One of nature’s spring garden masterpieces is the sight of cascading flowers from a wisteria. Wisteria is synonymous with country cottage gardens often seen in movies or TV shows, but this stunning plant hails from Japan. Find out how to care for your climber in this guide to pruning young wisteria.
All about wisteria
Wisteria is a vigorous woody climber that adds a shower of flower coverage over walls, fences, or even mature trees as their long pendulous racemes of pea-like flowers run down through branches.
Wisteria floribunda, also known as Japanese wisteria, is said to have the strongest night scent. This makes them great for gardens who love entertaining family and friends in the summer evenings.
There’s something so magical about the look and smell of a wisteria in full flower. Depending on the type, they will have a different fragrance. Some have a musky scent whilst others have a sweeter fragrance.
Generally, they grow well in well-drained soil in full sun. So, a South or West-facing wall is ideal for them to grow.
However, you can plant them in a position that is a little shaded, and they’ll still grow happily. Though in a shady spot, they may produce fewer flowers. You can admire their beautifully fragrant flowers when they bloom in spring and summer. And bees will love them too.
Pruning young wisteria plants
When it comes to pruning wisteria plants, you will either have a mature, established plant to take care of, or perhaps a young one that you’ve recently planted up.
If you’re comparing colossal blooming wisterias to your younger one, don’t lose hope that your little wisteria won’t become a large, flowering beauty. Because with the right care from the start, you can prune and shape your wisteria, which will continue to grow for years to come.
If your Wisteria has only had one or two summers of growth, giving it a little care in February gives you the chance to create a strong framework in the plant, to keep it growing its best.
It’s ideal to know what you’re looking out for when pruning and training. The fatter, rounded buds are flower buds. Then the narrower buds that have a slightly pointed tip are leaf buds. If the wisteria is very young, you may not have flowers for the first few years, until its roots are established. But be sure to stick with it because they’ll be worth the wait.
It’s often said that wisteria needs pruning at least twice a year, so it’s ideal to get into good habits with it when they are young. These times are usually during late winter or early spring before the leaves return, and then during summer after flowering has finished.
But young plants may appreciate light pruning more often to create the desired shape.
Training young wisteria
For wisteria training, you’ll need to identify the leader stem, which tends to be the vine with the most vigorous growth. This is the one that will be used to secure the support to.
Pruning from the start of growth will allow the wisteria to be trained and encourage more growth in the desired areas or direction. For example, you can remove additional side shoots which will help to boost growth on the main vine.
Around February is the time to cut back the leader vine, leaving about 60-90cm above the highest lateral branch. All these branches can be cut back by a third, just before a leaf-bud to encourage growth. This is the time to also prune back any shoots coming off lateral branches to promote more flower growth.
It may seem like you’re being too brutal and cutting down too much, but this is important to foster new growth and ensure the main vine is nice and strong as it matures.
Upkeep and care
In summer, once flowering is done, the green growth of the wisteria from the current year can be cut back, leaving five or six leaves per branch. Not only will this keep it looking good and controlled, but once again it will encourage more flowering buds rather than leaf buds.
Whilst the wisteria is young, prune like this every year, helping to guide the main vine, or two. At these times, also keep an eye on the base of the plant and remove any more shoots coming from the base.
With this guide to pruning and training young wisteria, you can have a cascading climber of blooms that brings colour and fragrance to your garden through the year. From young plants to mature ones, putting in the right care at the start will make it worth the wait for the elegant flower show.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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