How To Prune Wisteria
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King Garden Designs, Inc. is a boutique landscape design company located in New York. Charles King Sadler, King Garden Designs founder, enjoys creating and enhancing the beauty and vitality of landscapes through thoughtful design, professional implementation and ongoing care.
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How To Expertly Prune Wisteria Vines: King Garden Designs ISA Certified Arborists know when and how to train and prune your espalier trees for optimal fruit production, beauty and plant health. We also assist in residential orchard oversight; guiding trees health, beauty and productivity
We can restore neglected Wisteria Vines miraculously with renovation pruning, care and attention.
Proper pruning brings out a plants intrinsic beauty, fostering plant health while reducing risk of storm damage. We supply all your pruning needs.
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Wisteria pruning expertise
"Charles is an incredible landscape designer. He is thoughtful, creative and respectful of your budget and timeline.
Leila L. - Irvington, NY
Wisteria is a beautiful climbing plant with large blooms and a perfumed scent. A key part of wisteria's beauty is it growing on the proper structure to display its pale purple-blue flowers. King Garden Designs' ISA Certified Arborists know when and how to train and prune your wisteria so that its bountiful in color and health - a wonder to behold! Wisteria adds charm to entry gates, patios, porches and pergolas!
Pruning Consultation and Assessment: Beginning at $190
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When To Prune Wisteria
Wisteria is pruned twice a year, in July or August, then again in January or February.
How to prune wisteria
Wisterias can be left to ramble unchecked where space allows but will usually flower more freely and regularly if pruned twice a year. The removal of growth in summer allows better air circulation and more sunlight to reach the base of the young growths, encouraging better ripening of the wood and improving the chances of flower bud formation. Restricting the amount of vegetative growth and encouraging short, flowering spurs will result in more flowers.
Summer pruning (July or August)
Cut back the whippy green shoots of the current year’s growth to five or six leaves after flowering in July or August.
This controls the size of the wisteria, preventing it getting into guttering and windows, and encourages it to form flower buds rather than green growth.
Winter pruning (January or February)
Then, cut back the same growths to two or three buds in January or February (when the plant is dormant and leafless) to tidy it up before the growing season starts and ensure the flowers will not be obscured by leaves.
Renovation or hard pruning
With older plants severe pruning may be needed to remove old, worn-out growths, or branches growing over windows or protruding outwards from the face of the building. Likewise, hard pruning maybe required where maintenance needs to be carried out on the structure supporting the plant.
Drastically shortening back long branches, removing sections of older stems to just above a strong young branch or growth shoot lower down, or cutting completely back to a main branch, or even to ground level may be necessary. A careful, unhurried approach is needed if larger, thicker branches are to be removed and where a branch is twining it may be necessary to trace back and mark it at intervals with string before removing it. The end result should be a skeleton frame work of reasonably well-spaced branches.
Other points to consider when hard pruning;
- Hard pruning will stimulate strong, new growth so it is better to avoid feeding in the first spring after hard pruning
- If there are gaps in the framework suitably positioned new growths can be trained in to form replacement branches, with flowering usually resuming in two or three years’ time. Often there is strong basal shoot growth
- If unwanted for replacement branches they can be removed. Any such pruning can be done during the period from leaf fall to early February
- Other new growths can be pruned back summer and winter as for normal routine pruning
Winter pruning: In January or February shorten summer-pruned shoots further. Cut them back to within 2.5–5cm (1–2in) of older wood, or 2 to 3 buds. Winter pruning: Long, whippy shoots that grew after the summer pruning should also be pruned. Cut these back to five or six buds from the main branch, making the cut just above a bud. Summer pruning: New shoots that are not needed or have grown in already crowded areas should be pruned. Cut them back to five or six leaves from the main branch, making the cut just above that leaf.
Other ways to train wisteria
The ideal way to grow wisteria against a wall is to train it as an espalier, with horizontal support wires (3mm galvanised steel) set 30cm (1ft) apart. Over time, and with pruning twice a year, plants will build up a strong spur system. Use new growths that develop near the base of plants as replacement shoots, if necessary, or cut out at their point of origin.
On pergolas and arches
Wisterias with long flower racemes are best admired on structures where they can hang free, unimpeded by branches or foliage. For the best flowers, reduce the number of racemes by thinning out to give those that remain plenty of space to develop.
Growing into trees
Wisteria can be trained to grow up into the canopy of a small tree, but to the possible detriment of the tree. Growing into large trees can make pruning of the wisteria difficult, and flowering may be affected if the leaf canopy is dense. If you choose to grow into a tree, plant the wisteria on the south side of the tree, 1m (3ft) away from the trunk.
Training as standards
Standard wisterias can be grown either as specimens in a border, or in a large pot.
- Start with a young, single-stemmed plant, and insert a 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) stout support next to it when you plant into the ground or container. This will be used to create the main stem of the ‘lollipop’
- If planting in a pot, John Innes No 3 potting compost is a good choice of compost. Make sure the wisteria is planted to the same depth as it was in its pot from the nursery, spreading out the roots and loosening the root ball before planting. Choose a cheap container that is only slightly larger than the plant needs, potting it on gradually as it grows to fill its final display container
- Train the stem vertically up the support (this is usually stronger than twining)
- Allow the plant’s leader to grow unchecked until it reaches the top of the support and then remove the tip in the following February to encourage the formation of sideshoots
- Prune the sideshoots the following winter, shortening them to 15-30cm (6in-1ft) and repeat this process each winter to gradually build up a head
- Weak or misplaced growth can be cut out entirely, as can older branches if the head becomes too dense in later years
- As the head develops, prune in August as well. Cut off above the seventh leaf any shoots that are not needed to extend the head
- The following February cut back these shoots to 2.5cm (1in) of their bases, just as you would routinely prune a wall-trained plant
A weekend project for...late winter
Verticality is the name of the game with wisteria. When the flower spikes emerge they should be free to unfurl, unimpeded, so that they point directly down like early summer icicles. It is one of several reasons why pruning is paramount with wisteria: if those flower spikes have to wiggle their way through last year’s stems the drama is lost.
Famously, wisteria wants pruning twice a year, once in summer and once about now, and without this it will turn into a tangled beast, all leaf and little flower. Take the trouble and you set the stage for a fleeting moment of breathtaking beauty, quite one of the most spectacular spells in the gardening year.
The summer prune is almost a hacking back: the stems are roughly shortened to allow air and light into the wood that will do the flowering; lights ripens and hardens up this wood, which in turn helps to convince it that flower production, not leaf production, is the way to go. But if you missed the summer prune, no matter, the one in winter is far more important and now is the time to do it.
Trace your way back through last year’s growth until you come to the framework of older, thicker, permanent stems. Take a piece of the thin, new growth and count two or three buds out from the old growth. Cut just beyond this second or third bud. Repeat, all over, until the whole plant is stripped neatly back to old wood and these little spurs of buds, and you are left with a satisfying mound of clippings to sweep away.
The energy that is about to surge through the plant as spring hits will now concentrate in these flowering buds, and there will be nothing in their way as they drop to their full theatrical length.