Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wisteria pruning


September is an excellent time to prune your American wisteria (frutescens or macrostachys) (if you have had reliable bloom each year for several years, it is probably an American wisteria. Or if you notice that it blooms on "new wood" or new growth, it is American, not Asian). This is one of the exceptions to the “don’t prune in the fall” rule. Pruning wisteria now will allow for better bloom next year, plus it will keep this rampant grower in check. My wisteria did not bloom much this spring, then gave off blooms in fits as starts (and small amounts) this summer. So prune it we did. Or rather, I armed my 13 year old with pruning shears, saws and instructions…and he did a great job! (thirteen year old boys are great on “seek and destroy” missions!).

The instructions to prune a wisteria are to cut back each vine from tip to 3 feet or more back into the mass. Cut off any broken, damaged or diseased vines too (though not much seems to bother this plant). If your wisteria is near a building, cut off any vine that contacts the building. Wisteria vines will worm their way under soffits, shingles, around decks, fences and downspouts…and will tear them off over time! The best place to put a wisteria is away from the house. If your wisteria, like mine, was starting to reach into the neighbors tree, cut that off too. Wisteria will form a very thick, treelike and hard-to-cut trunk over time and needs strong support.

As you can see by my “after” photo above, I planted my wisteria to take over the play yard in our back yard. By the time it is engulfed, my son (and my nephews and niece) will have outgrown the swings. Before pruning, we could not see the yellow side nor one of the swings, so trimming back gave us another year of use of the swing set.

One fun thing I did with the trimmings is make several wreathes and the swag surrounding my fireplace (in the photo). I am drying other vines and flowers (and I actually ordered some cool dried flowers on line) to make up the wreathes and swag. I will keep a wreathe, give some as gifts and will have the swag ready for Thanksgiving (when I host more people that ever before!). I hate to waste stuff as much as I love to collect botanical materials.

(One historical note: the wisteria is named after Caspar Wistar and should be called "wistaria", but for a typographical error!)

Happy gardening!


Mary Ann said...

Wisteria is a wonderful vine -- I have yet to get my one to bloom-- and after reading this I need to move it and take my chance on it surviving -- It is on a fence of wood and near the gate -- to my back yard.

Judy Thomas said...

I will need to look this up, but there are two kinds of wisteria and one does not do as well in the US RE: blooming, but is sold in garden centers here! I will get back to you

Judy Thomas said...

I have the info already:
Do you have an American or an Asian wisteria? American wisteria are reliable bloomers. They bloom on new wood, so do not have to get their buds through the cold, dry winter season. A cold winter, even in VA, might be enough to reduce bloom in Asian wisteria, which blooms on old wood. American wisteria are know by the second part of their Latin or botanical name, either "macrostachys" or "frutescens." It is OK to prune American wisteria now, but not so much with the Asians (unless they are out of bounds).