Transplanting Wisteria Suckers: Can You Plant Wisteria Offshoots

Transplanting Wisteria Suckers: Can You Plant Wisteria Offshoots

By: Teo Spengler

Wisteria plants are graceful vines grown for their dramatic and fragrant purple flowers. There are two species, Chinese and Japanese, and both lose their leaves in the winter. If you own a wisteria plant and you love and want another, you won’t have to spend a dime. Keep your eye out for sucker plants growing from the living root of your vine, then read up on wisteria sucker transplant tips. Read on for information about transplanting wisteria suckers.

Can You Plant Wisteria Suckers?

Plants propagate in different ways. Some, like the wisteria vines, send up offshoots called “suckers” from their underground roots. If you allow these suckers to grow, they form a close-knit hedgerow.

Can you plant wisteria offshoots? Yes, you can. In addition to propagating wisteria seeds or cuttings, you can dig up suckers and use them as young wisteria plants ready for a new home. Moving wisteria shoots is not difficult if you know how and when to do it.

Moving Wisteria Shoots

Suckers are not difficult to dig up and transplant. The best time to transplant your wisteria suckers is in late winter or early spring before bud break.

Before you start removing a sucker, however, you should prepare the planting location. Pick a spot that gets at least six hours a day of sunlight.

Dig out a hole for each sucker. The hole should be 2 feet (0.5 m.) across and 2 feet (0.5 m.) deep. Fill it with water and let it drain through. Then mix well-rotted compost into the soil.

Pick a healthy sucker that is between one and two feet (0.5 m.) tall. Push your shovel into the area between the mother plant and the sucker. Sever the root holding the two together, then carefully pry out the sucker and its root ball. Gently remove any weeds that are on the sucker dirt.

When transplanting wisteria suckers, place the root ball into the planting hole, adding soil on the bottom of the hole to make sure that the top of the root ball is level with the soil. It’s important to plant the wisteria shoot to the same depth as it was originally growing.

Tuck the amended soil into the hole around the sucker. Pat it into place to eliminate air pockets. Then give the wisteria vine a generous drink of water. Keep the soil moist the first year after planting.

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How to Cut Back Wisteria

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Wisteria is a large woody vine that climbs by wrapping around its host, rather than by clinging tendrils. Spring flowering with lavender, pink or white hanging panicles, wisteria grows in Sunset's Climate Zones 2 through 24 in sun or partial shade in loam, clay or sandy soil. This rapid grower requires frequent attention during the growing season to trim twiners -- long shoots that develop after blooming -- to prevent rampant growth and to promote rebloom.

Cut the main shoot of a newly planted wisteria back to 30 to 36 inches. Remove all side branches. As lateral shoots grow from the main stem, tie them to the trellis or other support structure. Allow 18 inches between lateral branches. Remove sublateral shoots to within two or three buds from the main shoot or trunk.

Prune your established wisteria twice a year, in winter and again approximately a month after flowering. In winter, study the buds before cutting. Narrow, pointed buds form leaves. Fat round buds are flowering spurs. Do not remove short flowering spurs. Do cut back new leader shoots, long streamers or twiners to one-half or two-thirds of their length. Cut back previously pruned shoots to two or three buds to stimulate growth of flower spurs.

Trim wisteria approximately one month after flowering. Leave one strong leader on each main lateral to increase length. Cut all other side shoots just past the sixth or seventh leaf. This cut stimulates growth of additional shoots. Cut these shoots back to one or two leaves during the summer.

Maintain established wisteria by cutting leader shoots back to within four to five buds in winter. Remove all sucker growth from the trunk.

  • The American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants Christopher Brickell and Judith D. Zuk
  • Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening: Month by Month Pat Welsh
  • Royal Horticultural Society: Wisteria Floribunda "Multijuga"
  • Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Wisteria
  • Root-prune established wisteria that flowers poorly to encourage bloom. Using a sharp spade, make vertical cuts 18 inches deep four feet from the trunk of the plant. Cut all the way around the trunk in this manner.
  • An early spring application of superphosphate at the rate of 3 to 5 pounds per 100 square feet can induce flowering of nonproductive vines.

