Collecting large Wisteria - tips and tricks

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I live in the SF Bay Area and have wanted a good yardadori Wisteria for a while. I found a nice one that I've gotten permission to take, but would like any tips and tricks you might have for digging it up and general care once it's dug up. What's the ideal time of year to dig it up? What are the chances of survival (assuming I'm careful) in digging it up at this time of year or in the next few weeks? Temperatures lately are sunny and 68 degrees daily, lows are 45 at night.
I've collected several huge bougainvillea from people's yards in the last few years and they've all survived.

Thanks for any tips or advice!
 

woodkraftbonsai

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I think standard collecting practice. Spring before bud break, or Fall after leaves turn. I collected a large one last fall from a yard - it had already been pruned back. We're a little slower to get into Spring up here but the buds are just starting to swell. It went into some regular old potting soil that I had and spent the winter outside, but had good drainage in the box I built. Is a monster, probably 10-12" in diameter. Best of luck with yours! Maybe wait until Fall since you're further along in the season down there?
 

rockm

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I live in the SF Bay Area and have wanted a good yardadori Wisteria for a while. I found a nice one that I've gotten permission to take, but would like any tips and tricks you might have for digging it up and general care once it's dug up. What's the ideal time of year to dig it up? What are the chances of survival (assuming I'm careful) in digging it up at this time of year or in the next few weeks? Temperatures lately are sunny and 68 degrees daily, lows are 45 at night.
I've collected several huge bougainvillea from people's yards in the last few years and they've all survived.

Thanks for any tips or advice!
I collect wisteria from before bud break to just after flowering. They're tough and can take extreme root reduction.No need to get a root ball with soil. I just saw them out of the ground six inches out from the trunk. I take them home (they grow wild around here and are invasive) and use a hose to blast off all the field soil. I put them in a bonsai/potting soil mix 40/60 60 is the potting soil. I keep them pretty moist all through the summer. Typically it takes two weeks to see new growth. I rarely lose one (I don't think I ever have)..

A word of caution, the larger the trunk, the more time this should take. I've learned over the years that you can dig up big (trunk over 12 inches diameter) all at once, BUT that trunk will likely die back significantly--as in 70-80 percent of the trunk dies back. I've learned that such large trunk require a couple of years to collect, the half-now, half next year approach, leaving the trunk in the ground during that time. This gives the plant time to regenerate a root systems without additional stress.
 
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That’s good advice.
I’ve e had two large ones rot out within a year of collection.
Still worth a try if you have to do it in one go.
 

Mike Corazzi

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When is someone going to make ceramic kiddie pools so people can collect REALLY big trees?
🤪
 

rockm

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This one has been on my mind for a couple of years. Biggest issue in getting it is deer ticks. I've become allergic to their bite having been bitten so many times over the years. Deer bed down where this plant resides...tick heaven.
 

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rockm

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Those have the Lyme disease?
Among other things, from Babeosis, to Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. I've been treated for Lyme disease twice. 😁
 
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That’s good advice.
I’ve e had two large ones rot out within a year of collection.
Still worth a try if you have to do it in one go.
What would you do differently to keep them from rotting out in the future? Were the trees pushing growth before rotting out?
 
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Well I did it. The pictures above are of the tree. It's been 10 days and it is pushing a lot of growth - some new shoots are over 2 ft long already! The photos above are from the day it was collected and put in a mixing tray.
 

rockm

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Get it into a deeper pot. The roots will fry in that this summer. Soil should be at least 60 percent POTTING soil/40 bonsai soil. Shade the roots. Let the tope spread in full sun. Keep up the watering. Don't let it dry out. Cover the top of the nebari with at least two inches of soil, to prevent it from getting hot and drying out in the sun.
 
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Get it into a deeper pot. The roots will fry in that this summer. Soil should be at least 60 percent POTTING soil/40 bonsai soil. Shade the roots. Let the tope spread in full sun. Keep up the watering. Don't let it dry out. Cover the top of the nebari with at least two inches of soil, to prevent it from getting hot and drying out in the sun.
I took the picture halfway through potting, so it has a lot more soil now than before. I used 60/20/20 ratio pine bark / lava / pumice. Right now it's positioned under a tree with just a tiny bit of direct/filtered sunlight daily, and gets a heavy watering daily.
I keep seeing comments about keeping these moist/watered, but also I've read 4 stories now about rotting wisteria. What's a guy to think?
 

rockm

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I took the picture halfway through potting, so it has a lot more soil now than before. I used 60/20/20 ratio pine bark / lava / pumice. Right now it's positioned under a tree with just a tiny bit of direct/filtered sunlight daily, and gets a heavy watering daily.
I keep seeing comments about keeping these moist/watered, but also I've read 4 stories now about rotting wisteria. What's a guy to think?
You DON'T want the soil to drain quickly. Wisteria is a water hog. You want water to sit in the soil for a while. The mix you have now is a bit too porous. You want finer soil particles. FWIW, wisteria is a forest dweller, preferring cool roots and full sun on its top. It uses other trees to climb up and overtop, while its roots remain in the cool forest topsoil--they generally are not deep rooted plants. Because they use OTHER trees to get height and don't use it for support, their wood is weak and not very durable. It's not really even wood, so much as it is a woody straw to drink water through.

