Wisteria is the quintessential climber for the English cottage garden. A well-grown Wisteria is an absolute joy in mid-late spring when the beautiful, scented pendants of flowers drape from the branches in a breathtaking display. But often gardeners find these climbing plants a little daunting. The idea of all that pruning and training just feels far too complicated. It’s a shame because it’s not as tricky as you might think – in fact Wisteria is actually very easy to grow. With correct care these long-lived twining climbers will reward you with many years of pleasure in your garden.
Growing Conditions and General Care
The most important factor to consider when growing Wisteria is location. Wisteria is a twining vine that requires sturdy support and regular pruning to keep it under control. Open areas surrounded by lawn that can be easily mowed are ideal for growing Wisteria.
Wisteria doesn’t fair well in cold so make sure it receives plenty of sunlight.
This vine requires deep, rich soil that is somewhat moist but will tolerate many soil conditions.
Once planted, pruning is about the only important requirement for Wisteria vine care. Since this vine is an aggressive grower, there’s no need for fertilizing and being drought tolerant, Wisteria requires little watering.
Pruning and Training
While Wisteria is great for covering an arbor or pergola, training Wisteria vines makes it easier to control. Keep in mind, however, when training Wisteria vines the variety may exhibit different twining characteristics. For example, Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) twines counterclockwise while the Japanese variety (Wisteria floribunda) is the opposite, twining clockwise.
When training Wisteria vines, select an upright stem and attach it to the chosen support. Remove any side shoots and continue to train the main vine upwards. New side branches can be trained as needed to fill in spaces of the support structure by attaching them where desired. For best results, keep these side branches spaced about 18 inches (45 cm) apart. Once the Wisteria has reached the desired height, pinch off or cut the main vine tip to stunt its growth.
Even trained Wisteria vines require regular pruning; otherwise, Wisteria will quickly take over everything in its path. Knowing how and when to prune Wisteria is important. While regular pruning of new shoots throughout its growing season helps keep the vine manageable, Wisteria requires a heavy pruning in late fall or winter as well. Remove any dead wood or crowded branches and cut back the side branches to about a foot (30 cm) or so from the main trunk. Also remove any suckers from its base.
Learning how to propagate Wisteria vines is easy; however, doing so by way of seed is not a good idea. If choosing to propagate from seed, soak them overnight and plant. The seeds should sprout within a few weeks but keep in mind that blooming may not occur for 10-15 years, if ever.
The best way to propagate Wisteria is through cuttings taken in summer or by layering branches. Either method will still take about 3 to 4 years for blooming. When layering branches, choose a flexible branch and bend it to the ground, placing a few inches into the soil (with leaf node included). Weight it down to secure in place and allow this to overwinter. By spring it should have enough roots for planting.
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