Does wisteria lose its leaves

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.

Pruning Wisteria

John Patrick

JOHN PATRICK: Wisteria is a much loved and often grown climbing plant. And no wonder. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s beautiful and it’s easy to grow. But without a little bit of care, it can soon get out of hand. Today I’m going to prune this Wisteria to give it better shape and form and to ensure really good flowers in spring. And what’s more, we’ll have a look at a few tips on how to care for your vine, along the way.

Now this is a really mature plant. It’s growing against a stone wall and it hasn’t been pruned in years and in fact, in here, it’s really jungle-like.

Now the key thing with Wisteria I reckon, is to prune them at least once a year and preferably twice. It’s important not to prune your Wisteria in winter because like other spring flowering shrubs, if you do, you’ll simply cut off all that seasons’ flowers. I’d prune it twice a year – once in summer after it finishes flowering and then again in autumn.

Now the first thing to do is to remove dead material from in here. There’s quite a lot of rotten branches where light simply doesn’t get in to the inside of the plant. And you can get rid of those – they break off quite easily and it frees up much of the centre of the plant.

Well that’s about it for the dead material in this plant. Were it a much bigger, older plant, you’d find a whole lot more of that. But now it’s to these young whippy branches I want to turn and these are this year’s growth and they grow very vigorously, so to keep the plant in shape, we need to prune these back.

I’m going to prune it back to around about 4 leaves or about 150 millimetres from the old stem because this is where the new flower buds will form. The main reason for pruning is so all the plant’s energy can be focused on the flower spurs near the main stem and not diverted into the stem growth.

It’s a good idea to cut the plant back again in summer. Follow the same method as for the autumn pruning, but cut the side shoots back closer to the main lateral – leaving them only 6 – 10 centimetres or 2 – 3 leaves long. Regular pruning will also encourage your Wisteria to have larger flowers.

Now in here there are some very weak, elongated growths and they’re all coming from right down in there. I’m going to cut these off completely. The plant produces such prolific growth that it really won’t miss that. Of course, if you’re planning to extend the size or reach of your plant, leave that growth on.

So that certainly looks a lot neater than it did and the Wisteria is back in bounds. I’ve cut out all that long whippy growth and cut back to short spurs. And it’s there that the Wisteria will flower on second year growth, so come spring, we really should get a great display of flowers.

Soil: Adapts well to a ride range of soils, from mildly acidic to neutral. Prefers well-drained, humus soil.
Light: Full to Partial — Full sun assures optimum bloom.
Water: Water regularly- weekly or more often in extreme heat, until established. Do not over water. It needs regular weekly watering twice a week and during high heat periods.
Spacing: 4-6 ft
Fertilizing: Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, which will produce excessive vegetation at the expense of flowering. Feed during the early growing season with a slow release fertilizer, higher in Phosphate.
Winterizing: Mulching the base of the plant will offer winter protection. If you live in a very cold area, and have had trouble in past years with getting your wisteria to bloom, there is a chance that the plant may be suffering from winter die back, which kills the blossom buds. If you suspect this is the case, wrapping the plant in burlap will help to protect the blossom buds.
Maintenance & pruning: If it’s late fall or early in the winter (after the plant has shed its leaves but before snow has fallen), you can remove any dead growth, and do some cosmetic pruning to shape the wisteria vine. Keep in mind that any severe pruning in winter may affect next seasons flowering.
Pruning should be done about two months after it flowers. Cut the season’s current shoots back to within three buds from the base. These buds will then bear the coming season’s new shoots and flowers.

Care For Wisteria In Winter

Wisteria vines are among the most popular flowering vines grown in the home landscape today. Their lush growth and cascading flowers are easy for homeowners to fall in love with. Another plus to the wisteria vine is the minimal care needed to maintain a beautiful plant, but many homeowners do wonder if there is anything they need to do when considering how to prepare wisteria for winter. The good news is that wisteria winter care, like most wisteria care, is minimal. That being said, if you have the time, there are a few things you can do for overwintering wisteria.

