When to winter prune wisteria for stronger, brighter blooms

Keep your wisteria looking its tip-top best with our expert winter pruning guide

A purple wisteria climbing over a blue-fronted building in Bristol, UK
(Image credit: Alamy)

Wisteria is one of the most popular plants around, with its sumptuous long flower clusters and fabulous fragrance – but to ensure it keeps coming back stronger and more beautiful you need to know when to winter prune wisteria to keep it flourishing.

Wisteria grows very fast so winter is not the only time of year you will need to know how to prune wisteria. However, while it might not be clambering up your home or walls as ferociously as it does in summer, that doesn't mean you can ignore it all winter if you want to make the most of its irresistible kerb appeal.

Even if you're at the start of your journey and still sussing out how to grow wisteria in pots, your burgeoning plant baby can still benefit from winter pruning.

Wrap up warm, then, because it's time to grab a pair of pruning shears and set to work on making sure your wisteria looks its utmost best all-year round.

Chinese wisteria, 2 litre pot | from £12.49 at Crocus

Chinese wisteria, 2 litre pot | from £12.49 at Crocus

If you want a truly beautiful flowering plant to add some deep purple hues to your garden, try a Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) like this one. Available in a 2, 3, or 5L pot for extra va-va-voom.

When to winter prune wisteria

The perfect plant to clothe a sunny wall, 'purple wisteria' remains one of the most-searched front garden ideas for a reason. 

'In full bloom, there aren’t many sights in the garden as stunning as wisteria, with its long lilac flowers creating a beautiful fragrance that heralds the start of summer,' reveal the gardening pros at Wilkinson Sword.

'Kept unchecked, though, wisteria tendrils can grow 25 feet in one season and are strong enough to rip off shingles and rain gutters, which is why it’s so important to develop a regular pattern of robust pruning.'

This means that the plant should be pruned twice annually – once in July or August and once at the start of the year in January or February.

Wisteria and rhododendron climbing across the front of a pink-and-blue home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Andrew O'Donoghue of Gardens Revived agrees, noting that winter pruning your wisteria in January or February (when the plant is dormant) doesn't just control growth; it also encourages the climber to bloom more vigorously the following year, too.

'Wisteria blooms on old wood,' he says simply, 'so pruning helps to expose these parts to some much-needed sunlight.'

A headshot of Andrew O'Donoghue from gardens Revived
Andrew O'Donoghue

RHS-trained gardener Andrew O'Donoghue set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Christopher, in 2018  to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.

It's one of those winter gardening ideas that a lot of people forget about, but they really shouldn't: it's actually incredibly easy to winter prune wisteria if you tackle the task at the right time of year.

'The idea is that you cut back the year's growth to two or three buds from the base in the winter,' continues Andrew. 'Think about it as if you're tidying up your wisteria before the growing season starts, not to mention making sure all of those big purple blooms won't be hidden by leaves.'

Just be sure, Andrew warns, that you use clean, sharp tools when you set to work winter pruning your wisteria. It's the best way to keep your plant healthy and thriving.

What happens if you don't prune wisteria?

'Wisteria normally begins to bloom in early May and, soon after the blooming season is over, tendrils begin to grow out of the main structural vine,' explain the experts at Wilkinson Sword. 

'The plant needs regular pruning to keep the growth and size under control, not to mention improve the flowering display.'

Remember: wisteria grows incredibly quickly, so you'll want to keep it under control to keep it from causing any damage to your property.

'Be sure to prune your wisteria twice a year,' says Andrew. 'The summer prune is for shaping your plant, while the winter prune is for maintaining size and encouraging those all-important blooms.'

How do you look after wisteria UK?

Wisteria pruning is done twice a year, first over the summer in July or August (or, if you prefer Monty Don's wisteria tip, June), and then again over the winter in January or February. 

'In summer, tendrils that are not necessary for the plant’s support should be cut back. A clean, precise cut is best to reduce the chance of infection and potential to squash the tendrils, so a pair of aluminium bypass pruners from Amazon are ideal for the job,' explain the gardening pros at Wilkinson Sword. 

'Cutting each shoot down to around 15cms and leaving five or six leaves on each one will control the size of the wisteria and allow more sunlight to reach the base of young growth – encouraging even more flowers the next year.'

In the winter, all you need to do is cut back the shoots you pruned in summer to two or three buds.

A Wisteria growing up and around an iron gate

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography)

How do you prune old overgrown wisteria?

For overgrown or extremely woody wisteria, a more ruthless prune may be needed. 

'Wilkinson Sword’s Ratchet Loppers provide great leverage for cutting harder, more mature wisteria branches, while the longer handles make it easier to cut branches which are out of reach for handheld pruners,' explain our team of experts. 

'The three-step ratchet mechanism reduces the effort across the entire cutting process, so a user can gradually cut the branch rather than trying to lop it off all in one go.'

Depending on the condition of the wisteria, drastically shortening back long branches, removing sections of an older branch or cutting completely back to the original branch may be necessary. 

'In this case, you may even need to use a tool such as the Pruning Saw and Holster from Amazon,' say the pros at Wilkinson Sword, to help you cut more effortlessly through thicker branches.

Now that you know when to winter prune wisteria, it's time to get outdoors and show your favourite climber some serious TLC.

We promise that it will reward your efforts come summer by transforming your property into a pastel paradise with its abundance of perfumed blooms...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.