How To Prune Wisteria In Winter & Summer

How do you prune a wisteria people ask me. When is the best time? Winter? Again in summer? What are the differences?

There are quite a few questions about it and, as I spend a lot of time doing it I thought I would share my thoughts. This will hopefully make it easy for you, because as with most pruning, it is simple – it just takes time to do it well.

How To Prune Wisteria In Winter

Winter pruning of wisteria is the key one for me.

I put a ladder against the wall of the house I’m working on and I go along, using string to tie in any long whippy stems. I thread them through, twist them around and place between as many older branches as I can.

The tying in of new growth means you always have fresh, young stems to grow flowers on.

Then, if I have tied in a stem as much as I can, yet it is still too long for the wall I want my wisteria to grow on, I cut it to keep it to size.

Cut it anywhere, just keep it to the length you want.

Next I go through each stem and find the developed buds that will produce flowers. I then cut these with my secateurs down to about 2 buds from a main stem, allowing energy to be put into these buds and so improving flowering in late spring to early summer.

Doing all of this leaves the wisteria with a mixture of older wood that has developed flowering buds, a sort of skeleton of branches, that is then tied in alongside new, infant stems that are yet to mature.

The most famous wisteria I know of is the one from Hampton Court Palace, planted around 1840! Long time keeping it looking good, but it is kept young by the pruning regime that allows for fresh, regenerative, new growth to exist alongside the older wood.

Finally, I just use my hand to break off anything dead, gently shaking the wisteria or ruffling it to allow any old branches to fall through to the ground.

This removing of the old, dead wood gives the plant some space for air and light.

Anything broken or damaged gets snipped with secateurs back beyond the break.

Keep This Winter Wisteria Pruning Simpler Please!

Ok ok!

In winter, either January or February…

  1. Tie in any new, whippy stems.
  2. Cut the mature, flowering buds back to 2-3 buds.
  3. Remove any dead or damaged growth.

That simple enough for you?

wisteria pruning rhs
This picture from the RHS website gives an idea of what winter pruning of the buds should look like. Click image to visit the site for more photos!

What Tools Will You Need?

  • Secateurs
  • Ladder, probably…
  • String (I never use wire, because it does not loosen and give as the months go by and the stems grow, meaning it can cut into the plant and damage it. Unlike string, which is looser and more malleable. Plus, string can be cut with the good steel of the secateurs I use, without damaging the blades the way wire would.)
  • A cup of tea!

Why a cup of tea? Because winter pruning of a wisteria is a glorious activity of extremes!

One moment, the sun is shining, and because you plant wisteria on the south or west facing wall of your home (in order for it to get the most sun) you feel divine stood on the ladder, the sun warming your back.

Then the sun goes in, you move towards the eastern facade of your house to tie in the the last few strands, the cold wind whips round the corner… and because you are barely moving your whole body feels every breath of the breeze, you start to freeze from top to toe….

The cold is the hardest part of pruning a wisteria in winter. But oh the joy when the sun shines! So stick with it or choose to prune on a bright January day!

How To Prune Wisteria In The Summer

Summer pruning of wisteria is about getting on the ladder, with your secateurs, and cutting stems down to 4-6 buds.

You would also be wise to cut away anything that is covering windows, doorways and disappearing into guttering or roof tiles. A happy wisteria climbs and climbs across the house, so keep it away from where it will cause more work later on, or where it shades your home too much.

Common sense, right?

How Your Wisteria Should Look Like By Late Spring

Full of flowers, hanging down off the wall, scenting the air and filling your heart with joy….

wisteria pruning

I love this photo sent to me by a client of mine, with thanks at how good the wisteria was looking. The joy of being a gardener is that you can do your work and then, months later, you get a second pay-off when a shrub or climber flowers well and really comes into its own.

(You get the same feeling planting trees – they are skinny little whips, then you turn your back for, oh, just a few years and… you have a grove!)

Although I try not to look too hard at the photo above because there is a little hole in the display. Can you believe it? All that work and then I didn’t tie in enough stems on the corner of the building 6 foot up.

Gardening – always something to moan about….

wisteria pruning from winter

Don’t panic about pruning. You are doing it in order to prevent leafy growth, the typical type of growth a wisteria will produce (at least until it reaches the top of what it climbs, and droops down again) and encourage it to put energy into flowering.

Take the time to tie in and cut back, and this little bit of care and effort will reward you with a flowering display you will love each year.

Need Help With Your Wisteria?

If you need help with your wisteria, do contact me. I can do the pruning for you or spend a morning with you in your garden going through it, so you get a practical understanding, a feel, for what to do.

Happy to do this with fruit trees, roses, topiary and hedges as well – not just wisteria!

So contact me now for help in your garden.


Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot In the above …



Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …



Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.