Growing wisteria climbers in pots and containers

Growing wisteria climbers in pots and containers

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Growing wisteria in pots and containers is a bit tricky if you choose one of the more vigorous varieties of wisteria. However, I like to plant compact varieties such as Wisteria ‘Amethyst Falls’ as these will grow better in pots as they are naturally less vigorous.

That being said, you can still grow other large varieties such as Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda. Wisterias grown in pots are great when grown as a standard (small tree), but you can still grow them up a wall too. I’ve seen some very large wisterias grown in pots, but they do require more care than those grown in the ground, especially when it comes to feeding and watering. The advantage of growing them in a pot is that they are easier to maintain their size and avoid damage of your house structure and it is a great alternative for those who have got the space to grow them in the ground.

Choosing the right pot for the job

Choosing the right pot for a wisteria
Choosing the right pot for a wisteria

Wisteria grow fast and hard, so you need a pot large enough to contain them but not so large that the plants grow out of control. Choose a pot that is a little larger than the one it is already in. Feel free to choose a larger one if your wisteria plant is quite large to start with.

Plastic pots

The pot can be made out of any material. Plastic is lightweight and easy to care for. However, if you plan to grow a tall wisteria, you need to weigh down the pot with stones in the bottom as the plant becomes top heavy and may topple over. This is especially true if you grow a wisteria as standard (like a small tree). However, plastic pots become brittle over time and need replacing, they are also more likely to crack of they blow over.

Ceramic, terracotta and concrete pots

Ceramic, terracotta and even concrete pots are heavier than plastic and make good pots for wisteria. In fact, I would always use these kinds of pots as they will likely last longer and are naturally heavy.

Whichever material you choose, ensure that there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the pot and cover the holes with broken crockery or stone to stop them from getting blocked. This step is important as poor draining wet soil can lead to root rot and other root related issues, which leads to wilting foliage and yellowing leaves. Wisteria like moist, well-drained fertile soil. Of course, it’s easier to make extra holes in a plastic pot than in one made of ceramic or terracotta.

Planting a wisteria and choosing the right compost

Choosing the right compost

Fill the pot with loam-based potting compost. You can either use a John Innes potting compost or compost for trees and shrubs. Wisterias are hungry plants and need access to nutrients which these compost provide.

Planting a wisteria in a pot

Place the root ball of your wisteria so that it’s planted at the same depth that it was in the original pot. Be careful not to bury the graft, as this can lead to graft failure. Back fill the hole with more compost and firm down but not too compact.

You can plant wisteria in pots at any time of the year but there best planted in spring. Water the new plant in well.

Watering and feeding

Following on from choosing the right compost, it’s important to make sure your wisteria gets enough water. Remember that wisterias grown in pots need watering regularly, much more than those grown in the ground. I like to let the surface of the soil dry between watering.

Because wisterias are hungry plants, they will quickly use up all the nutrients in the compost when grown in containers. Feed with a high potash feed monthly throughout summer, this will encourage better flowering and keep your wisteria healthy.

Provide a support support

Wisteria grown in a pot and trained up a pergola
Wisteria grown in a pot and trained up a pergola

Provide a structure for the plant to wind its way up. Three bamboo poles placed vertically and equally around the plant give adequate structure for small plants when first planted. You can also grow them as a small tree up a single stake. If you choose a grow a wisteria up a wall, then you will need a sturdy structure such as trellis or wires as the stems can get very thick. Remember that repotting a wisteria that is growing up a wall can be difficult.

Caring for a potted wisteria

Pruning

It’s up to you to keep your wisteria under control, so it doesn’t get out of control. They need to be pruned twice a year, usually around August and then again in February. You prune in summer (around august) to encourage short flowering spurs that will develop into next year’s flowers. You cut back the current year’s growth back to a couple of buds.

Wisteria pruned and trained up wall and planted in large pot
Wisteria pruned and trained up a wall and planted in a large pot

You then prune again in winter (February is a good time but anytime between October and March is fine) cut back growth to the main framework and then cut the rest of the growth back hard.

My guide How to prune wisteria explains how and when to do this in more detail.

But keep in mind that wisteria in pots needs more aggressive pruning than those in the ground. You need to keep them pruned to the required height (usually 60cm to 120cm) unless you have them in very large pots and to a manageable width. When the plant has reached the desired height, prune away one-third of its new growth in the winter pruning session. This encourages stronger shoots and more flowers rather than straggly twiggy stems.

My guide on Growing Wisteria Amethyst Falls explains all the regular maintenance necessary for this wisteria. But there are special issues with growing wisteria in pots and containers.

Pests and diseases

Watch out for wisteria scale, there are many other scale insects that attack wisteria, but wisteria scale is larger at around 10mm and usually black in colour. Also, check the graft is on good condition before planting to help prevent graft failure. You can learn more about wisteria problems to look out for here which included more information on graft dieback.

Another common issue is wiseria leaves yellowing and wilting, you can learn more about it here.


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