How To Get Wisteria To Bloom – Fix Wisteria Blooming Problems

Wisteria is a vine that is well known for its vigorous growth and are just as notorious for being reluctant to bloom. When a wisteria won’t bloom, many gardeners get frustrated and ask, “Why is my wisteria not blooming and what is the secret on how to get wisteria to bloom?” There is no secret to fixing wisteria blooming problems. A little knowledge can help you quickly fix the problem. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to understand how to get a wisteria to flower.

Reasons Why a Wisteria Won’t Bloom

The most likely reason your wisteria won’t bloom is due to too much nitrogen. When a wisteria plant has too much nitrogen, it will have plenty of foliage growth, but very little and maybe no blooms.

Another reason for wisteria blooming problems is the environment they are growing in. Wisteria vines that lack full sun or proper drainage may be stressed, and while they will grow leaves, they will not bloom.

Improper fertilization may also be the answer to the question of why is my wisteria not blooming. Fertilizing in the spring can encourage leaf growth and discourage blooms.

Lack of maturity may also be the culprit. Most wisteria bought in plant nurseries are the proper age to start blooming; but if your wisteria was grown from seed, or given to you by a friend, it simply may not be old enough to flower yet. Wisteria must be seven to 15 years old before they are old enough to bloom.

The last, and least likely, reason a wisteria won’t bloom is over pruning. Over pruning will remove the flower buds. It is extremely difficult to over prune a wisteria, though.

How to Get Wisteria to Bloom

Since too much nitrogen is the most common cause of wisteria blooming problems, the easiest thing to do is to make sure this is not a problem. There are two ways to correct this cause of a wisteria not blooming. The first is too add phosphorus to the soil. This is done by applying a phosphate fertilizer. Phosphorus encourages wisteria blossoms and helps to balance out the nitrogen.

The other way to reduce the amount of nitrogen a wisteria plant is getting is to root prune the plant. This is done by taking a shovel and driving it into the ground in a circle around the wisteria. Make sure that you do root pruning at least 3 feet from the trunk, as root pruning too close to the plant can kill it. Using root pruning as a way how to get a wisteria to flower reduces the amount of roots and, by default, the amount of nitrogen those roots take up.

If these methods do not work to correct your wisteria blooming problems, you can check to see if one of the other reasons may be the problem. Is the plant getting enough sun? Is there proper drainage? Are you fertilizing at the right time, which is in the fall? Are you pruning properly? And is your wisteria old enough to bloom.

Wondering why is my wisteria not blooming is frustrating when you don’t know the answer. But now that you know how to get wisteria to bloom, you can start to enjoy the lovely flowers a wisteria produces.

Tricks for growing great wisteria

Grace C. of Santa Rosa asks: I have two wisteria plants growing up a big, sturdy arbor. It has grown quite a lot in one year. How do I prune it so it will produce flowers every year, and to control its size?

To have your wisteria looking its best during the growing season, plan on pruning at least once in summer, and again in winter.

Summer pruning: Prune the long shoots back after the flowers fade. Since wisteria flowers develop on the previous year’s growth, pruning them biannually will not only keep these vigorous vines to a manageable size, but will help to develop short branches close to the structure, full of blooms. You will need to prune the long shoots of the current year’s growth back to 6 inches in early summer after the vines have finished flowering. Prune off any shoots that won’t be a part of the main framework of the plant. Also prune off root suckers, especially on the grafted varieties. You can prune back any long shoots that grow more frequently than just one time in the summer. It just depends on how much time you want to spend pruning and how neat you want your vine to look.

Winter pruning: Prune back long shoots that have grown during the summer back to three to five buds in late winter. Also, prune back any of last season’s unwanted long shoots, which will be easier to recognize now because the leaves will be gone.

Sally R. of Windsor asks: Why doesn’t my purple flowering wisteria bloom? They have been in the ground for 2 years now. I feel like I should pull them out and plant something else.