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.


Wisteria is best known for its pea-like blossoms in varying shades of white, rose and lavender. Once established, wisteria is not difficult to maintain. It will survive with average rainfall, and bloom with little to no fertilizer. However, wisteria does need seasonal pruning to ensure spring blooms and compact growing. Otherwise, you could end up with 25 feet of rambling vines and no flowers.

Wisteria is native to the United States, as well as, eastern Asia. The Chinese and Japanese cultivars are most commonly used in landscaping since their blooms are fragrant, unlike the US varieties. Regardless of the variety you choose, follow these guidelines for years of prolific blooms.

Wisteria come from seed or has been grafted with a cutting off of a mature plant. Wisteria that come from a seed will take up to 15 years to bloom, but wisteria that has been grafted will bloom within four years. Most nurseries only carry wisteria that has been grafted, but be sure to ask about the plant’s origin, especially if the price is low.

Chinese wisteria, also called Wisteria sinensis, is the most popular variety. Before its foliage emerges, Chinese wisteria blooms in one huge display during mid-spring in white or varying shades of purple, depending on the cultivar. Their bloom clusters reach 6 to 12 inches long, while the vines can grow up to 25 feet if left unchecked.

Japanese wisteria, known as Wisteria floribunda, has a longer bloom cycle than its Chinese relative, flowering while its foliage emerges. It also comes in more colors ranging from rose, white and violet-blue. Japanese wisteria has longer bloom clusters, ranging in size from 12 to 18 inches. It will also reach heights of 25 feet or more.

Choosing a site

In order to bloom, wisteria needs full sun and moist soil. It prefers slightly acidic soil, but they will adapt to most soil conditions. Wisteria is a vigorous vine, so you will need to build support for your plant. Most ready-made trellis will be pulled apart by your wisteria. Also, avoid using your house or other building structures as support, since the vines are capable of ripping off shingles and siding.

Supporting the vines

Trellises or pergolas can be made out of pressure treated wood or galvanized wire. Wisteria can easily pull apart nails, so bolt your materials together. As part of your yearly maintenance, retighten bolts that have been worked loose by the vines. You can also grow your wisteria on a live tree, but check it regularly to be sure the wisteria does not completely encircle the tree with one of its vines, cutting off nutrients and water.

Planting your wisteria

Prepare the planting site by digging a hole 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Mix in organic material and manure with the soil to retain moisture and provide nutrients.

Place the wisteria root ball so it is slightly below soil level. If your plant is grafted, place the graft union about an inch below ground level. Cover the roots with the mixture of organic material, manure, and soil. Water the plant well.

New plants should be watered weekly so they will establish their root systems. Also, annually add a nitrogen rich fertilizer until the plant fills the desired space. At this point, you should encourage foliage and vines rather than blooms. Once your wisteria has reached its desired height, stop fertilizing to promote development of buds.

Seasonal pruning

After your wisteria has established itself, it will need pruning on a seasonal basis. When your wisteria plant first begins to branch out in the spring, pick the main leader vines that you wish to encourage. A good rule of thumb is to pick one vine per board on your trellis or arbor, then remove all other vines. Once your leader vine has reached the end of the trellis, pinch it off at the end to encourage side growth.

During the summer, side shoots will develop off of the main leader vines. Trim shoots back to the sixth or seventh leaf so growth will be limited for the season. As a result of your pruning, new side shoots will appear that will need to be removed as soon as they begin to leaf.

When early winter arrives, cut back the main leader vines to 1/3 to 1/2 their length, and trim side shoots to 2 inches from the base. This method of pruning will maintain the shape and size of your wisteria plant while encouraging blooms. Left unpruned, wisteria vines can grow up to 10 feet in a single growing season.

