Wisteria sinensis and floribunda

Wisteria

Bonsai care and maintenance

The Wisteria is a strong, fast growing deciduous vine with alternating compound leaves. In spring it produces long drooping clusters of bluish-purple fragrant flowers. The genus wisteria comprises less than 10 species, most of them native to China and Japan and two native to North America.

Wisteria Bonsai video
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Wisteria Bonsai Care guidelines

Placement

The wisteria should be placed in full sun during the growing season. Sunlight is essential for flowering. Wisterias are frost hardy when they are growing in the ground, but the roots need protection when they are planted in containers. A cold but frost-free greenhouse, garage or shed is a good winter place for a wisteria bonsai tree.

Watering

The wisteria needs enormous amounts of water during the growing season. In summer it is a good idea to place the bonsai pot in a shallow bowl which is filled up with water each time the tree is watered. In autumn and winter keep the roots moist but not soaking. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.

Watering

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Fertilizing

Apply solid organic fertilizer once a month or use a liquid fertilizer every week during the growing season or even both. The wisteria grows strongly and likes to be fed well, but use fertilizers which are not too high in nitrogen. The wisteria can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and too much nitrogen would promote leaf growth instead of flowers.

Pruning

Hard pruning is best done in early spring or after flowering. Let the tendrils grow until July and then cut them back. After the leaves have fallen you can prune the branches and twigs and wire the branch structure. Don't cut off the short shoots on which the flower buds sit. At a close look you can distinguish the flower buds from the leaf buds. When the canopy gets too dense in summer and the inner twigs suffer from lack of light you can thin out the leaves but it is not advisable to totally defoliate the wisteria. Don't let too many seed pods develop because they take a lot of energy from the tree. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.

Repotting

Repot younger wisterias every two years and older ones every three to five years in spring before the buds open. They tolerate root pruning well but on old trees you should not risk too much. Wisterias flower better when they get a bit root-bound. A standard soil mix works well. The pH value should be around 5.5 to 6. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.

Propagation

Wisterias are easily propagated from seed. Cuttings, air-layers and grafts are also possible. Seedlings will not flower before they are 10 – 15 years old. Cuttings, air-layers or grafted plants will flower earlier.

Pests and diseases

Normally the wisteria is a very strong and healthy plant. Powdery mildew and leaf spot diseases can sometimes occur. Pluck out troubled leaves in an early stage. Crown galls and cankers should be cut out. Root rot can occur when the rootball is too wet during dormancy or in bad soil. The most dangerous insect is the Wisteria borer which tunnels the transport tissues and can kill the tree. Unfortunately the borer is hard to control, even with strong chemical pesticides. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

General information about the Wisteria Bonsai tree

In gardens it is often used to grow over pergolas or facades. There are several cultivars with different flower colors, like white, pink and dark purple. For bonsai the most common species are the Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and the Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) which produces the longest flower clusters. The long velvety seed pods can literally explode and catapult their seeds out when they get ripe. Seed pods and seed are poisonous.

Most wisteria bonsai are of medium or large size because the long flower clusters need some height to hang from. Wisterias are very well suited for bonsai but their special feature is the flowers. After flowering the trunk and branches are hidden under long leaves and proliferating tendrils and then the wisteria returns to the second row in the bonsai garden. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

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