purple wisteria against a pink wall

How to prune wisteria

There are few displays in the garden that can beat the sight of a wisteria gloriously dripping with scented flowers. These vigorous climbers are perfect for covering pergolas or training up walls and, left untouched, they will quite happily fill a large space, including into guttering and under the roof tiles on houses.

Not only does pruning keep your wisteria under control, it also allows more light to get to the wood, encouraging it to ripen and produce flower buds rather than putting all its energy into leafy growth. Here’s how and when to prune your wisteria. 

When to prune a wisteria

Wisteria sinensis 'Prolific' from T&M
For the best results, prune wisteria twice a year
Image: Wisteria sinensis 'Prolific' from T&M

Armed with some sharp secateurs and a sturdy ladder, you should prune your wisteria twice a year to keep it looking its best. The first pruning is carried out in summer after flowering, usually in July or August. The second prune should take place in January or February while the plant is dormant. 

How to prune your wisteria

Wisteria floribunda 'Alba' from T&M
The main pruning should be done in winter when there are no flowers or leaves
Image: Wisteria floribunda 'Alba' from T&M

The summer prune is usually the lightest, carried out immediately after the plant has finished flowering. Simply reduce the new, green, whippy shoots back to just five or six leaves. This is an important prune to keep your wisteria at a manageable size and to encourage a better display of flowers. It’s also an opportunity to tie in new growth that can be used to replace old branches.

The main pruning is done over winter, generally in January or February, depending on the weather. Pruning while the plant is dormant and leafless makes it easier to see where to cut. Working around the plant, reduce the shoots that were shortened in summer to just two buds. This encourages the production of flower buds and ensures that the flowers won't be obscured by leaves. Winter is also a good time to remove any unwanted or dead branches, cutting right back to the main branch.

Prune your wisteria twice a year to keep it in check and make sure you get lots of magnificent flowers each spring. Remember that sunlight needs to reach the wood at the base of younger plants in order for it to ripen and produce flower buds. 

Mandy Bradshaw, chatty gardener, gardening expert

Written by: Mandy Bradshaw, the Chatty Gardener

Cotswold-based Garden Media Guild member, Mandy Bradshaw, is also known as the Chatty Gardener. Passionate about gardening and writing, her beginnings are in football reporting for her primary school, and Mesembryanthemum planting with her mother. Winner of the 2018 Property Press Awards 'Garden Journalist of the Year', she writes for not only her own blog but also a range of newspapers, magazines and other gardening and non-gardening sites.

Banner image: SpiffyStephie/ Shutterstock

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