Lack of blooms

A wisteria’s lack of blooms could be caused be a couple of issues. First, determine if your plant came from seed or was grafted. Wisteria started from a seed will take up to 15 years to bloom. Next, make sure the growing conditions are right for your plant. Wisteria needs at least six hours of full sun to develop buds. If your plant does not have full sun, you may try to moving a young plant. However, once established, wisteria does not transplant well.

Also, look to see if your plant is receiving too much nitrogen through excess organic material or improper fertilizer. If your wisteria has an abundance of foliage without blooms, you will need to use a high phosphate, no nitrogen fertilizer. Lack of or improper pruning can also discourage blooms. Severe winters can also damage buds, diminishing the following spring’s blooms.

Disease and pests of wisteria

Wisterias are especially resistant to diseases and pests. If you find disease or pest damage, take a damage portion of the plant to your local nursery or extension office for diagnosis.

By establishing your plant and pruning seasonally, you will be rewarded with years of extravagant wisteria blooms.

Basic Guide to Growing Wisteria

By Mavis Butterfield on May 28, 2015 - 54 Comments

Yesterday I planted my Japanese purple Wisteria in front of our NEWLY CONSTRUCTED FENCE . I have had Wisteria in my yard for years because it’s pretty quick growing, looks pretty freakin’ fantastic crawling across just about anything, and it requires almost nothing of me after planting, except a yearly pruning.

Wisteria is super easy to train to grow up a trellis or over an arbor or pergola. It adds a wall of color–which is pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

To plant Wisteria, you need to start with a nice healthy vine. In these parts, at least, those are easy to come by. Pretty much any major nursery will have them available. Then, choose your location. Wisteria doesn’t have to have full sun, but it will flower much more if it does.

To get that sucker in the ground, dig a hole about 2-3 times the size of the root ball or roots. Place it in the hole, and then back fill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost. For the first year, at least, you should also cover the base of the plant with a thick layer of mulch. The mulch will help protect it’s initially delicate roots and keep moisture constant. Finally, water it in, and walk away–your job is done.

To maintain Wisteria, you really only need to prune it once a year . It’s best to prune it AFTER the flowering season, otherwise, you run the risk of stopping it from flowering at all. There really isn’t a secret to pruning it, just trim it back to your eyes’ liking.

As far as watering and fertilizing go: forget about it . You really don’t need to water it if you live in an area that receives more than an inch of rainfall per year. And since it will grow fine all on its own, no need to waste your money on fertilizer.

One last word of warning, when I first started planting Wisteria, readers chimed in to let me know not to plant it too close to any other trees, as it could eventually choke them out. So, I always consider that bit of advice before I choose a location for my Wisteria.

How about YOU, do you have Wisteria in your garden? Does it make you giddy with delight when you see it draping across your eye-line, or is it just me?

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Close to pulling all my hair out. HELP PLEASE!

Ugly 60's home - needs curb appeal


I have no idea what kind they are. I planted them from seed I got from the lady next door. The biggest one bloomed a few years ago. They send out 8-10 foot runner/sucker shoots from the base every year, but I always cut them off. They are in a bad location and I didn't want them to grow up the house. If I can move them I would like to let them grow this year. I would like to prune and train them heavily so that they stay fairly compact and can eventually hold themselves upright would out much support. I don't know, we'll see how they do.

I don't remember if it sent out leaves before the flowers or not.

I should be able to dig out fairly far from the plants to get as many roots as I can.
How far out and how deep should I dig?

Here is a photo of them. They really are that old. Not the greatest photo, but you can see all three of them. The photo got very blurry after I uploaded it. It should be much clearer than that.