Wisterias are notorious for not blooming for one reason or another. Before you do anything drastic, ask yourself if the following basic cultural requirements for the plant are met:

Exposure: Late winter frosts and high winds may damage flower buds, especially those of Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria). Conversely, wisterias bloom best after a year with hot summer temperatures.

Fertilizer: Are you fertilizing them with a high-nitrogen fertilizer? Wisteria fixes nitrogen in the soil, so too much nitrogen can cause excessive foliage growth with poor flowering.

Light requirements: Wisterias need at least six hours of sunlight per day, preferably all day long.

Seed-grown plants: The most common reason for wisteria not flowering is if you purchased a seed-grown plant over a grafted plant.

Grafted plants will typically bloom within two to three years, while seed-grown vines may take about five to seven years before flowering. Ask your local nurseryperson for help in selecting the right one.

Sally F. of Healdsburg asks: I want to plant a row of roses along my driveway, but don’t have time to prune them back and maintain them. Are there any types of roses that don’t require a lot of care?

Well, check out the Knock Out series roses. They are practically perfect roses. The blooms of these shrub roses keep producing from midspring until well into fall. These shrub roses grow 2 feet to 4 feet high and wide.

In our warm climate, they can sometimes bloom well into December, which gives the garden nearly nine months of color for the year. Knock Out roses don’t require pruning to rebloom, and they are disease and pest resistant. There are several colors to choose from. You’ll be pleased with these.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at [email protected] The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

Is your wisteria getting a little aggressive? Here’s how to make it do what you want | Hilton Head Island Packet

Careful pruning can make your agressive wisteria fall into line. Submitted photo

A friend recently invited me to visit his yard to offer suggestions for managing some overgrown shrubs. We talked about azaleas, wax myrtles and ligustrum, how and when to prune, fertilize, among other things. I noticed a 6-foot by 6-foot wisteria growing next to a lamppost and thought, “Hmm, nice plant — not the best location.”

My friend mentioned that he didn’t get many blossoms on the wisteria, and I suggested that it be moved to the sunny side yard in the fall and planted to grow on a pergola. I told him to consider planting a smaller, more manageable vine next to the lamppost, perhaps a variety of clematis or mandevilla.

Wisterias are famous for the hanging clusters of blossoms they produce in the spring. Training wisteria on a solid framework and knowing when and how to prune it is the way to get a breathtaking display. Now is the time to perform some vigorous pruning on this plant regardless of where it is located. Cut back the side shoots and lateral vines to about six inches from the main stem, allowing about six buds to remain on each. You may be cutting away a lot of greenery, but it is necessary. Wisteria are very aggressive growers, and the plant will soon resume its rampant ways.

When the wisteria has lost its leaves in winter, you can distinguish leaf and branch buds from flower buds. The flower buds are plump and have a blunt end, whereas the other buds are much narrower and taper to a point. Winter is the time to perform the second pruning of the year. Cut all the branches to three to five flower buds so that energy is directed to flower production rather than vegetative growth. Wisteria do not need to be fertilized; doing so will just encourage more vines and leaves, at the expense of flowers.

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Here are some caveats for those of you thinking of planting wisteria. The fruit is a flattened, velvety bean pod about 2 to 4 inches long containing poisonous seeds. In late summer the bean pod cracks open and releases the seeds. A fully bloomed wisteria is a bee magnet. Use caution, especially if someone in your home (or a visitor) has bee allergies.

The root systems can spread very wide and create problems with underground plumbing. Consider surrounding the root system with a 2-foot-high, 3-foot-diameter circle of thick, galvanized metal when doing the initial planting.

Other plants which benefit from being trimmed in July are African iris, agapanthus, pentas, and coleus.

Cut just under the green seedpod of African iris with scissors to remove the pods as they appear, in order to keep the iris from self-seeding. Do not cut back the flower stalk, since it is perennial and will produce more blooms. Cut brown or yellowing leaves and stalks back to the base of the plant with pruning shears. Remove them one at a time; the leaves are tough and difficult to cut through.

