The Q&A Archives: Pruning Wisteria for Blooms

Question: I have wisteria in a smallish courtyard. They have not flowered much since I moved here. One gardener told me that I should cut the shoots only half way back as they sprout from there and that's where the flowers will come from. However, the shoots are so many they look messy and are growing into and in front of other plants.

Was the advice correct on cutting the shoots back only halfway, and what do you suggest about the congestion? Food for them? When?

Answer: There is always some confusion when it comes to 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, if that's what you wish. 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. Fertilizer isn't recommended. Feeding wisteria usually results in lots a vegetative growth at the expense of blooms.

It sounds as though your wisteria is overgrown. Now is the time to systematically cut it back, both to control its size and to encourage the development of flowering spurs for next season's flower display.

Best wishes with your wisteria!

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