Based on the gray stem color and your description of 8-10 ft. suckers, you likely have an Asian wisteria of some sort. Those are no fun. They can't really be kept in an ornamental garden without prohibitively frequent maintenance. They will quickly outgrow and collapse any support structure. As they are vines, they will constantly search for something to support them if nothing is provided, which means they could end up taking over nearby trees. If I were you, I would get rid of them (this is a formidable task given their vigor) after confirming they are indeed Asian wisteria this Spring. American Wisteria is a much more manageable alternative -- it lacks the fragrance of the Asian varieties, but this is more than overcome by its relatively compact and trainable growth.

This post was edited by mistascott on Sat, Jan 19, 13 at 12:36

Woodyoak zone 5 southern Ont., Canada

It is certainly possible to grow the Asian wisterias in a controlled manner - but it does take diligent pruning. If you are not prepared to do the necessary pruning, you should not grow them! And I would only grow them as 'trees', in a spot where they cannot easily latch onto something and where it's easy to monitor for and remove root suckers. Also, remove all seedpods after the leaves drop, so they won't seed around.

The picture below from May 2010 shows our Chinese wisteria 'tree' (ten years old at that point) and the young Japanese wisteria (3 years old in the picture - it bloomed for the first time in May 2012). They do need sturdy support, even when grown as trees, if you let them get any height. Both of ours needed supplemental angle-iron supports at 5 years of age. A Chinese neighbour keeps her 'trees' very small and tighly pruned and has - so far - not needed support for them. I do not follow the standard pruning guidance. I prune all whippy new growth back into the desired framework once the growth gets more than

12-18" long. At peak growing season, pruning is a weekly - sometimes daily - task!

A closer view of the Chinese wisteria (with a young friend perfectly color-coordinated with it!)


Excellent pictures, woodyoak. Thanks for sharing! I can barely keep my American Wisteria in check so I can only imagine an Asian one (though you are in Zone 5, so it might be a little more manageable than trying to grow one here).

Wisteria look particularly nice when tree-trained, but it is much easier to tree-train a fresh specimen from the nursery than an established planting. It can still be done, but will take a bit more work and time. I wouldn't transplant and tree train/prune all in the same season to minimize shock to the plant. Also, be 100% committed to the diligent maintenance required!

Asian wisterias get a bad rap in the South because they have escaped into the wild and are doing a number on our native forest succession. I suspect they are not quite as much of a nuisance in the Midwest due to the shorter growing season, but if you live near a wooded area and sell your home, please either get rid of the wisteria or inform the new owners of the need to be diligent about keeping it under control.

This post was edited by mistascott on Mon, Jan 21, 13 at 19:19


Thanks the the photos! That's exactly what I would like to do with my wisteria.
Can I plant all three of them together! I didn't know if they would strangle each other.

Woodyoak zone 5 southern Ont., Canada

Wisteria doesn't seem to strangle itself - when it twines around itself the stems seem to eventually just grow together and become one trunk. I'm counting on that to happen to make a sturdier trunk for the Japanese wisteria. I wound multiple stems around the original support stake - it'll take years for them to merge totally but it makes for an interesting look! You can see the look in the picture below - that's also the first flowers at five years in the garden.

Here you can see a stem that twined around one part of the main trunk structure of the Chinese wisteria a few years ago - we didn't notice it when it happened. It doesn't seem to have had any impact on the tree. The vines are so vigorous that, even if a part of it died off, you could just cut off the dead bit and train in new growth to replace it!

The important thing is to think about how you want it to look and then prune, prune, prune to control and shape it! I really recommend planting it somewhere where you have easy access to it from all sides to prune and remove root suckers - never let the root suckers grow or it's too easy to lose control. (Ideally, dig down and pull the sucker off the root - that may remove the budwood that gave rise to the sucker. Cutting off the suckers - whether they are on the roots or the trunk - is less effective as new sucker will originate from the same spot. )

Try not to let the 'tree' get taller than it's easy to reach to prune. You're more likely to do the pruning if it is easy to do! We took 12-18" off the top of the Chinese wisteria tree last spring because it was getting out of easy reach of the long-arm pruners we use to snip off/cut back the new whippy growths. See link below to the pruners we use. We keep them in the garage so they are easy and quick to go get when we see a growth that needs pruning. The easier it is to do the work, the more likely it is that you'll do it!

