were a bit confused. After consulting various books, asking the professional opinion of gardeners, and watching various tutorials online, we decided to turn it into a DIY project. It looked like a complicated process and that would require complete dedication and time, but we were certainly up for the challenge. After all, we already tried it with bay trees, cherry trees, jasmine, magnolias and even roses. In this article, we will give you all the information on when to prune wisteria plants and how to do it right!

When to prune wisteria 

Usually, wisteria is pruned twice a year. You can prune it in late winter – January or February – and then prune it again in summer – in July or August. Pruning in summer allows more sunlight to reach the base of the plant as well as better air circulation. 

This encourages the wood to ripen and enhances the chances of bud formation. If you restrict the vegetative growth and encourage the growth of short spurs, the plant will produce flowers in abundance. 

How to prune your wisteria

If space allows, you can leave the wisterias unchecked and let them grow freely. However, if you prune them twice a year, they will flower more regularly. To ensure proper growth as well as the attractive appearance of your plants, you need to follow a few simple steps. 

Here is how you should prune your wisteria.

Hand using pruner to cut wisteria branches the winter

1. Summer Pruning

When you are pruning in summer, you have to cut back the whippy, green shoots so that only 5 to 6 leaves remain after the plants have flowered in the summer. This will control the size of the plants, prevent them from getting into your windows and guttering, and will also encourage them to form more flower buds instead of leafy growth.

2. Winter Pruning

In winter, the plant is leafless and dormant. Prune the same branches as you did in the summer, but cut the branches back so that only two or three buds remain. This will ensure that you tidy up the mess before the growing season starts. This will also ensure that your flowers aren’t affected by the presence of unnecessary leaves. 

3. Pruning Older Plants

It is also worth remembering that a lot of old plants require intensive pruning as compared to new plants that can be pruned easily. For the former, you have to remove worn-out and old growths as well as the side branches that are protruding away from your home.

After pruning, the chances of bud formation will increase manifold. Moreover, by this process, you will also be significantly restricting the vegetative growth around the plant. The existence of more flowering spurs will lead to more flowers. 

In some extreme circumstances, you may also have to take drastic measures and will have to remove a large section of the older stems and leave only a single large and strong branch that will grow later. 

You may also have to cut down the main branch to a minimal ground level to boost up growth. In cases where a particular branch is a twining, it is best to first trace the main stem back to its origins and then mark the intervals with string before removing the whole thing. 

In the end, you will surely be getting results in the form of well-spaced branches. Although hard pruning wisteria is easy sometimes, it comes with its fair share of challenges. You should avoid feeding the plant in early spring, right after it has undergone pruning. 

Secondly, if you feel that there are many gaps in the frameworks, you can position new growths in between that will then be trained to fill in the spaces. However, this takes a long time, and the flowering only happens after two to three years once there is a strong basal shoot growth at the bottom. 

Other ways to train wisteria 

Once you have figured out the right time to prune the plants, it’s time to know about the different ways in which you can train them as well. 

Wisteria flowers on stone wall

1. On Walls

If you are growing wisteria against a wall, the ideal way to do so is to train them as climbers, using horizontal support wires. The support wires should be of galvanised steel, and you should set them about 30 cm apart.

With the passage of time and regular pruning, the plants will become strong and have a resilient spur system. If you require replacement shoots, you can use the current year’s growth and the new shoots that will develop near the plants’ base. 

2. On Pergolas or Arches 

Wisterias look beautiful on structures like pergolas and garden arches where they can hang freely, unimpeded by the foliage of branches, especially the wisterias with long flower racemes. Thin out the racemes and reduce their number so that the remaining ones will have plenty of space to grow, and you will have the best flowers.

3. Growing into Trees 

Another great way to train your wisteria to grow into healthy and adult plants is to attach them to a small tree or a canopy. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind while doing so.

Firstly, attaching wisteria to larger trees hinders their growth and may hinder the flowering process. Secondly, it will be difficult for you to prune them. Therefore, if you choose to grow the wisteria into a tree, make sure to plant it on the tree’s southern side, about 1m away from the trunk.

4. Standard Training

Another way to train the wisteria is to grow them in a large pot. This is a standard procedure and helps you control and regulate the conditions to ensure that your wisteria grows into a smooth plant at the end. 

If you want to plant it in a pot, make sure your compost and mulch are of high quality. Secondly, you should spread out the roots to give ample space for the plant to grow properly. 

Two hands holding wisteria blooming vine

Extra caring tips for your wisteria

Pruning your wisteria isn’t the only important thing in the process. You also have to follow up on some steps to ensure proper care and maintenance. Here are a few to keep in mind.

  1. The first point to ensure is that you know the kind of plant you are growing and prune accordingly. For instance, Chinese wisteria tends to twine in a counterclockwise direction, whereas Japanese wisteria twines in a clockwise direction
  2. Next thing is to select an appropriate kind of upright stem that can be attached to provide open and full support to the plant. 
  3. Next, remove any long shoots as well as side shoots and continue to train your vine in an upward direction.
  4. The newer wisteria can be attached later at any convenient time. This will help the new and young branches to develop properly in a separate place

Wisteria flowers

Wisterias can grow healthily and have long lives, even without pruning. They happily climb and sprawl over anything in their path. However, for those who have limited space and want to enjoy more abundant and visible wisteria flowers, pruning becomes a necessary task. Plan a biannual pruning routine for your plants, and you will have enchanting wisterias blooming in your home. Regardless of how difficult the process seems, once you get the hang of it, it will seem like a walk in the park. 

Happy pruning, folks!

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