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How To Prune Wisteria? Complete Step-by-Step Guide

How to prune wisteria

Your spouse might be gorgeous and all but when it comes to beauty, wisteria is in a completely different league. Other beautiful flowers such as spirea or tulips don’t even compare to it. In addition to being breathtakingly beautiful, wisteria is also a vigorous climber. It would win a climbing competition with the top climbers in the world any day. Some of the more vigorous wisteria vines can grow as much as 10 feet during a single season.

Most of the time, pruning is necessary to encourage more growth out of the plant or tree. But that is not the case with wisteria. Wisteria can be a little… too much.

If wisteria plants are not kept in check for a few seasons, you can do the math, they will get overwhelming. So, its growth must be kept under check. You wouldn’t want to rent a helicopter just to cut a few branches, would you?  

I know it can be very intimidating, especially for the new gardeners, to prune wisteria. Many people are always too careful when it comes to pruning wisteria which leads to the domination of wisteria over their property. I don’t want you to suffer the same fate. That’s why I have compiled this ‘how to prune wisteria’ guide to help you manage your wisteria!  

Essential Steps To Start Pruning

When To Prune?

It is recommended that you prune your wisteria twice annually: once in the summer and once in the winter. Doing the pruning twice encourages the flowering of wisteria and is beneficial for the overall health of the plant. Then of course, it is also an effective method of keeping the plant in check. While it is very beautiful, you don’t want it to terrorize the entire neighborhood (albeit it will be a beautifully unique kind of terrorization).

Winter pruning is the first pruning session for the plant. It is better to wait until the plant becomes dormant and has shed its leaves. Mostly, October to March is the best time for winter pruning. The goal of winter pruning is to prepare the plant for the growing season by cutting unnecessary shoots here and there. Details of how to prune wisteria in winter will be shared with you in detail.

The time between July and August is ideal for summer pruning. This is the time when wisteria has already given everything it had–for you to see those beautiful blooms  The main goal of this pruning is to control the size of your wisteria and shape it properly. More on this later!

Winter Pruning: How To Prune Wisteria in Winter?

There are four commandments for pruning wisteria in winter.

COMMANDMENT 1: Thou shouldst cut dead and diseased branches

First remove all the dead, diseased branches. It is pretty self-explanatory why we’re getting rid of them! But for the sake of newbies, let me explain. Dead and diseased branches unnecessarily takes some of the nutrients the rest of the plant needs. Aside from that, they may be blocking the sunlight from healthy branches. And last but not the least, dead and sickly branches are just ugly.

COMMANDMENT 2: Thou shouldst cut all the longer stems with long pointed buds

The stems only have leaf buds with no potential of flowering. Hence removing them is a better option for the overall health of the plant. As much as possible, you want flowers out of the wisteria plant. You are not after the leaves when you plant flowering plants, after all.

COMMANDMENT 3: Thou shouldst cut long stems from summer to 2-3 buds

Cut the longer stems, which have grown from summer, back to 2-3 buds. This will encourage the plant to produce more blooms close to the main stem. Cutting some of the overgrown branches encourages the growth of new, fresh, tender and healthier branches. These new branches also encourage more blooms.

COMMANDMENT 4: Thou shouldst also cut all the short side branches to 2-3 buds

Pruning back the side branches to 2-3 buds will help increase air circulation and will prevent the plant from tangling up. In other words, pruning the short side branches is a way of controlling the growth of the plant. You do not want it to grow wild.


Summer Pruning: How To Deadhead Wisteria?

Summer is the second time of the year when pruning of wisteria is encouraged. Pruning wisteria twice helps to keep the plant blooming close to the main framework while also controlling its enthusiastic growth.

Mid-summer pruning can even make the plant rebloom in autumn. The following steps are needed to get the job done.

1) Deadheading Wisteria:

Deadheading is the practice of removing the dead flowers from the plant. This conserves the energy of the plant and directs it towards new growth formation. How to deadhead wisteria? Just cut back the long shoots from new growth back to 6 inches along with the withered flowers, when the plant is done flowering. This will keep the plant focused on producing new growth rather than on seed pods. There is a chance that your wisteria might rebloom in autumn.

2) Removal of Waste-of-Space Branches:

Cut the other unwanted stray shoots all the way back to the main trunk or ground. This will keep the energy of the plant focused on the main structure of the plant. These stray shoots are almost always the cause of the wild growth of the plant. So if you want your wisteria to be tightly formed, removing these stray branches is a must.

3) Prune Back the New Growth:

Cut the long side shoots back to 5 buds. This will help you to reduce wisteria to a more manageable size. Again, this is to limit the size of the plant. Ignoring this might cause an uncontrollable and annoyingly pest-y plant.

4) What if Wisteria Reblooms?

If the wisteria reblooms, then you will have to do this whole process again! That may seem too much work, and it is. This is why planting, growing and taking care of wisteria may be challenging for newbie gardeners.

Hard Pruning Wisteria: Assert Your Authority!

If your wisteria is growing all over the place–in front of the window of your third-floor room and invading the neighbor’s territories–you need to consider hard pruning wisteria before it gets out of hand!

The following measures are on the cards when you’re being pushed around in your own house:

  1. Severe reduction in the size of old branches
  2. Cutting back longer, old wood back to the main stem or the ground.


Think twice before removing the thicker older wood completely. It’s better to do this in steps than to cause permanent damage to the plant. It is important to remember that although pruning wisteria is beneficial, it can also ultimately damage the plant. It is better to do the warring against wisteria over a long period of time. You want it under control, not dead.


For those of you who live in an area where there isn’t enough sunlight–either change your area or change your mind about growing wisteria. Your vine would grow but unfortunately without any flowers. Once there is enough sunlight available and the soil is well-drained, your wisteria will grow like crazy! You would then have to put a stop on the growth. Crazy business, isn’t it?

Pruning is essential for wisteria. Period. No ifs and buts. Without pruning, you won’t have a presentable plant, and what’s the point of planting wisteria if you can’t even brag?

As you must have noticed in this simple ‘how to prune wisteria’ guide, pruning isn’t that much of a rocket science–contrary to the popular opinion. What makes pruning hard is the lack of understanding–which you have already taken care of through this guide. All that’s left is for you to buy a good variety of wisteria for your garden and don’t forget to prune it biannually. For pruning, just follow the steps mentioned here and you will be just fine.

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