After they bloom, cut the stalks of agapanthus to the base of the plant. You want this plant to direct its energy toward producing strong root growth for next year, not to waste it on seed production.

Pinch off dead blossoms of pentas during the blooming season, to encourage further flower production, until it is too cold for any more blooms to appear.

Coleus require regular pinching back to maintain full form and vigor.

Pinch off the growing tips selectively in areas of the plant where growth appears spindly or leggy. Pinch the stem back to a leaf node where at least one axillary bud is present, as these buds will ideally grow out to form new shoots. Cut or pinch flower spikes back to a leaf node as they appear. Coleus flowers are light purple or blue and develop at the ends of shoots. Pinching off flowers before they bloom and go to seed saves the plant energy and encourages vegetative growth.

Do you wish that your crape myrtle bloomed more than once? You can make it happen. Use pruning shears and cut an inch or two behind the dying flower cluster. The plants will think it forgot to make seeds and produce another round of blossoms. I use a 3-foot stepladder and a walking cane to pull branches toward me so that I can makes the cuts. Do not consider doing this if your crape myrtle is high above the ground. Your mother didn’t raise a fool.

Frank Edgerton is a Hilton Head Island resident, garden consultant and plantsman. He can be reached at [email protected]

I don’t know what is worse – getting out with the holiday mall crowd or staying home on a December Saturday to prune the wisteria. Better to hang with the wisteria. With a few educated cuts you’ll have the gift of weeping flowers that keep on giving year after year.

Pruning any flowering shrub, vine or fruiting tree takes a bit of know-how because the uninformed gardener can easily prune off the very buds that produce the blooms. Distinguishing the fat flower buds from the slim leaf buds is key.

A good book on pruning with large photos helps. If you are the parent of a stubborn wisteria that has never flowered since you planted it, head to the library before you prune and find a book that makes sense to you. After a few seasons you’ll be pruning like a pro.

Webheads can get a good visual at Click on “Gardening Help,” “Pruning Guide,” then “Wisteria.” In addition, a very good step-by-step guide can be found at

Wisteria belong to the Leguminosae family – legume meaning pea. You will find the familiar pea-like petals on other plants belonging to the clan such as sweet pea, garden pea, and lupine.

There are two popular species, Japanese and Chinese wisteria. Japanese wisteria flower as the vine is leafing out, starting from the bottom of the vine with highly-fragrant flowers unfolding on their way up.

Chinese wisteria is the most common species planted in Southern California. Chinese wisteria flower all at once with lightly fragrant clusters on bare branches before the leaves appear a few weeks later.

Wisteria planted from seed (I did this once) can take eight to 10 years to bloom. Better to buy a mature plant that will bloom, with correct pruning, in the first year or so.

For the first few seasons, focus your pruning on establishing a framework that appeals to you. Left to their own devices, vigorous wisteria can become a tangled mess of branches and streamers shooting off in every direction.

In the beginning, forget the flowers and pinch and prune to establish a strong central trunk. Choose and train the streamers that will serve as blooming branches in the future. Cut off everything else.

After your vine is established (it takes a year or two), keep this in mind – too much green growth will rob energy from the plant at the expense of flowers. For the best blooms, think high and tight. Keep in mind that horizontally trained stems will bloom better than vertical ones.

Ideally, cut back the bulk of the plant in the summer. In the winter, further reduce the gangly streamers to just two or three flowering buds per stem. Prune each flowering shoot to three to six inches from the framework.

What will that look like? Like a dormant grape vine, but bigger.

In case you are wondering, feeding won’t help a wisteria bloom if it doesn’t want to. In fact, mature wisteria respond best to slight neglect.

You can further abuse wisteria that has never bloomed by pruning back the roots in winter. With a very sharp shovel, sever the roots 4 feet from the base of the plant to 18 inches deep. Then, as with all gardening, keep your fingers crossed for flowers in the spring.