Here is a link that might be useful: long-arm pruners


Thanks again for all your advice!
You have just described what we do when pruning the apple trees at the orchard where I work. Lots of root suckers come up every year that need to be cut out, we always take the height off the trees to be able to reach them and as old wood needs to come out we train new branches to take there place. I have lots of open space for my wisteria far enough from the house so there wont be any home invasion.

I might buy a new one this spring just to have a strong start and still keep my 3 little ones. I hate to get rid of them - I did start them from seed and they bloomed once a few years back, so I know what they are capable of. I've had them long enough that I hate to give up on them. Not very many people can say "I started that wisteria from seed and look at it now!" I still live at home with my parents, so I might just get a large pot to plant the three "seedlings" in so I can take them with me when I move out in a few years. I might even treat them as a large bonsai.

Woodyoak zone 5 southern Ont., Canada

Wisteria is a common subject of bonsai - try doing a Google image search on that. There are some amazing wisteria bonsais out there!

A couple of other pieces of advice:

They need very sturdy support. Both of ours needed additional support at the five year point. Not long after the Japanese wisteria bloomed this spring we got a windstorm that broke the wooden support pole off at ground level! The wisteria is now supported between two angle-iron posts painted dark olive green and connected together with metal tie rods that also run through the remains of the wooden post (which can't be removed as it it tightly gripped by the twining stems!) The Chinese wisteria was originally supported between two lighter metal posts but also needed an angle-iron support as a sort of third leg at the five year point. The regular pruning makes for a dense, bushy plant that gives the wind a lot to push on! I recommend that you use one or more sturdy angle-iron supposts when you plant a wisteria. I'm a member of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society in the UK) and I remember reading an article on wisteria in the member magazine that said almost all Victorian-era surviving wisteria trees have an iron stake in the middle of their trunks (i.e. the tree has engulfed the stake - so one needs to take care if sawing down an old wisteria tree!)

The other piece of advice - always remove any seedpods you see - easiest to see after the leaves drop. Otherwise in the first warm days of spring the pods will open explosiively and fire seeds around! So you'd then have seedlings to contend with. (I did a germination test on the first seeds the Chinese one produced - I got 25-30% germination after the pods had spent the winter on the tree. ) So now I make sure that I remove all seedpods.

It sounds like you have a good background for pruning and training a wisteria. Good luck.

Top 10 Questions About Wisteria Vines

Here at Gardening Know How we know the importance of arming yourself with easy answers to questions about your precious plants. To help keep your garden looking its best, it helps to have the information you need readily on hand should problems arise. Wisteria plants are beautiful vines commonly planted in home landscapes. While they’re usually trouble free for the most part, they do have their problems. Here are 10 questions about wisteria vines that often come up.

There are various reasons why a wisteria isn’t blooming, but the most common is excess nitrogen caused by over-feeding. Excessive fertilizer is likely to blame if the wisteria’s foliage is lush and green, but no blooms are present. If you determine the plant has been over fertilized, you can neutralize the nitrogen in the soil by adding a fertilizer high in phosphorus and potash. Timing of fertilization may also be a factor, as wisteria should be fed in autumn. Other possible reasons for a lack of blooms may be inadequate sunlight, lack of proper pruning or poorly drained soil.

The question of how and when to prune wisteria vines is a common one. Prune wisteria twice a year, in late winter when the plant is still dormant and no new leaves have emerged, and again after blooms have faded in summer. Winter pruning involves cutting long shoots down to three to five buds, and also provides an opportunity to remove unsightly growth that will detract from the appearance of the shrub. Summer pruning is the time to remove or cut unruly green shoots back to five or six leaves, thus controlling the size of the plant. Don’t be afraid to prune hard in summer, removing up to 25 percent of growth.

