New wisteria

serpentsgarden

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I am new to wisteria not bonsai. I am a bit confused over conflicting information i have found and looking for advice from someone who know the plant well. I am already growing a few starts and will soon be able to collect an established plants as well this spring. I am looking to add a brighter show early spring in my growing garden. I want to learn how to prune to promote dense flowering and training methods for upright styles. Also does deadwood persist on wisteria and can it be incorporated into the styling well?? :confused:
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Here are some tips from growing these over the last 15 years. Several others here have very nice wisteria that may weigh in as well.

1. Wisteria is a vine, so upright styles require a taller trunk, which may give the overall appearance of an upright tree.

2. Here is my seasonal work on a wisteria:
Winter: Wire to spread out flower buds; prune only the shoots you KNOW aren't flower buds, or don't need. Flower buds are bigger, rounded, and usually on shorter shoots, not runners.
Spring: Prune back hard just after flowering (April); this is the only time of year to prune while you're learning their tendencies.
Summer: Move it out of the way, partial shade. Set it in a tub of water for the month of August, and pinch out some of the long runners.
Fall: Feed with a no-nitrogen fertilizer. Do not prune.

3. I avoid repotting at all costs, and use very bad soil; including ( :eek: ) sand from the kids' sandbox, bark, and old recycled soil. They are thirsty trees, and seem to flower better with heavy soil, & no fertilizer. I'll go 4-5 years between transplanting.

4. The deadwood is punky, soft, susceptible to mold/mildew, but seems to be persistent. All of my wisteria have developed some deadwood over time, but I'm not crazy about it in the design.

5. If your space is limited, wisteria have a very low return for the amount of space they require on a bench. They are incredible for about 3 weeks a year, then they're like Captain Caveman for the rest of the year. I have to pull runners off the fence every few weeks.

Overall, they're very easy trees to grow, but they just don't look good for 48 weeks out of the year, and aren't trained in the same manner as most other trees. Don't expect to develop dense ramification, or to show it in any month but April. And whatever you do, don't take good care of it! Good soil, fertilizer, light, attention, and regular pinching makes for a very complacent tree.

Hopefully this helps, and I look forward to posts by others with wisteria experience. To me, they're a whole different animal.

Also, welcome to the forum...you should add a general geographic area & USDA zone to your profile so we have a general idea of your growing climate. Some points above assume you live somewhere in the SE where wisteria grow in the wild.
Brian
 

jk_lewis

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Brian gave an excellent summary. I'll only add that you should not expect any wisteria you buy or create from "scratch" to bloom in less than 5 years. Cuttings (very easy to do) will take 10.

Wisteria must be rootbound before they bloom. It is always 2-3 years after a repot before you get any significant blooming. As Brian said, torture them. In the growing season, I keep the roots saturated; the pots sit in pans of water. Mine sit outside all winter. They have spent most of the last month here frozen solid in their pots.

I hate winter, though, so I usually bring them inside in February and sit them in the sun room where they suddenly get full (and warm) sun on them most of the day. I usually have blooms in early march, and the trees come inside for almost 2 weeks.

Here are two of mine. (The third picture is the second tree 10 years ago.)
 

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serpentsgarden

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So am i to understand that the summer growth will be the growth that lengthens the most and fastest?? I read to prune out the runners once they get about four to six sets of leaves.??
Thanks for the replies. The regimem you explained seems very basic and solid start? I will have to force myself to be a little crueler to the wisteria apparently. i don't mind waiting for the spring show. And the fact that it is a vigorous grower I am guessing will give me something to prune at more often than any of my maples or elms.
This might help for some visualization. My plan was to get the plant started in larger growing boxes to establish a large root zone. I have every intention of letting the plant get about three to 3 and half feet. i understand the plant will need a support for a number of years. I tend to think form what i studied to obtain alarger trunk a lot of sacrificial branches must be grownt and removed time and time again and that wisteria is a long to see rewards type of tree much like a juniper would be. I am guessing that my plan will take about 8 to ten years all together.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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So am i to understand that the summer growth will be the growth that lengthens the most and fastest?? I read to prune out the runners once they get about four to six sets of leaves.??
Yes, summer growth is rampant, but from the previous post: "Spring...is the only time of year to prune...". This means leave it alone in the summer; I only remove long runners that get 4 to 6 feet long and are climbing over the fence behind it.