Related article: A to Z plant guide: How to grow everything in Southern California

Contact the writer: [email protected] or 714-796-5023.

Choosing a Wisteria

In the western China province of Hubei, the much-loved vine that westerners know simply by the scientific name Wisteria is called chiao teng (beautiful vine).

In Japan, it’s called Fuji.

By any name, this rambunctious climber with lacy green foliage is an exceptional beauty in bloom.

Dramatic clusters of flowers in blue, pink, purple, and white can dangle from 1 to 3 feet in length.

You can train these twining woody vines as climbers, ground covers, or trees (tree wisterias are often sold already trained).

Plants will thrive in any soil that drains well and in every climate zone in the West. Make sure, though, that you have room to grow them: Wisterias are vigorous, even rampant growers.

Chinese and Japanese wisterias are the most widely sold types. Silky wisterias, also from Japan, deserve equal attention.

These three types have surpassed the southeastern American species (W. frutescens and W. machrostachya), introduced in the 18th century but now seldom planted here.

Go for named varieties propagated from cuttings, buds, or grafts; they’ll start blooming within the first couple of years after planting. Avoid buying seedlings (often sold as floribunda white or floribunda blue), cautions wisteria grower Guy Meacham of Rippingale Nursery in Oregon. “They may take 10 to 15 years to bloom, and one has no idea of the quality and quantity of the flowers,” he says.

A twice-blooming 85-year-old Chinese wisteria ‘Alba’ is espaliered over a window.

Below we list varieties recommended by Guy Meacham or by Peter Valder in his book Wisterias: A Comprehensive Guide (Timber Press, Portland, 1995; $32.95; 800/327-5680).

CHINESE VARIETIES (W. sinensis) produce 1-foot-long flower clusters in midspring before foliage expands. Leaves are divided into 9 to 13 leaflets. Chinese wisterias bloom in sun or partial shade. Vines twine counterclockwise.

‘Cooke’s Special’. Clusters of fragrant blue-purple flowers are 20 inches long. The variety can rebloom. It was introduced by a California nursery, L.E. Cooke.

‘Prolific’. Cloaked in dense, blue flower clusters. ‘Prolific’ blooms at a very early age; it flowers sporadically throughout the summer.

JAPANESE VARIETIES (W. floribunda) produce dramatic 11/2- to 3-foot-long flower clusters, usually in midspring before or while foliage is expanding. Leaves are divided into 15 to 19 leaflets and turn yellow in fall (except where noted). Flowers of most varieties are scented. Vines twine clockwise. Japanese wisterias are most effective when grown on pergolas so the long flower clusters can hang freely. They bloom best in full sun.

‘Caroline’ (most likely W. floribunda ‘Caroline’, but sometimes sold as W. sinensis ‘Caroline’). Mauve flowers come out in early spring. The variety is fast growing and early flowering.

‘Macrobotrys’ (also known as ‘Longissima’). Grows exceptionally long clusters (sometimes as long as 3 feet) of moderately scented violet-purple flowers.

‘Royal Purple’ (also known as ‘Black Dragon’). Sweetly scented dark purple flowers emerge in midspring.

‘Shiro Noda’ (also sold as ‘Alba’, ‘Longissima Alba’, and ‘Snow Showers’). Blooms in long clusters of densely packed white flowers. In Wisterias, Valder calls the late-flowering ‘Shiro Noda’ “one of the most beautiful of all,” although it has poor autumn color.

‘Violacea Plena’ (also sold as ‘Black Dragon’). Bears double deep purple flowers. It is the only known double.

SILKY VARIETIES (W. brachybotrys, also known as W. venusta) produce a profusion of short (6-inch), fat clusters of large, strongly scented flowers that open all at once, usually in midspring when leaves are just opening. Broad leaves with 9 to 13 leaflets have silky hairs. Most vines twine counterclockwise (an exception is noted). Silky wisterias have velvety seed pods and bloom best in full sun.

