Native to China, Japan and the eastern United States, wisteria produce beautiful flowers which hang down from their branches. The two species most commonly used for bonsai are; Wisteria floribunda (Japanese) and W. sinensis (Chinese). Growing wisteria bonsai from seed is quite a straightforward process, and within around ten years, you’ll see the iconic flowers on your tree.
Collecting Seed Pods
Wisteria produces seed pods, which are easy to identify. On Asian varieties, these seed pods will be fuzzy, while the seed pods on American varieties are smooth.
Seed pods are most commonly produced in late summer or autumn by healthy wisteria and found hanging from the vines. Once the leaves have fallen off your wisteria, this is typically the best time to collect the seed pods. Pick the seed pods off the tree before they fall, and then place them somewhere dry and warm.
Planting the Seeds
Once you have collected your seed pods, you should wait until they dry and become brittle. After this, you can then twist the pods to release the seeds. Now that you have your seeds, you can prepare to plant them. First, you should soak them for 24 hours in warm water. Any that float are usually not viable, so you should refrain from growing these unless you do them separately.
Now that you have your seeds, you must prepare pots or trays to plant them in. The soil mix you use should be well-draining; I use a combination of compost, perlite and sharp sand.
Plant the seeds with a few centimetres apart, at least an inch deep. You should thoroughly water the seeds until the water drains out of the bottom of the pot. After this, keep the pots or trays you have planted the seeds in somewhere with a stable temperature of around 18-20 degrees.
Keep the soil moist, and when the sprouts appear, ensure that the soil doesn’t completely dry out or is too soggy – otherwise, this can kill the seedling very quickly. Seedlings cannot handle overwatering or underwatering as much as older trees, so make sure you’re careful when watering them.
When growing wisteria bonsai from seed, you may have quite a few seedlings that germinate. If you have planted the seeds in a tray, you’ll likely need to prick them out in a few months.
Growing many wisteria seedlings in the same tray can lead to the roots becoming tangled and the seedlings competing for nutrients and water, so it’s best to separate them after a few months. When repotting the seedling, try to be as careful as you can with the roots, as wisteria seedlings have much more sensitive roots than older trees. Work the sides and bottom of the root mass very gently, taking minimal amounts of soil off.
As the wisteria seedling gets older, you can gradually take more soil off. However, it’s best to be very cautious when they are young. Once the wisteria seedling is in its own pot, you should water it thoroughly. Newly repotted wisteria seedlings and trees will initially have a higher water demand after being repotted.
Growing Wisteria Bonsai From Seed
Hopefully, within a few months, you’ll have a wisteria seedling that has put on a bit of growth. In another few months (or around a year), you’ll be able to begin its journey into a bonsai tree. It’s best to leave the seedling to grow wild for its first year to ensure it gets established, as you don’t want to impede the seedling’s progress.
When growing wisteria bonsai from seed, you should note that wisteria seedlings have much higher water demand than other seedlings. Wisteria is a very water-intensive species, and in the growing season, you’ll find that you might have to water them multiple times a day or leave them standing in water.
This water demand is the same when they are older, so ensure that your wisteria always has enough water to survive and thrive. However, it’s ideal to keep the soil medium moist instead of soggy all the time. Keeping the soil too wet constantly can rot the roots, leading to the death of the wisteria seedling or tree.
Here is the final answer of your question: How Often You Should Water Your Bonsai
Much like any other seedling species, I’m not eager to fertilize wisteria seedlings as soon as they pop out of the ground. I’ve found that it’s best to wait for a few months or at least a year to begin fertilizing; otherwise, high doses of fertilizer can burn the roots and kill the seedling quite quickly.
The soil mix I use for seedlings is typically specialized for seeds, providing them with enough nutrients to get by for their first few months, after which I will manually fertilize them myself. Once they’re a few months old, you can use diluted fertilizer concentrations.
In a tray, your wisteria seedlings will likely get quite crowded if you have planted a lot of them. It’s best to prick them out after around three months, allowing them to have a lot of soil to push their roots into and reducing competition for water and nutrients.
If you have already passed this stage and your seedling has been growing in its own pot for a year or two, you might find that the seedling is becoming root bound. This means that the tree’s roots do not have any more space to grow into, and the roots are circling themselves multiple times. This means it’s time to repot the tree into a larger pot!
To repot the seedling, you can gently ease it out of its previous pot, working the sides and bottom of the root mass to try and loosen the roots. I like to take a bit of soil off, replacing it with fresh soil once it’s repotted. When repotting seedlings, it’s vital that you pot them in a larger pot and not in a bonsai pot, as this will restrict their growth which we do not want when trying to grow seedlings for bonsai (unless you are developing a shohin bonsai).
When growing wisteria bonsai from seed, I’m not particularly eager to wire them in their first year. This can damage the seedling and halt growth, so if I apply wire, it usually’s either very gentle with a low gauge or after its first year. If you’re going to wire them early, I recommend using a low gauge of annealed aluminum wire, such as 1.0mm or 1.5mm.
Using copper wire for seedlings can be quite overkill and finicky, especially since copper wire can be hard to bend – especially for beginners. Seedlings usually won’t require copper wire to stay in place.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does it take to grow a wisteria bonsai from seed?
Luckily for you, wisteria is quite a fast-growing species. However, it will still take around 10-15 years to develop your seedling into a proper bonsai. You can thicken the trunk a lot quicker by planting them in the ground initially. However, you’ll still need to work on the ramification and branches of the tree.
When is the best time to sow wisteria seeds?
You can sow the wisteria seeds anytime, but it might be beneficial to sow them in spring after the last frost has passed. This prevents any danger from frosts killing off the seedling. The seeds will stay viable as long as you keep them in cold, dry places without a lot of moisture. Storing them in plastic containers with desiccant is a good option, removing any moisture.
Is wisteria easy to grow from seed?
I’ve found that wisteria is easy to grow from seed – out of six seeds, I managed to get four to germinate. This is quite a good success rate, and it seems that wisteria seeds have a better chance of germinating than some other species, such as dawn redwood. Remember – you can get any seed to germinate if you give it optimal conditions. If you look up the species online, you’ll most likely find wisteria described as more complicated than other species.
How do I get my wisteria seedling to grow faster?
Not feeling very patient? That’s how pretty much everyone feels at first – don’t worry! If you’d like to push a bit more growth out of your seedlings, you can fertilize them quite heavily after about a year, which should help them to put out a lot more growth. This applies to other bonsai trees, too, as they should be regularly fertilized in the growing season, as they cannot get nutrients from anywhere else but you.
You should know how to propagate wisteria from seed now! Growing wisteria bonsai from seed is much easier than other species, this it was the third species I started with, after pines and alder. I’ve found that they seem to germinate a lot quicker and easier than other trees – I keep mine on a south-facing windowsill and keep them moist.