Care for Wisteria in Winter

First, let us say that wisteria winter care is not really necessary. Wisteria is an extremely rugged plant and can survive a wide variety of weather conditions. Unless your wisteria is newly planted or has been unhealthy, overwintering wisteria does not require extra work. If you have the time to provide a little extra TLC to winterize a wisteria that is healthy, that’s great, but if you don’t, don’t sweat it. If your wisteria is newly planted or has had trouble in the past year, adding a little additional care for wisteria in winter will help keep it healthy.

General additional wisteria winter care includes mulching the base of the plant to give the roots some added protection and trimming away any dead growth you may find on the plant. If it’s late fall or early in the winter (after the plant has shed its leaves but before snow has fallen), you can also do some cosmetic pruning to shape the wisteria vine. Read this article for some tips on how to prune wisteria.

If you have had trouble in past years with getting your wisteria to bloom, there is a chance that the plant may be suffering from winter dieback, which kills the blossom buds. If you suspect this is the case, wrapping the plant in burlap will help to protect the blossom buds. If your wisteria has bloomed fine in past years, this step is unnecessary. Also, please note that with wisteria, winter dieback only occurs in areas that get extremely cold. If you do not live in a very cold area, there are more likely reasons your wisteria is not blooming. You can read about the reasons a wisteria does not bloom here.

This is really all that’s needed for care for wisteria in winter. Even with these things, if you find other things in your yard are more pressing and you do not have time to winterize a wisteria, the wisteria will be okay over the winter without the extra care.

I HAVE A love-hate relationship with my wisteria. In May, when it’s in full bloom with long, hanging, fragrant flowers, I definitely love the tweedle out of it. It’s growing on a trellis over our large patio. Visitors to our garden go absolutely gaga when they see it flowering away in spring, with almost 1,000 blossoms hanging from the vines.

The hate part is due to all the work it takes to keep this behemoth from ripping the roof off my house, and those of several of my nearest neighbors. The tendrils can grow 25 feet in one season, and they have an affinity for snaking under and ripping off shingles and rain gutters.

Don’t even think about planting wisteria unless you enjoy working your hinder off, especially if (as I did) you plant it near a house, garage, tree or anywhere it can find its way in to cause trouble.

Having said all of this, I would not trade my wisteria for anything. No other vine can match the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, and the gnarled vines wrapped around the arbor pillars look magnificent in winter.

There are two species of wisteria typically available at local nurseries. Wisteria sinensis is the Chinese wisteria. The showy, footlong flowers open all at once before the leaves emerge, putting on quite a show. My personal favorite is Wisteria floribunda, or Japanese wisteria, because the blossoms (racemes) are so long (the record-holder is almost 6 feet).

The key to growing a beautiful wisteria is to train it to twist in its natural direction, then constantly prune it to keep it from becoming a “kudzudian” monster. Right after planting, remove all but three vigorous stems, and twist them around the support that the vines will climb. These vines will form the framework, and must be tied in to hold them in place as they climb.

Be ruthless at removing all other growth. Never fight Mother Nature by trying to force the vines to twist in a direction other than the one that they naturally grow. The vines will revert to their natural direction, and they will uproot the trellis and tie you to it!

Cut the top of the vines as soon as they reach the top of the trellis. That will promote the development of strong laterals. Again, be ruthless: Allow no more than three lateral vines to grow on each horizontal support. Twist the laterals around the beams, and then tie them in.

Wisterias normally bloom in early May. Soon after the blooming period is over, tendrils begin to grow out of the main structural vines that you’ve tied to the cross braces. For the first few years, while the wisteria is being trained, it won’t bloom because it is too young. Even so, the tendrils will begin to grow rapidly right after the normal blooming period is over.

The trick to instigate flowering is to cut back these rapidly growing tendrils to about 6 inches long. This is called spur pruning. All the energy that would have gone into the 25-foot tendril is captured in the 6-inch spur, which stimulates flower bud production. Pruning in this manner usually results in flowering within four to five years after planting. Of course, this laborious task must be performed every spring, and two or three follow-up trimmings per season are needed to cut back later emerging tendrils.