‘Murasaki Kapitan’ (also sold as ‘Murasaki’ and ‘Violacea’). Profuse blue-violet blooms in early spring. Twines clockwise.

‘Shiro Kapitan’ (also sold as ‘Alba’). ‘Shiro Kapitan’ has white flowers with yellow markings. “Superior in color to the white cultivars of W. sinensis,” notes Valder.

Care and pruning

Choose a location that allows shoots room to spread. Water newly planted wisterias regularly for the first year or two, until the plant is well established. While plants are young, fertilize twice a year, in early spring and midsummer. Once it is established, water infrequently (more frequently in hot climates). In coastal areas, old vines need little to no supplemental water.

Unless grown as a ground cover or trained as a tree, wisteria needs the strong support of a sturdy pergola or trellis. Pruning is also critical to maintain this vigorous grower.

Late winter

1. Once the vine has developed its structure, cut back side shoots to two or three buds (count from where shoot originates). Shorten the flower-producing spurs that grow from side shoots to just beyond the last flower bud (flower buds are fatter than leaf buds).

2. Thin any excess shoots by cutting them back to the main stem.

3. Cut back the growing tips to limit length.

4. Remove seed pods.


Cut long, whippy shoots back to three leaves. Do not cut shoots that are needed to extend the vine or fill in gaps.

Marka / Getty Images


Look for named varieties at local nurseries or order by mail from one of these suppliers:

Forestfarm, 990 Tetherow Rd., Williams, OR 97544; (541) 846-7269 or; catalog $5. Sells 19 kinds.

More: 20 favorite long-lived flowers

Wisteria flower or leaf buds?