The regimem you explained seems very basic and solid start?
It is basic, and it's more than a start...it's all I do with it, all year, every year.

I will have to force myself to be a little crueler to the wisteria apparently. i don't mind waiting for the spring show. And the fact that it is a vigorous grower I am guessing will give me something to prune at more often than any of my maples or elms.

The maples and elms should keep you much busier. Also, pruning is typically defined as removing woody branches, trunk, and roots, and pinching is defined as removing growing shoots. Pinch Maples and Elms in the summer. Ignore Wisteria...

This might help for some visualization. My plan was to get the plant started in larger growing boxes to establish a large root zone. I have every intention of letting the plant get about three to 3 and half feet. i understand the plant will need a support for a number of years. I tend to think form what i studied to obtain alarger trunk a lot of sacrificial branches must be grownt and removed time and time again and that wisteria is a long to see rewards type of tree much like a juniper would be. I am guessing that my plan will take about 8 to ten years all together.

Let's also clarify that we're discussing two different techniques which must be applied at separate times; growing a trunk and growing branches.

If you want a 3'-3.5' tall trunk, here is a 10-year plan:
2011: Put it in the ground and forget about it for 3-4 years (no pruning at all). Let it grow a big fat trunk.
2015: (hopefully) dig up the trunk, prune away everything else, and plant the trunk into a training pot. Once it's in a pot, let it grow all new branches for a couple years.
2017: Start on the seasonal schedule from the previous post.
2019: Plant into it's first bonsai pot, and with luck, you'll have something close to Jim's in 2021

...and that's the 10-year plan!
 

jk_lewis

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If you want a 3'-3.5' tall trunk, here is a 10-year plan:
2011: Put it in the ground and forget about it for 3-4 years (no pruning at all). Let it grow a big fat trunk.
2015: (hopefully) dig up the trunk, prune away everything else, and plant the trunk into a training pot. Once it's in a pot, let it grow all new branches for a couple years.
2017: Start on the seasonal schedule from the previous post.
2019: Plant into it's first bonsai pot, and with luck, you'll have something close to Jim's in 2021

Exactly! But I think it will take even longer up in Vancouver. Mine are 15 inches, more or less, from the pot rim. Both were dug plants. The first one had been growing in my yard in Tallahassee, FL for 4-5 years before I dug it up. The second was a sprout from a wide-ranging root on a very large wisteria that grew in the same yard. Tree # 1 is about 20 years old (in a pot!), It bloomed for the first time here in the North Carolina foothills three years ago. The second one is younger, and bloomed sooner. (for some reason).
 

pjkatich

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Hello serpentsgarden,

Brian and Jim have offered some very sound information on growing wisteria bonsai.

Following is the only point that Brian made that I would not agree with: "Spring: Prune back hard just after flowering (April); this is the only time of year to prune while you're learning their tendencies."

It has been my experience that this type of approach will retard flower production on a plant that has already produced blooms. However, on plants that have not yet flowered, this is a good coarse of action.

I have found that flower production is directly related to the way in which you cut spent racemes from the plant. If done correctly, you can double your flower production from one year to the next.

Regards,
Paul
 

jk_lewis

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Well, wisteria don't start flower buds until fairly late in the year. The buds show up mostly on old wood.

I chop mine ruthlessly with hedge clippers all summer long. Otherwise they just take up room that I don't have on my tables.

Here's the best they can look in summer, first in 2003 when it was youngish and hadn't bloomed, then early last summer, pre chops:
 

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Brian Underwood

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Some advice I have heard on consistent blooming and LOTS of flowers (from people who have many beautiful wisteria); After flowering in spring, fertilize, water, and let it grow completely wild for the rest of the year. Come spring, a month or so before flowering, prune back hard to the buds. From what I have seen this really works, and creates a plant that has an entire canopy of flowers.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Some advice I have heard on consistent blooming and LOTS of flowers (from people who have many beautiful wisteria); After flowering in spring, fertilize, water, and let it grow completely wild for the rest of the year. Come spring, a month or so before flowering, prune back hard to the buds. From what I have seen this really works, and creates a plant that has an entire canopy of flowers.