That the wood is susceptible to rot, while the plant loves water is a problem you have to work with when it's a bonsai. Wisteria grow VERY strongly and typically, they can outgrow weakness and rot on their trunk simply by rerouting. In a bonsai pot, with constant pruning, that's more difficult to overcome.

Watering daily is fine, but you're going to have to check it twice or even three times a day when it's actively growing and the weather is warm--they can soak up an incredible amount of water particularly when it's windy.

Another word of warning DON'T put the container directly on the ground. The plant WILL find a way out wiht their roots and can pop up 25 yards away from the main trunk with very little visibility. Once they've escaped they can be a nuisance and even a danger (at least here in the Southern U.S. as they can tear siding off houses within a couple of days growth in the summer and even eventually pull buildings and structures apart left alone for a few years.)

Good luck. Remember, you WANTED a wisteria bonsai. They're a pain in the ass all the time, except when (And If) they bloom...

A house in North Carolina where things got out of hand.
 

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You DON'T want the soil to drain quickly. Wisteria is a water hog. You want water to sit in the soil for a while. The mix you have now is a bit too porous. You want finer soil particles. FWIW, wisteria is a forest dweller, preferring cool roots and full sun on its top. It uses other trees to climb up and overtop, while its roots remain in the cool forest topsoil--they generally are not deep rooted plants. Because they use OTHER trees to get height and don't use it for support, their wood is weak and not very durable. It's not really even wood, so much as it is a woody straw to drink water through.

That the wood is susceptible to rot, while the plant loves water is a problem you have to work with when it's a bonsai. Wisteria grow VERY strongly and typically, they can outgrow weakness and rot on their trunk simply by rerouting. In a bonsai pot, with constant pruning, that's more difficult to overcome.

Watering daily is fine, but you're going to have to check it twice or even three times a day when it's actively growing and the weather is warm--they can soak up an incredible amount of water particularly when it's windy.

Another word of warning DON'T put the container directly on the ground. The plant WILL find a way out wiht their roots and can pop up 25 yards away from the main trunk with very little visibility. Once they've escaped they can be a nuisance and even a danger (at least here in the Southern U.S. as they can tear siding off houses within a couple of days growth in the summer and even eventually pull buildings and structures apart left alone for a few years.)

Good luck. Remember, you WANTED a wisteria bonsai. They're a pain in the ass all the time, except when (And If) they bloom...

A house in North Carolina where things got out of hand.
Thanks for all the info! Super informative. It sounds like the location I've put the plant isn't ideal, so I'll change that. I work from home and spend a lot of time in the garden so watering often wont be an issue.
I'll definitely get better soil on it
 

rockm

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Thanks for all the info! Super informative. It sounds like the location I've put the plant isn't ideal, so I'll change that. I work from home and spend a lot of time in the garden so watering often wont be an issue.
I'll definitely get better soil on it
You can put the pot up on bricks or something like that where it is now Just don't let the pot touch the soil, leave an air gap
 
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You can put the pot up on bricks or something like that where it is now Just don't let the pot touch the soil, leave an air gap
As far as potential for a bonsai, should I just let it grow wild for a while and see where new shoots pop up? Should I let new shoots run long, or will the tree backbud in new areas if I pinch the ends?
With yamodori I usually like to do as much chopping up front to save time, but I'm used to working on Bougainvillea which can take the chopping without issue. As far as bonsai design goes, do you have any suggestions for what a longterm goal should be for this plant?
 

rockm

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Let it grow for the couple of years, making sure it doesn't get too aggressive with stuff around it. You can tie loose knots in the long runners it produces to keep it in check--loose knots as in looping shoots together. Don't tie them tight, just enough to keep them looped.

At this point, design is still down the road. The plant that remains has to stabilize--allow it to get as much growth as possible. That will help insure against die back--you will probably get some in the next couple of years. What remains from that will dictate what you have to work with.

That die back may be minimal, it may be a lot. The bigger the wisteria, the bigger that issue becomes.
 

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