After reading this, unless you want to work hard on it the rest of your life, you might want to consider planting well-behaved clematis instead.


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Rabbits aren’t Chickens, but they are both animals, agreed? Evergreen Wisteria is neither evergreen…nor is it a true wisteria. Wisteria sinensis, or Chinese Wisteria vine that we all recognize with its large purple blooms that remind me of grapes, is a very different plant from Evergreen Wisteria, though both are in the same family called legumes. Here is why I like recommending the Evergreen Wisteria over the Chinese Wisteria to my customers…

Plant Characteristics:

Evergreen Wisteria can grow between 15 and 30 feet high, depending on the conditions and is easily trained on any garden structure. The foliage is dark green and deciduous (drops in winter), if we get cold enough for it. They are perennials, so they will flush out new growth each spring. The deep purple blooms emerge in mid-summer, which is a different cycle from the Chinese Wisteria, which will bloom only in spring. The growth habit of Evergreen Wisteria is another noticeable difference from the Chinese Wisteria. Evergreen Wisteria has a refined habit, clumping better and won’t run into the lawn or garden like the Chinese Wisteria tends to do. Also, the foliage is much denser on the Evergreen compared to the Chinese Wisteria.

The blooms on the Evergreen Wisteria are smaller than the traditional vine and have a pea-like appearance and are 6-8 inches long. They bloom in mid to late summer, which is nice when many plants have petered out with the heat. The blooms are a deep royal purple and are striking against the foliage. These blooms are HIGHLY FRAGRANT! The sweet, enticing scent will draw any and every one to this area of your garden. They are also adaptable to many soil and moisture conditions. They are toxic to pets if they ingest the seeds or bark of the vine.

Plant Care:

Evergreen Wisteria should be planted in a sunny area, in well-drained soil. They like regular watering if no rainfall is occurring. Deadheading, removing spent blooms, will help to promote more vigorous flowering. When fertilizing the Evergreen Wisteria, a liquid fertilizer with a bloom boosting ingredient is preferred, but a granular slow release fertilizer is sufficient also. Prune in late winter or early spring when trimming them back for the next growing season.


The Evergreen Wisteria can be grown on pergolas, fences, trellises, arbors, and just about anything else in the garden you’re willing to train it on! They can be used to hide unsightly areas like an A/C unit or to add some privacy where needed. They make great companion plants in the veggie garden. They fix nitrogen in the soil, which is a critical element in soils. This will also positively affect other plantings around it, so, an edible space like a raised or rowed garden with your favorite fresh foods is a wonderful place to incorporate them!

I’ve worked a good bit training Evergreen Wisteria on arbors for customers as well as commercially. It is worth every ounce of labor—truly a labor of love, whose reward is lavish beauty and fragrance in your favorite sitting space in your garden.

Climbing Plants – to enhance your garden

Climbing Plants – using climbers to enhance your garden and provide screening –

Many varieties of climbing plants are available and to narrow the choices you need to decide how you want the climber to work for you in your garden:-

  • Do you need the climber to provide screening – to climb up and cover an ugly wall or fence?
  • Do you need the climber to be evergreen (keeps leaves in winter) or deciduous (loses leaves in winter)?
  • Would you prefer a fast-growing elegant flowering climber to cover a pergola, gazebo or arbour?
  • Do you need the climber to be evergreen or deciduous (ie loses its leaves in winter)?

Trachelospermum Jasminoides | Star Jasmine – highly perfumed climber

Evergreen Climbers
Evergreen climbers such as Trachelospermum Jasminoides – although they are not fast growing (about 10cm growth per annum) provide an excellent evergreen screen, they attach well to frames and they also have pretty white scented flowers in the Summer months. We now also stock the beautifully fragrant, yellow variety of evergreen jasmine Star of Toscana Jasmine. Jasmine’s flowers have a wonderful citrus smell which is particularly noticeable on warm summer evenings.