Although wisteria is beautiful, the plant can become aggressive if not properly maintained. The first step to getting rid of wisteria is to prune the plant to the ground, and then apply an herbicide (Roundup works well for this) to the fresh cut, using a disposable paintbrush. Reapply if new growth appears, but trim the stump or peel the bark first so the herbicide can penetrate the wood. Use care, as some herbicides will kill any plant they touch. Herbicides can take up to a month to take effect, but when the vine dies, it’s relatively easy to pull the plant or cut the stump level with the soil.

Wisteria is a hardy, low-maintenance plant and yellow leaves are common when temperatures drop in autumn. Any other time of year, yellow leaves on wisteria generally indicate a problem that needs attention. For example, the soil may be iron deficient, a problem that can be determined by testing the soil. Yellow leaves may also be caused by wet, poorly drained soil fungal disease viral disease or the presence of pests such as aphids or scale, which are easily controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Usually, yellow leaves on wisteria are easily rectified if the problem is addressed as soon as possible.

Propagating wisteria vines from cuttings is the easiest way to start a new plant. Take cuttings from tender softwood in late spring or early summer. Remove leaves from the bottom half of the stem, then dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant the stem in moist potting soil. Cover the pot with plastic, then place the cutting in bright, indirect light. Water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Alternatively, you propagate wisteria by planting seeds. This method, however, can take several years to produce a mature, flowering wisteria.

Wisteria is spectacularly beautiful, but certain types, including Chinese wisteria and Japanese wisteria, are invasive plants that can choke out native vegetation. This occurs because the roots travel swiftly and unwanted plants may appear a considerable distance from the main shrub, twining around trees or anything else that lies in their path. These plants should be avoided if they are considered invasive in your area. Otherwise, regular pruning and proper care will keep rampant growth in check. In severe cases, wisteria vines must be destroyed.

Wisteria is a hardy, low maintenance plant that provides beauty to the landscape, growing over a sturdy arbor or other supportive structure for many years. Although wisteria prefers deep, rich soil, the plant adapts to most soil types. To produce ample blooms, look for a planting site where the wisteria receives plenty of bright sunlight. Once established, wisteria is a vigorous vine that benefits from regular, bi-yearly pruning, but otherwise requires little water and no fertilizer. Wisteria is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.

When moving wisteria plants, it’s better to transplant young wisteria, as a mature plant may not survive the relocation. Ideally, the vine should be pruned and the roots trimmed the autumn before transplantation in early spring. Tie up loose branches on moving day, then dig the wisteria, cutting a wide swath around the shrub to minimize root damage. Pry the plant from the ground with a sturdy shovel, then slide a large piece of cardboard or burlap under the root ball. Plant the shrub in a pre-dug hole in soil that has been amended with compost or manure. Keep the soil moist until the vine is established.

Wisteria is a tough plant capable of tolerating winter climates as far north as USDA zone 5. However, an unexpected frost in late spring may damage tender new growth. If this occurs, it’s safe to prune cold damaged growth back to a healthy bud or shoot once you are certain any potential danger of further frost has passed. After pruning, feed the wisteria a good quality, general purpose fertilizer and continue to provide proper care. Take heart, as you may not notice signs of recovery until midsummer.

Wisteria is relatively trouble free, but the plant can be affected by a variety of problems that may cause the leaves to turn brown. Poorly drained soil is a common culprit, as soggy soil prevents the roots from receiving necessary oxygen. While wisteria doesn’t typically have much trouble with disease, it may be affected by canker diseases that block water and nutrients. Brown leaves may also be attributed to soil deficient in iron or nitrogen, or conversely, a plant that receives excessive nitrogen due to over-fertilization. Soil issues should be rectified only after the problem is verified with a soil testing kit.

Everyone has questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.

Watch the video: How To Plant Wisteria