Curlgirl’s advice about not planting until you have done any painting, repair, or roofing is spot on. I know it’s difficult to wait (it was 5 years of waiting for me after we bought our old house) but it is well worth it to avoid damage. Are you aware that there is a perennials forum, a Shrubs forum, a New England Gardening forum, and a Landscape Design forum all over on the Garden Web side of things? You can get both plant and design advice there as well as here. I would find it useful to have you go and stand out by the street (or property line if this is a side entry) about opposite the main door and take one photo head on, one of what you see when pivoting to the right (with a bit of overlap with the center photo), and one of what you see when pivoting to the left (with overlap) to give an idea of the whole view and how the dooryard fits into it. Currently I am not sure of the fence style and why it will be put there. Does it turn the corner and run parallel to the front of the house? Does it have a functional purpose or is it there for ornament? Would you consider one on the left side as well? Gardenmaid has given you a good list of plants that will be happy in zone 6 MA in part shade. Climbing Hydrangea is probably too big for that spot (it’s a narrow chimney) since it needs a substantial support like a large wall, other masonry surface, or tree trunk since it can grow 30′ or 40′ and more than 10′ wide given a surface to cling to. You don’t want it growing on your wooden clapboards as it will damage them. However, there are three species of Hydrangea shrubs that will do well in part-day or bright shade: H.quercifolia AKA oak leaf hydrangea, H. arborescens (Annabelle, Incrediball among others) and H. macrophylla AKA big leafed hydrangea as well as the quite similar H. serrata. H. arborescens is hardy to zone 3, but will sucker some and need annual removal of suckers to keep it in bounds. Here’s my Annabelle after letting her get out of control. Blooms start some time in June and continue all summer and into the fall. For the big-leafed hydrangeas (both macrophylla and serrata), be sure to get ones that are reblooming so that if a late frost or especially cold winter kills back the buds that you will still get summer bloom. There are lots of reblooming varieties available, both mopheads like the ‘Let’s Dance’ series ‘Forever and Ever’ series and lacecaps like ‘Tough Stuff’. They don’t sucker. Oak-leaf hydrangeas don’t grow around me, but should be fine for you. Ask on the Hydrangea forum or the shrubs forum for more info. Some other perennials to look at: Leucosceptrum ‘Gold Angel’ has gold to chartreuse foliage and is 2 1/2′ tall with flowers that are small, so the foliage is the real ornament Solomon’s seal is a slowly spreading arching foliage plant that has different heights depending on species and some variegated types lady’s mantle AKA Alchemilla, has different species that are different sizes, but all relatively low Cimicifuga (now changed to Actea) racemosa AKA bugbane can have maroon or red leaves and has tall wands of white or pink flowers Astilbe has ferny leaves and feathery flowers in shades or red, pink or white Coral bells (Heuchera) and foamy bells (Tiarella) and their cross Heucherella all have ornamental leaves and foamy spring flowers. Iris crestata AKA crested iris which is a short-statured spring bloomer with white or blue flowers Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, a groundcover that has bright blue flowers and is an easy going plant that rambles around without overwhelming its neighbors Digitalis AKA foxglove is a self-seeding biennial or short-lived perennial with tall spires of pink or white flowers. In the sunnier spots, you might try a clematis on a trellis. Look for lists online of shade-tolerant clematis, though they will want at least 4 hours of sun. Hellebores are a very early spring bloomer. Other shrubs: Microbiota decussata AKA Siberian cypress or Russian arborvitae is about the only evergreen you can get to grow well in shade other than broad-leafed evergreens like rhododendrons and mountain laurels. It stays low and gets wide, looking a bit like a spreading juniper. How were the yews growing? If they were dense and full, you may have more light than you think. Rhododendrons are a great choice, and most of New England has perfect soil for it. See what is available at local nurseries and be sure to pay attention to size of the variety since they can get huge (20′ x 15′), though many stay small. Nursery tags may give size at 5 or 10 years, so look them up in a reputable source such as a botanical garden’s website or’s plant database. Mountain Laurel are another great part shade evergreen with spring flowers in shades ranging from white through reddish pink. Witch hazel (Hamamelis intermedia) is a great early spring bloomer (Feb.-March) that will grow to a very large shrub if you have room. I really like the generous depth of the beds you currently have. When planting, you want to space plants so that you leave a foot or two between the plants’ ultimate size and the house so you can get in for painting, cleaning windows, and other maintenance without stepping on plants or having to prune them severely. Have some plants that occur in generous swaths or that repeat several times along the length of the bed as that will make it look more pulled together. Visit lots of garden centers and resources like the Arnold Arboretum or the Berkshire Botanical Garden. Look for gardens you like that have similar shade conditions and ask the owners or take photos of plants and post on the Name that Plant forum to get them ID’ed. Here’s a link to some photos I took of a MA zone 6 garden that has largely shade. The photos are all of New England gardens, but my post of Marie’s garden is on July 26, most of the way down the page. If you want good nursery suggestions, ask on the New England forum.

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  • Wisteria care: Get out your clippers twice a year and go to town

    CORVALLIS, Ore. – Wisteria delivers a beautiful spring display, but this vigorous vine needs plenty of pruning to keep it from swallowing the garden.

    “Wisteria are very vigorous vines and can climb easily to 30 to 40 feet,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “They can be quite heavy and should be grown on a strong structure.”

    When people see the jaw-dropping blooms erupt in mid-spring, they covet wisteria for their own garden. But, they should first know that in addition to the proper support, the vine needs vigorous pruning.

    “Before planting one, people should realize the effort involved in keeping them in bounds,” Bell noted. “You can tackle most flowering shrubs once a year, but wisteria is so insanely vigorous there’s an advantage to summer pruning as well as in winter. The most common mistake is not pruning at all.”

    Most frequently grown are the Chinese species (Wisteria sinensis), which blooms on bare branches before foliage emerges with flowers that open all at once. They’re smaller than the blooms of Japanese wisteria (W. floribunda), which open gradually from the top down and after leaves come out. Fragrant flowers range in color from blue to lavender and more rarely white. Both species put out loads of runners that can be pruned more than twice a year if the plant is threatening to take over a structure – especially your house.

