Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Prune a Wisteria Tree

wisteria image by wiladayvo from

The wisteria tree is a Chinese vine that has been grafted onto a standard tree trunk. When planted it will act like a vine and cling to anything near, which can make it invasive. Established wisteria can be hard to eradicate. There are many varieties that feature fragrant, hanging blossoms. The more popular colors are white, yellow, purple and violet. All parts of the wisteria tree are poisonous, which can be dangerous if you have animals or children close by.

Prune the wisteria tree at the sign of new leaves in spring. Remove all broken and dead limbs with a sharp blade or sharp pruning shears. Cut each one back to the point of origin.

Support the wisteria with a wire trellis or arbor. Allow only one main leader to grow along the main support. Select the thickest, healthiest, upright stem as the main support.

Prune side shoots that are at 45-degree angles with the main stem. Make slanting cuts to prevent water from polling into the cut and causing rot. Prune the shoots to three to five buds to help the tree concentrate on flower production.

Train your wisteria by allowing two to three shoots to grow and twist around the arbor or wire. Cut back the other shoots to achieve a desired shape. Secure the shoots to the arbor with wire hooks that are spaced 18 inches apart.

Cut the tops of the shoots off when they reach the top of the arbor to help train the tree and provide an open canopy for the rest of the shoots to grow.

Train A Wisteria Tree

Gardeners willing to put time and effort into training a wisteria tree will end up with a whimsical, flowering focal point for their landscape. Training a wisteria vine into a tree shape, also called a standard, is not difficult, but it requires consistency and vigilance to end up with a sturdy, aesthetically pleasing specimen. For example, for a 48-inch tall tree trunk, you would use a 60-inch post. Remove all side shoots from along this stem with a pair of pruning shears. Make each cut 1/4 inch above where the side shoot joins the main stem to avoid causing damage. Continue to tie the stem to the post, securing it in place every 8 inches with an additional tie. Allow the stem time to grow to the top of the post. Cut off side shoots that develop on the bottom two-thirds of the stem. Adjust old ties as needed, loosening them to allow room for expansion of the stem's circumference. Prune out any dead, crossing or crowded branches in the late winter when the wisteria is dormant.

Garden Guides