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Why Isn't My Wisteria Blooming?

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Question: Why Isn't My Wisteria Blooming?

You're hardly alone if you're encountering the problem of wisteria failing to bloom. On the contrary, it's very common. You start to wonder after a while if you'll ever get to enjoy flowers on the vine at some point in this lifetime.

The answer may depend, in part, on which type of wisteria vine you're talking about. So I begin with a tip about plant selection, below, before proceeding to techniques used to solve the problem of AWOL flowers....

Answer:

Did you know that American wisteria vines tend to bloom more quickly than do their Asian counterparts? Regarding the Asian, there are both Japanese (W. floribunda) and Chinese (W. sinensis) types.

But the information that follows assumes that you're already growing Chinese wisteria vines, which are immensely popular. How do you get them to quit dragging their feet and come into flower? There are at least four approaches you can try (they are not mutually exclusively, so you may wish to try more than one), involving:

  1. Fertilizing
  2. Pruning of the vines
  3. Root pruning
  4. Transplanting

First of all, try applying a fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number in the NPK sequence on fertilizer bags) in early spring. It's important to note that wisterias are in the pea family, which means that they are nitrogen fixers. They don't need your help in obtaining nitrogen. In fact, excess nitrogen will only make your vine run more rampant and exacerbate the problem of "all foliage, no flowers."

Also try pruning a couple of times each year (in early summer after blooming, and during dormancy in winter) to stimulate budding for next year. Regarding the latter pruning, NC State University advises that you "prune back old growth to three to four buds in late winter." These vines bloom on old wood.

If, after years of failure in trying to get wisteria to bloom, you feel like you have nothing to lose and don't mind becoming more aggressive with your pruners, try pruning even more often. Some of the best success stories I've heard regarding getting Chinese wisteria to flower have touted a more-or-less constant pruning back of most of the new growth. A vigorous vine, it's almost as if it wants you to challenge it -- and rewards you, if you do, with a gift of flowers.

Root pruning in late fall is sometimes suggested, too, as a stimulant for stubborn vines that just seem to refuse to blossom! Reader, Brenda Childers reported that she had a Chinese wisteria that failed to bloom during the first two years she had it -- which, she subsequently learned, isn't all that unusual (in fact, you'd be beating the odds if you managed to have flowers on a Chinese wisteria within its first five years). But she also found out that there's a way to stimulate the vine into blooming. Plunge a spade into the earth all around your Chinese wisteria (in about a 3-foot circle), down to a depth of about a foot. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the resulting shock to the roots helps the plant to bloom, rather than hurting it.

Finally, we arrive at approach #4. Evaluate the site where the wisteria vine is planted. Is it sunny? If not, that may be your problem (or at least a contributing factor). Wisteria likes to bask in the sunshine. If you've unwittingly selected a site for it that is too shady, your best bet may be to transplant it to a location that receives more light.

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