Author Topic: Wisteria and winter  (Read 2639 times)


  • Steve Moore
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Wisteria and winter
« on: April 14, 2011, 04:18 PM »
Several hours' web search haven't turned up a definitive answer to my question, so I'm going to come right out and ask!

A friend of mine has some field-grown wisteria (W. sinensis, I believe) that he no longer wants on his property. They're supposed to be old enough to bloom, my wife loves wisteria flowers, and he's offering them free for the digging.

I hesitate only because I'm not sure a wisteria would survive the winter outside with my ponderosas, yews, and Japanese maples. Because of space, and the typical size of a wisteria bonsai (never have seen one as a shohin,) outside with the hardy trees is my only workable option.

Most plant sites list wisteria as hardy (in the ground) to zone 5. Harry Harrington, on his site, recommends not letting a wisteria bonsai get any colder than -5 C, because of the "water content of the roots."

Anything I keep outside over winter will definitely get colder than -5 C, or 23 F. A couple of years ago we had one nite with a low of -19 F (almost -29 C,) and that, according to the USDA zone classification, is the sort of temperature we should allow for at least once in an "average" winter.

Any and all feedback is welcome, but in particular I'd appreciate comments from anyone with a wisteria bonsai in a similar climate. Thanks!


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Re: Wisteria and winter
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2011, 07:43 PM »
Steve I don't have much feedback to offer other than for in ground wisteria. Since returning to southwestern IN I now have my collected "bonsai" wisteria here in zone 6a/6b. I say bonsai in quotations as its not completely finished. I am along that 6a/6b line. This will be my first season with it in a cooler zone as I was and it was in zone 7/8 in SC.

My thought on the roots is yes they are a tuberous, like Ginkgo, and can hold lots of water. So to minimize the freeze damage water sparingly during winter months and bury the pot/container they would be in. Down in SC I did not have to do this but now that my trees are here(and I know how bad winter is here) I will need to do this also.

Good to find wisteria material of significant size. Moving back here I lost having good access to old, wild growing stock. It grows prolificly and uncontrollably in SC. So its easy to get ahold of considerable sized trunks. Mine bloomed in its 2nd season(last yr) after collecting. This yr not many blooms on it.

Hope this helps you some in the answers you seek.


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Re: Wisteria and winter
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2011, 08:05 PM »
The fact that its growing wild should be some indication of hardiness.  You might have to protect the roots in winter w/ it in a pot, but I bet you could eek it out.

thomas tynan

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Re: Wisteria and winter
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2011, 10:06 PM »
Steve:  I have a few wisteria; my collected wisteria stays in the garage. For me - the better the tree the more I try and protect it. I live in NY State; 35 miles NW from NYC. You can try to keep it close to the house and wrap it well with some insulation - like people do here with a fig tree in the ground. I believe there is a big difference between a tree growing in the ground and then taken out of the ground and into a pot. The insulating value of the ground is lost. Good wisteria tip - use a very fine saw when removing branches, cutting roots etc. They do not cut well even with a sharp Felco pruning shear - it tends to crush the area - instead of slicing thru. When you do prune - prepare for dieback. Cut areas do tend to rot as well. They bloom when they are root bound and stressed. Alot of work - for a relatively short bloom. Good luck. Tom


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Re: Wisteria and winter
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2011, 08:33 PM »

I also have Chinese Wisteria and mine, while being a large potted tree has stayed outside on the ground unprotected during the winter months.  This winter it got to -4 F and it's doing just fine right now and full of flowers.  The most critical time for a Wisteria is the early spring and late frosts.  A late frost will kill a wisteria if it has leafed out.  For most, keeping it in an unheated garage during the winter would be about all you need to do to keep it alive.