Caring For Wisteria

The ever popular ‘Chinese Wisteria’ and probably the most beautiful of all climbers. Huge racemes up to 1 ft long of sweetly scented mauve, purple or white flowers, which hang thickly all over well established specimens in May and June. At their best on a south or west wall, and particularly attractive when grown over pergolas or through established trees, an attractive association can be achieved with Laburnum. Careful culture and pruning is necessary in order to encourage Wisteria to flower satisfactorily. Choose a position in full sun and plant in soil that is not too rich in humus and fertilizer. The current year’s lateral growths should be shortened back to about 6 ins in July or August, to prevent the plant from becoming a tangled mass of stems, in February these laterals can be reduced further up to 2 or 3 ins.

WISTERIA sinensis (Chinese Wisteria). This is the most popular Wisteria grown in gardens. A vigorous twining climber with long racemes of sweetly scented mauve flowers up to 1 ft long produced before the leaves appear.

‘Black Dragon’, flowers semi-double, mauve with a dark purple centre to the individual flowers, a most attractive combination.

‘Prematura Alba’, an attractive white flowered variety.

Pruning and training of Wisterias, as wall plants and specimen standard trees.

The Wisteria is probably one of the most magnificent climbers we are able to grow outdoors. In order to flower well, they must be planted against a south facing wall, where the plant can receive the maximum amount of sunshine, in order to ripen the wood. The Wisteria thrives on any good garden soil, but it is recommended to add some well rotted farmyard manure or garden compost before planting.


For the first two or three years after planting the young plant will only make a limited amount of young growth. This is trained into the desired position so building up a permanent framework; once the plant becomes established a considerable amount of annual growth will be produced.

After the initial training to build up the framework, a considerable amount of pruning will have to be carried out, to keep the plant within bounds and to encourage flower production. This pruning can be divided into two periods.


The Wisteria produces its large amount of annual growth during the summer months, after flowering. During early August prune back all extension growth that is not required for training to within 12-18 ins of the older wood. This also applies to young lateral growth which is produced from the main framework of the plant. Prune to within 12-18 ins of the main stem. Pruning at this time of year is basically a tidying up operation. If left unchecked, the Wisteria grows into a thick tangle of growth, which is difficult to deal with at a later stage.


During January or February the growth which was shortened to 12-18 ins during August should be cut back again to within three or four buds of the main stem, for the best sprays of flower are produced from buds formed towards the base of the current season’s growth. If Wisterias are left unpruned, they produce a tangled mass of growth, which generally does not flower.


Tram the strongest shoot to the required height and eliminate all side shoots below this point. Remove the tip to encourage side shoots to form at the top, and train these out in all directions to create a balanced head, but do not overcrowd. These side shoots, when mature, will form flowering spurs, and will require treatment as detailed above. It will take many years to achieve the desired effect, and it is essential at all times to provide an adequate stake for support.

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