    Because the foliage is gone and the runners are easier to see, winter is the easiest time to prune, Bell said. Take a look at the vine and cut excess growth to the trunk and then prune the rest of the runners to two or three buds or about 6 inches long. Cut just above the chosen bud. Again in summer, you’ll want to prune excess growth and clip the remainder to two to three buds.

    Another option is to train your wisteria into a tree, which allows it to be grown away from structures where it can cause major damage if left unpruned. It also makes it easier to get around the plant when it’s time for clipping, Bell said.

    To create a tree, use a robust metal post to hold the vine. Start by training a single shoot up the support, which could take one growing season, he said. The following year, cut the main stem above the top of your support where you want “branches” to grow and the basic form of the tree is complete. Each year after this, the wisteria will require hard pruning to remain manageable. The shoots can be cut back significantly and still bear flowers.

    Sometimes people complain that their wisteria is not blooming. Be aware, Bell said, that flowers often don’t appear for two or three years (sometimes longer) after planting unless you bought one while it was blooming. If you’ve waited what seems like too long, however, there are some things you can do to nudge it along. Stressing the plant by not fertilizing and root pruning will often force it into bloom. To root prune, use a shovel to cut the roots in a circle about 1 to 2 feet from the plant’s trunk.

    Bell’s other tips for growing wisteria include planting in full sun in well-drained soil that’s kept consistently moist but not wet. Fertilize with a low-nitrogen (first number in the three-number sequence on the label) product. Less fertilizer is better than over fertilizing. Only feed once a year, every other year or not at all.

    A fun fact: The world’s largest known wisteria is in Sierra Madre, California, measuring more than 1 acre and weighing 250 tons. The Chinese species was planted in 1894.

    Keep in mind that the seeds and fuzzy seed pods of wisteria are toxic.

    No Leaves On My Wisteria Vine – What Causes A Wisteria With No Leaves

    Many people love taking in the wonderful lilac colored blooms of wisteria vine each spring. But what happens when there are no leaves on wisteria vine? When wisteria does not have leaves, it is often thought to be a cause for alarm. However, this isn’t normally the case at all.

    Reasons for Wisteria Not Leafing Out

    Still Dormant

    There are actually several reasons why wisteria does not have leaves. Most commonly this can be due to weather. Those having cooler than normal spring weather can often expect delays in trees and other plants, such as wisteria, leafing out.

    So how do you know if your wisteria with no leaves is simply slow to start (dormant) or actually dying? Check for stem flexibility first. If the plant bends easily, it’s ok. Dead plant stems will snap and break off. Next, scrape off a little bark or break a small piece off. Green indicates health. Unfortunately, if it’s brown and dried out, the plant is most likely dead.

    Poor Pruning

    Occasionally, leafing out may be delayed due to poor pruning practices. While there’s nothing wrong with cutting out any dieback or unsightly growth, doing so at the wrong time may cause a delay in leafing.

    On the other hand, doing this in spring could allow more light and warmth to reach the inner most branches, promoting regrowth. Plants that do not receive sufficient light have fewer leaves and slower growth. They will also be paler in color with leggy growth once it does emerge. If pruning has caused a delay, don’t worry too much as sprouting will eventually occur.

    Wisteria Age

    Newly planted tree wisteria may take longer to leaf out in spring. While some people may notice regrowth right away, others may not see any growth until later in the season, from June to late July. During this time you need only keep the soil somewhat moist. Be patient. Once they become established, the wisteria will begin to leaf out.

    Wisteria Variety

    Finally, the type of wisteria you have can affect when the leaves emerge. Perhaps you’ve noticed blooming of your wisteria but no leaves on wisteria vine. Again, this can be attributed to the variety. If you notice beautiful purple blooms prior to foliage growth, then you probably have a Chinese wisteria. This type forms flower buds on previous year’s wood. Therefore, it commonly blooms before the plant actually leafs out. Japanese wisteria blooms after the plant has sprouted leaves.

