More on Growing Wisteria-

Most of the time our hand-wringing about wisteria bonsai is when an otherwise happy tree won’t bloom. They can be obstinate and willful. Last year I wrote a post about a few basic wisteria concepts, Why Won’t My Wisteria Bloom? While those ideas might help getting some plants to bloom, when your tree gets very mature, be awake to another problem: A wisteria that only blooms and does not grow tendrils.


Tendril snaking it’s way out of a wisteria, after flowering. These should be trimmed back, and may be wired. Too much tendril growth may limit flowering…and too much flowering may limit tendril growth (and therefore branch development). A tricky balance, sometimes-

If you’ve a wisteria that blooms itself nearly to death, puts out a few leaves, and then sulks there the rest of the summer, you need to get out the bull whip. Or a least some good loud music and seriously bump up your fertilizing. I had a small tree last year that put out a ton of blooms. I cut 2/3 of them off, and it did not put out a single tendril the whole year. This year it tried the same thing, and I said, ‘No you don’t, you’re going to kill yourself with sex’. So I cut ALL the blooms off (I hope I’m not horrifying anyone with a wisteria that won’t bloom), put on a lot more organic fertilizer pellets, and now I’ve got half a dozen tendrils noodling their way into the air.

A tree that does not grow—and you may see this on any very mature tree: juniper, quince, or vine—does not have the energy to maintain itself. It won’t grow enough to develop branches, or more complex ramification. Worse, sometimes such a tree will lose ramification. It’s just hanging out there, lounging on the bean bag, drinking beer, getting obstinate, slack-jawed, and willfully unproductive. Most of us do not have this problem with wisteria. We’ve the opposite problem, reigning in a wildly growing plant. Which, for the most part, vines are: Totally untamed wild things of the plant world.

Much of bonsai care is ‘nudging adjustments’. You waddle around your bonsai yard looking carefully at each tree, trying to notice what each is doing. What type of energy it has, and deciding if you agree with that direction. Then you might add some fertilizer to a tree, or take some off, or reposition the tree for more sun, or less sun. Or bring out the podium and place it in front of your wisteria—or some other plant, like a quince—for a long lecture on flowering too much and growing too little. They are patient with such measures, plants are, for the most part. It’s your neighbor, leaning over the fence, who has a worried look.


  1. ,hi Michael

    Sometimes it just takes time. About 7 years from cutting. I use tomatoe fert. And it works well. Also tight pots and a dish of water under pot cause we are water pigs. If it is a real hot summer I put mine in the shallow end of my ponds. It is a combo of things as you know. Anyway that works well for me. Also I don’t use a bonsai soil mix, I use more clay and pond guck in my soil mix. That’s just for my wisties .
    All the best
    Qualicum Brian

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, it does take time before a young wisteria begins to bloom. I was writing about what happens on the other end, when you’ve got a very mature plant that sometimes—and it’s not common—just blooms and does not grow. Wisteria will grow in anything, but better root growth with happen in your bonsai mix because the roots of wisteria are so fat.

  2. I’ll have what he’s having 😉

  3. Gerald says:

    I have a quick question about the timing of repotting that you’d recommend?

    • crataegus says:

      There are two times you can repot wisteria. Some prefer to repot them right after blooming, which is just before their big tendril phase, and I’ve also repotted them just like everything else in the early spring if I’m not very gung-ho about flowers that year or no flower buds are apparent.

  4. Bryan says:

    Hello Michael.
    I have this Wisteria that’s kind of growing as a literati and I’m just not satisfied with that look. I feel it was a weak first choice in my design. I’m looking to put some movement in the trunk. It’s still young but I would definitely raffia before bending. Is there a best time to do this work?

    • crataegus says:

      This isn’t a bad time if you’re in a warm climate, if a colder one I’d wait until after blooming. Then is a good time to wire the tree, and if you want to do your raffia work then that would be good as well. The tree (vine) will flush with new growth and heal anything that was stressed.

  5. Benjamin Gutierrez says:

    Hi, Michael. What NPK do you recommend for wisterias?

    • crataegus says:

      That’s a good question…I try to keep it a complete fertilizer, having all three majors, but not too high in the nitrogen. I wouldn’t go past 10 nitrogen for them. You could risk getting all foliage and no flowers, for instance. But they’re funny plants, so will flower no matter what you do, and others won’t flower for the same reason.

  6. Bill says:

    great blog and info, thank you so much. I am having a very hard time telling what an actual “flower” bud looks like. For the past 7 years I have had buds that I thought were flowers but turned out to be stems. Can you tell me how I can tell if I have actual flower buds and what they look like compared to stem buds? Thank you so much.

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