A faster growing evergreen climber is the Clematis Armandii which has long elegant leaves with a slightly tropical appearance and the white scented flowers appear in the late Summer. These can be planted in conjunction with Jasmines to give the best coverage and flowering period from early to late Summer.
Read our dedicated blog on Evergreen Climbing Plants for the UK climate, which includes a broader, more detailed selection.

Clematis Armandii | Abelia Grandiflora | Wisteria Sinensis

  • Would you prefer a fast-growing elegant flowering climber to cover a pergola, gazebo or arbour?

Chinese Wisteria
Another very popular climber is the Wisteria Sinensis or Chinese Wisteria – their beautiful flowers appear in late Spring and early Summer. The purple, blue or white flowers hang in clusters (giving the appearance of bunches of grapes) hanging from the vigorous twining stems. Wisteria are deciduous but the gnarled appearance of their stems as they age is still attractive even through the Winter months. Wisteria are quite fast growing but can be pruned to keep controlled. They work particularly well covering arbors or gazebos. We now have a full range of Wisteria’s in our Climbing Plants section with thirteen different varieties, in many different colours.

  • Do you need the climber to provide screening – to climb up to cover an ugly wall or fence?

Climbers for Screening
Climbers suitable for screening or covering walls or fences include the evergreen Garrya Elliptica, James Roof variety, which is also known as the Silk Tassel Bush, this evergreen climber is particularly useful for growing against dry, shady walls. The catkins appear in early spring and start life as a golden colour, gradually turning a beautiful greenish-grey colour. Our stock is supplied on a bamboo trellis – ready for planting directly into the ground with its own support in place.

Photinia Red Robin on Frames | Evergreen Screening

In fact nowadays many evergreen shrubs are grown specifically on frames so only the pot needs to be planted and the frame will fit in immediately to the area to be screened. Evergreen shrubs like the Photinia Red Robin, Pyracantha or Hornbeam are supplied on these frames in varying sizes – usually from around 1.4m up to 4m in height.

Pleached Hornbeam Trees | Clear Stemmed Trees, Frame Grown for Instant Screening

Climbing plants are also popular for small terraced gardens or in areas in the garden where space is an issue as they do not need massive planting areas and can be trained to climb wherever you attach them.

For the small amount of space climbers create they can give back maximum impact with their coverage, screening and/or amazing flowers and fruits.

by Karen Mariconda
You may also be interested in Rambling or Climbing Roses – how do they differ?



  • Sun
  • Coastal
  • Feature
  • Hedge
  • Container
  • Fragrant

Flowering Season

Summer, Spring


The 8 species of twining vines in this genus are members of the pea-flower subfamily of the legume (Fabaceae) family, and are natives of China, Japan, and eastern USA. These hardy, heavy-wooded, vigorous, deciduous vines are invaluable for screening and for draping over verandahs and porches, with the dense foliage providing cool shade during the warmer months, then as the weather cools and the leaves fall, the winter sun is allowed to penetrate. The English botanist Thomas Nuttall named the genus for Caspar Wistar (17611818), a professor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania, though the reason for the change in spelling of his last name remains unclear.


When young, the pinnate leaves of Wisteria species are a soft bronze-green shade but turn light green when mature. Wisterias are a magnificent sight when in bloom, with abundant, long, pendent racemes of usually mauve to violet flowers that begin to open as the leaves expand. The flowers are often highly scented. The limited colour range of the species is extended in the cultivated forms to include white and a range of pink to purple tones.


Wisterias like to grow in a sunny position, but the roots must be kept cool, moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil is the preferred growing medium. These hardy, heavy-wooded, vigorous climbers need sturdy support, and routine trimming is required to contain the spread of these nimble climbers. They can be propagated from cuttings or seed, or by layering or grafting.

Gardening Australia suggests you check with your local authorities regarding the weed potential of any plants for your particular area.

© Global Book Publishing (Australia) Pty Ltd from Flora’s Gardening Cards

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