Wisteria bonsai tactic

Hi all :wave:t2:

So I’ve was “gifted” a potted wisteria. I say “gifted” but I’d was rather me taking it of someone’s (who didn’t want it cus they couldn’t take proper care) hand in the hope of being able to make a bonsai of it. The tree is young and has seen some rough times. The trunk is split. Foliage seems unhealthy but has new growth. It seems to not have very good drainage but I was told it was transplanted to this pot from the ground this summer.

So my question is what steps do you think I should take to make this in to a healthy bonsai. I don’t have a wisteria myself and never cared for one but seems a fun experiment.

Hello, the good news is that Wisteria are generally a very strong and vigorous plant. For this particular situation I would take the following steps.

  1. remove the smaller trunk on the right side of the slingshot shape.
  2. Clean the edge of the scar and seal. ( minimize future die back and disease where split)
  3. Water appropriately so roots remain moist but do not sit in water.
  4. Next spring I would repot in a free draining mix.
  5. Allow free growth for a year or two to establish stronger health and thicker trunk with healing the scar during this time.

Note: if the soil is very compacted or clay like in substance at this point, then I would do an emergency repot to free draining soil mix right away. this would give some time for root recovery prior to frosts in most climates.

Wisteria produce a lot of strong roots so be prepared to repot frequently compared to most Bonsai.


I’ll offer two additional observations:
-1- wisteria is a legume and produces its own nitrogen - feed with low nitrogen fertilizer.
-2- I agree with Franks recommendations regarding roots and soil, but be aware that wisteria are water hogs. It is not unusual to see established wisteria sitting in saucers of water, for at least 12hours if not for 24. Those roots are looking for something. :wink:

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Thanks for both of your replies! I will try follow these steps. However I’m unsure about the emergency if I risk repotting or if It will be fine until next spring. I’m seeing yellowing appearing on the new growth (Also the new growth that’s appeared since it’s been under my supervision) but unsure if this is stems from when it was transplanted to the pot, bad soil and unhealthy roots or poor watering.

Decisions to repot are based on the time of year, climate and available aftercare. Other major factors are the amount of root work and the condition of the plant. If the plant is in poor condition, in poor soil, often it is best to modify watering practices and wait till spring. You have not mentioned your climate or location so specific direction is not possible.
As a beginner it may be advisable to seek the assistance of an experience person in your area who has the skills to repot and adjust to the specific situation. They could give you direction for aftercare and accomplish the repot without damaging a lot of roots if it is not the proper timing for your location and climate.
Transplanting from the ground to the pot may simply mean plunking the soil and root ball in the pot.
Lifting the plant carefully from the pot by freeing the sides will expose the actual situation and enable an informed approach. Which may be to simply put it back in the pot without disturbing the roots and manage the watering more effectively. Or it may expose a lot of damage roots that need to be cleaned up and compacted soil replaced. This is where the experience comes in.

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Thanks for your reply frank! I’m in London, UK. I’ve had my own bonsais for about 1.5 years so yes still a beginner and I have never repotted anything else than normal garden material. However I know this time would not be a good time to repot. When I try lift out the pot I can see it breaking up in the middle which makes me feel the root ball is quite small and has properbly been damaged when moved to the pot. I feel like it might be best to just leave it in the pot till spring and continue work then. :blush:

I live in the SE USA where the Asian species of wisteria is an invasive weed; and as pretty an invasive weed does not exist. Near my home there are several arias 100 to 300 meters along the road with wisteria up into pine trees. In spring there is a wall of blooms 20 meters tall; a spectacular sight to behold. There is a NA species that is not aggressive and I grow it in the ground.

While the plant trunk is young and flexible, consider wiring to the height of the desired finished bonsai, then let the tree grow on until you get the desired trunk diameter, only pruning root suckers and any leaders that make the plant unmanageable. When dormant cut back to the trunk and main branches you want. My 20" pots have plants 2 meters tall for a finished bonsai of 1/2 M. Vines are fun and forgiving; I also bonsai Porcelain berry vines another invasive weed in our aria. I often find up to 2 cm diameter vines in the aria.

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Great reply thanks David! How far can I cut I down? Do I have find the lowest bud or how do I know how far I can cut down? This is still you and quit a slim trunk. I wouldn’t mind making it a small as possible

If you cut below below visible buds, there is a chance there will dieback. Cutting very low (right near the split) can work but I don’t know if the odds are 50-50.

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Sorry for being daft. Would it be best to cut away the right side of the split as frank suggest and cut far up or can I cut a cm or so over this


Size-wise, cutting above or below the bud won’t make a big difference. The cut above the bud is a little riskier. I’d give it a try if I didn’t mind the risk and I really wanted to make the tree as small as possible (and I was curious about how the tree would respond).

As for the low branch on the right, I’d cut it.