    Need help with what to do in your garden?

    Q Why did my wisteria die?

    A Wisterias do have an unfortunate habit of suddenly dying off – either a substantial branch or even the whole plant. It is not always possible to detect the cause, but likely culprits are:

    Honey fungus

    Wisteria is notably susceptible to this disease, which generally proves fatal once established.

    Phytophthora root rot

    This fungal disease is most prevalent in wet conditions, so avoid it by choosing a well-drained spot for your plant.

    Failure of the graft union

    Even on mature plants, the connection between the rootstock and the grafted variety can sometimes break down. In this situation everything above the union dies. If any green shoots remain, they have probably grown up directly from the rootstock and are unlikely to flower for many years.

    Drought or waterlogging

    Either of these conditions can kill or seriously damage wisterias. Plants growing on walls are particularly susceptible to dry conditions as the wall not only keeps off a lot of the rain, but tends to absorb some of the available moisture itself. Always keep the soil moist, and mulch well in autumn to help retain water. Short-term waterlogging should not cause too much damage, though you may see some dieback, but wisteria will not tolerate sodden soil for long.

    Wisteria scale

    Severe infestations could cause dieback and might prove fatal, especially to plants that are already stressed, for example by dry weather.

    Learn more about how to grow wisteria.

    Is my wisteria dead, can I save it, or do I need to start over?

    Our patio had an amazing 50-ish year-old wisteria growing on a 25 foot long pergola. For the 8 years we’ve owned the house, it grew like wildfire every summer, my husband pruned it moderately 2-3 times a season, and it was always flush with purple blooms in May and again most Augusts (sometimes we’d even get flowers throughout the summer). We’ve also never experienced any winter die back, though it blooms very late in May before the leaves come out. We had a gardener do a real hack job on it in 2012, they actually just went along the edge of the pergola with a chainsaw with no regard to what was being cut. I thought it might die from the severe pruning, but it seemed to bounce right back in 2013 with great spring blooms. Then last spring, 2014, we had a particularly harsh winter for Lower Michigan, followed by a late frost and the vines never budded. All season in 2014 there were no leaves anywhere on the older vines. We did have numerous new vines start growing out of the base to maybe 3-4 feet up. Yesterday, when I trimmed the vines (still no greenery yet, it’s too early), I found that most of the older vines were dead and rotted, 3 inch diameter vines would just break in my hands, especially in the older sections. I fear there is no vine left to save on the top of the pergola. Worse yet, I now believe the vines that were growing last year are from the root that may have been grafted to the original vine, so not actually the same wisteria. The new vines have buds (I could find no buds on the older vines), but at the base of the bud, pointing down, were small thorns – my wisteria never had thorns before. I am crushed to think this amazing wisteria may be dead, but I also realize I can’t keep wasting season after season hoping it will “come back”. If it’s dead, I want to get going on growing a replacement as soon as possible. But if there is any chance at all of saving the original vine, I’d like to try. What do you think? Is there anything I can do to save the vine? Should I try cutting it back, completely removing it from the top of the pergola? Should I try stressing the roots to make it grow? Or is the vine too far gone? Are the new thorned vines a sign that it is growing off the grafted root and I should give up on it? If I replace it, do you have a species to recommend? I have no idea what the original was, but apparently it is rare for most wisteria to have such profuse blooming. Could it have been the age of the vine and not the species that contributed to that? Also, how should I replace it? It has ~1.5 foot diameter base now, in a 3-foot circle surrounded by my concrete patio. Will I be able to pull out the base and roots for a new planting? If so how? Will I need to use a stump grinder instead? Can I immediately plant a new wisteria there? Or should I wait for the roots to rot and how long?

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