Just need to be sure one can distinguish flower buds from vegetative buds when pruning before flowering. I'll try to remember to take some photos of flower & vegetative buds this spring, or maybe Jim will if he gets sick of winter and brings them in to force an early show. ;)
 

serpentsgarden

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Thanks for all the replies. A few final questions iand i think i am on my long journey for beautiful flowers. I have my eyes on an established plant that has to be removed. It has a trunk about 6 inches and has been there before the previous owners moved in. It collapsed a gazebo two years ago and now is nothing better than a mound of lawn ruining fun. The first attempt the plant sent out runners everywhere in the yard and in two years time the trunk is now dominnatinting the mound of mess the first run did. Can i expect a much better result sooner from this trunk?? It flowers every year and with a good recovery Is it possible to get a headstart on a spring spectacle?? I am also figuring a much larger bonsai pot will be needed to house the roots since it seem wisteria need room more than other plants. It also seems as iff the the trunk is still a bit bendy? Is it possible also to bend the movement even now and expect it to grow and set into place or will it simply reacte and lose shape later. Also am i right to think reduction of foliage will be a lost cause and I should mainly form the tree to accentuate flowering and basically ignore a lot of bonsai "rules" along the way in order to have the effect I desire. Lst question will seperate varieties compete for nutrients in a pot more than other plants. I ask this as to the invasiveness of the plant tells me it will if it can starve out any competition it can. Or will ti simply be ok with a partner planting in the same containers?? Thanks for the guidance everyone. I hope to get a camera soon to share some of my trees with you all soon.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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I'll try to address all the questions; you may get some other responses too. As a general practice, limit questions to 1 or 2 specific questions per post to ensure you get good direction, and include photos whenever possible!

1. Can i expect a much better result sooner from this trunk??
Maybe, but since it flowers on growth from the previous year, it will depend on what you collect. If the trunk you collect has branches with flower buds, you will have flowers. Photos would help here; especially if they show the buds; we could also provide you suggestions on where to to cut.

2. I am also figuring a much larger bonsai pot will be needed to house the roots since it seem wisteria need room more than other plants.
Anytime you collect a tree, regardless of species, that first pot needs to be the absolutely smallest pot you can stuff it into. Too much room will lead to root-rot.

3. Is it possible also to bend the movement even now and expect it to grow and set into place or will it simply reacte and lose shape later.
Like any, if you can bend it, you can reshape it; and it may set in a year, it may take longer. Photos will help here too.

4. Also am i right to think reduction of foliage will be a lost cause and I should mainly form the tree to accentuate flowering and basically ignore a lot of bonsai "rules" along the way in order to have the effect I desire.
Not sure exactly what you're asking; it shouldn't have foliage now anyway...but if you're asking if removing all the branches to collect the trunk will result in no flowers this year, the answer is yes. When you collect a tree, don't expect anything more than for the tree to simply survive this year.

5. Or will ti simply be ok with a partner planting in the same containers??
Don't combine several trees in the same container if you've just collected them. The mortality rate is high, and you don't want one tree to die and stay in the same pot with others that have survived. I've never seen wisteria used in a group planting, but I would not recommend it.
 

rockm

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Foliage is mostly unmanageable in Wisteria from mid-summer on. Its leaves, like all compound leavesdon't reduce, much, if at all. Compound leaves are basically many little leafleats attached to a secondary leaf stalk attached to a central leaf stalk.

Some reduction can occur naturally on in-ground wisteria plants, showing up mainly in shaded portions of the plant near the ground. That's not the case with the vast majority of Wisteria foliage, however.

Do not plant anything else in the container. It will be killed most likely, by the wisteria's rampant, thick root growth. Also, if you decide to partially submerge the pot in the summer to supply water, most anything else in the container will die.

For what it's worth, Wisteria is a very problematic plant, not because it's finicky or hard to grow, but because of its sheer size and obnoxious growth. It is never really all that presentable as bonsai, being reasonably tamed for a couple of weeks in mid-Spring before all Hell breaks loose in the summer. From the beginning of June until probably mid-September (if you live somewhere warm)
You will be hacking it back all summer or it will engulf surrounding bonsai, fences, small animals and children. You will also find yourself much like the proverbial boat owner-your happiest days are the day you get one and the day you get rid of it...
 

garywood

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The easiest way to deal with the summer runners is to lightly twist them together and wrap around the pot at the base. Kind of like Dreads :D
Wood
 

jk_lewis

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Hedge clippers are even easier!
 

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