The Q&A Archives: Winter care for Chinese Wisteria in mid-Michigan

Question: My Monrovia chinese wisteria grows great on the South side of our house. How do I prepare it for winter? Cut back existing vines? Pile soil over the roots? I have had three plants for two years and they have not blossomed yet. Any suggestions? We are a cold climate, getting down to -10 or -15 in the winter.

Answer: Chinese wisteria is hardy in your growing region so nothing needs to be done to the plant at this time. Non-blooming typically is a result of poor pruning practices, immaturity (it can take 5-7 years for the roots to become fully established), or can be a result of insufficient sunshine.

Considerable confusion exists about pruning wisteria. The two species most commonly grown are Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria) and Wisteria sinensis (Chinese
wisteria), both of which bloom before or with the unfolding of the leaves.

Pruning wisteria extensively during the dormant season may encourage rampant vegetative growth the next spring. Instead, in July prune out the long, straggly growth except those branches needed for climbing. This is more likely than anything else to induce flowering. Shoots should be cut back one-third to one-half their length. This will induce them to produce the short spurs that will bear next season's flower clusters.

Wisterias are normally vines, but pruning can make them take shrubby and/or weeping forms. Heading back young shoots holds the height at a definite point and after
several years, the plant produces a trunk-like stem. Then leaders can be allowed to droop to the ground.

Wisteria will bloom abundantly if planted in good garden loam with full sun, watered well the first growing season and pruned in the summer.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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