May 7, 2012

Training a Tree Wisteria

A tree wisteria is simply a wisteria vine, trained to grow as a tree - essentially, it is simply a wisteria standard or a wisteria topiary, if you will. It takes many years, and careful and dedicated attention with hand pruners to achieve a mature specimen, but with grafted stock becoming more available ( to endure that flowering material is used rather then seedlings) a beautiful wisteria can be trained to grow into a small, weeping tree form in about ten years. I have seen some very impressive specimens in large, terra rosa pots, but these must be stored in frost-free conditions.

Wisteria can easily become a rampant weed, with runners creeping lightning fast across or just under the soil surface, or running up a tree quickly engulfing it, but there is no other plant quite like it, and a tree-form wisteria may be the best way to control a plant such as this vine. I suggest investing in a pre-trained graft, which can be costly ( $100 - $200) but it will guarantee both a selection that has the highest quality blooming stock, and a root stock that is less aggressive.

Wisteria can be very fragrant, the scent reminds me of orange blossoms. It can drift across the garden on warm, spring days.

Pruning aggressively is key, but always with a thoughtful eye. eventually, these tiny branches on this three year old specimen will mature into thick, trunk-like branches, making what was once a lowly vine, a stunning tree-like specimen. Pruning can occur throughout the year, but to endure blooms, it is best to prune heavily just after flowering.


  1. Tried it because NJ Botanical Gardens at Skylands has such great Wisteria but it is so much work for such a short period of bloom in the north east. We had one growing about 40 feet up into an oak and then it sent runners creeping 60 feet clear across the yard and we decided the entire thing had to come out.

    I've decided to appreciate the ones in England that bloom so pristinely before they leaf out. I have noticed one here a few blocks away from me and it seems that on the coast they bloom for quite a long time but I think my Wisteria days are over.

  2. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Hi, Matt, just found your blog. I also have trained a tree wisteria and it was fabulous this spring due in part, perhaps, to our mild winter here in western Mass. It stands about six feet tall and had over 100 racemes last week. I work as the chief gardener for the Smith College Botanic Garden in Northampton and have many plant obsessions of my own. Spring ephemerals are one, especially forms of Anemone nemerosa. I also grow many tree peonies from seed, and am interested in Primula sieboldii cultivars. Do you know of a good source for the latter?
    Keep up the excellent blog!

    1. Anonymous11:34 PM

      Hi Tracey I have just bought lots of the African wisteria tree SEEDS . I would love to know how to plant this and to know if it is rampant .Thanks Norma

  3. Kaveh - I know exactly what you mean. Some of our wisteria that are seed raised, from local plants growing in gardens near us, are extremely aggressive, and I am still pulling runners up. Some are 15 feet long!.

    If one can get names cultivars from Japan, such as this grafted wisteria, there are no runners at all.

  4. Tracey, thanks. Did you see my post on the Smith Bulb show? So here's a deal....I can hook you up with some P. sieboldii for a cutting or some seed from one of your white-berried ardisia!

  5. I did visit a garden in Japan, I think it might have been in Kyoto, that had nothing but Wisteria. There must have been over a hundred of them. Sadly they were just in bud because we were there during cherry blossom time.

    It was a little crazy. Like the garden of a Wisteria hoarder.

  6. Anonymous1:21 AM

    Tree wisteria is a plant in it's own right - not just a standard-trained wisteria vine. It is a native of south africa and (sadly) is not as spectacular as the vine, when grown here anyway. Still a nice attractive small tree though and drought and frost (up to a point)resistant once established.

  7. We had a wisteria plant at one of our office and we had followed the steps given in the following link for training the wisteria tree. And the results were quite good from our expectations.

    Steps Followed as mentioned in the link:


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