How to Prune a Wisteria for Optimal Growth

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Wisteria is a beautiful, fast-growing plant that can quickly become overgrown and unmanageable if not pruned correctly. Learn how to prune your wisteria for optimal growth and health with these easy tips!

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Pruning a wisteria can seem daunting, but with a little knowledge it’s easy to control this vigorous vine. Wisterias produce flowers on old wood, so the key to getting lots of blooms is to prune carefully to encourage the growth of new wood while still maintaining the main framework of the plant.

Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged wood. Next, cut back any long or wayward stems to encourage lateral branch growth. Finally, thin out congested areas to improve air circulation and light penetration. Pruning in early spring will give the plant plenty of time to recover and produce new growth before next year’s bloom cycle.

What You’ll Need

Before you start pruning your wisteria, you’ll need a few things:
-Pruning shears
-Loppers (optional)
-A step stool or ladder (optional)

It’s also helpful to have an idea of what you want your wisteria to look like when it’s finished. This will help you prune it more effectively.

The Basics of Pruning a Wisteria

Pruning a wisteria is essential to maintaining its health and vigor, as well as its ability to produce an abundance of beautiful flowers. The best time to prune wisteria is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.

There are two basic types of pruning that can be done on a wisteria: formative pruning and selective pruning. Formative pruning is done in order to shape the plant and encourage it to grow in a certain way. Selective pruning is done in order to remove specific parts of the plant that are diseased, damaged, or otherwise not contributing to its overall health.

When formatively pruning a wisteria, the goal is to create a strong framework of stems that will support the plant as it grows. To do this, select three or four of the strongest stems and remove all other stems at their point of origin. These selected stems should be evenly spaced around the main trunk of the plant, and should be about 18 inches apart from one another. Once you have selected your “scaffold” stems, cut them back by about one-third their total length.

After the scaffold stems have been established, it is also important to selectively prune out any weak or crowded side branches that are growing from these scaffold stems. These side branches can competing for space and resources with the main stem, and will ultimately weaken the plant if they are not removed. To selectively prune out these side branches, simply cut them off at their point of origin on the main stem.

It is generally recommended that you do not prune off more than one-third of the total growth of a wisteria in any given year. Removing too much growth at once can shock the plant and cause it to produce fewer flowers. If you need to remove more than one-third of the plant’s growth in a year (for example, if it has become overgrown or diseased), it is best to do this over the course of two or three years so that you do not damage the plant’s overall health.

More Advanced Pruning Techniques

More advanced pruning techniques are needed to produce the desired results from wisteria plants. (The following instructions are for common wisteria, Wisteria sinensis; for information on pruning other wisteria species, see “How to Prune a Wisteria” in the related eHow article “How to Prune a Wisteria for Optimal Growth.”)

Cut back all of the previous year’s growth to about 6 inches (15 cm) from the main stem using pruning shears. Next, locate any weak or dead stems and cut these back to the main stem as well. Once this is done, you will be able to see the plant’s overall structure more clearly.

You can then begin to shape the wisteria by selectively removing certain stems. For example, if you want the plant to cascade down from a trellis, remove any upward-growing stems. To encourage dense growth, remove any stems that are growing away from the main plant mass. Once you have removed all of the unwanted stems, you should be left with a well-shaped plant that is ready to produce an abundance of flowers.


Pruning a wisteria is essential for maintaining its health and preventing it from becoming overgrown. While the process may seem daunting, it is actually relatively simple and only requires a few basic tools. With proper care and attention, your wisteria will thrive and produce an abundance of beautiful blooms.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books

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