Thinking of growing Wisteria this year?
Mark – Chair of Leigh and District Cottage Garden Society – offers some useful advice on growing Wisteria in your cottage garden…
Wisteria is a versatile climber that’s easy to look after (by grasping basic principles). Grown as climbers, shrubs or standards – I’m writing about climbers…
What types of Wisteria are there?
There are two main types: Floribunda and Sinensis…
Sinensis (known as the Chinese Wisteria) such as Wisteria sinensis prolific flower just before leaf emergence – flowers are around 9 – 12” in length with a sweet scent. Flowering slightly earlier than floribundas, generally with various blues or white flowers, blooming at an earlier age during climber’s life.
Floribunda (native to Japan) such as Wisteria floribunda black dragon, usually flower the same time it leafs up with blooms around the 12 – 18’’ in length. In blues, pinks and white flowers, usually in May/June.
Where’s the best place for Wisteria in your cottage garden?
Planting and site: Wisteria prefer a sunny position but will do ok in shade. The common planting place is on a house wall. They need a series of wires in 12’’ intervals to tie the forming frame. Although not fussy with soil type, the plant would benefit incorporating bone meal into the planting hole, mixing well in then placing your plant into the hole and returning the soil – not forgetting plant at soil level firming with your heel. The climber will get off to a better start if in the spring, as it leafs up, you feed with Blood, Fish and Bone; a handful pricked around but not touching the stem. Water during dry spells the first year.
How should I prune my Wisteria?
Pruning during the formative years: The idea is you train your plant to form a framework that will be there for many years. Want the fantastic rewards that a well-trained wisteria will give you? Follow these guidelines:
- Allow your new shoots to grow in length, choosing a leader shoot to train as vertical, allowing shoots coming off this to be trained horizontally.
- Shorten these shoots and the vertical by a quarter in November.
- The following year, allow to grow in length to further extend the vertical and horizontal frame – sending new horizontal shoots as the vertical extends up.
- By the end of season two you should have a basic frame. Pinch these back just a few inches (unless they have grown enormously, then prune harder).
Year 3, framework is ready to do annual pruning, now you have the frame.
Summer and Winter Annual pruning:
Every July/August new shoots arising from your frame will be pruned to 5-7 leaf buds. Cut immediately above a leaf, a follow up may be needed.
A second prune is done in the dormant season (January February March not during very cold spells), reduce your last prune of 5-7 to 2 buds; remove any dead wood. Prune previous seasons’ shoots – they might have extended growth on from the summer. The important thing is taking them back to 2 buds.
The next season’s pruning is the same. So: summer prune is 5-7 buds; winter prune is 2 buds. However, things start to change here because the last year’s winter prune to 2 may produce two new shoots that you will then prune to 5-7 and in winter to 2, this all starts to form spurs, rather like apple trees do.
One last word
Missed the summer prune? Shorten growth to 2 buds on your winter prune. Be aware it will be spaghetti, difficult to sort out.