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The strange case of the wilting wisteria


by James Alexander-Sinclair

First the leaves looked a bit droopy and exhausted, then they turned crispy and finally fell off, leaving the plant naked and neglected...


Wisteria growing against a brick wallSome of you might remember that I wrote about geums a few weeks ago. Sometimes those of you out there are kind enough to respond to my ramblings with comments of your own. They are mostly charming and occasionally include various garden questions, which I do my best to answer when I can - bearing in mind that I am mostly a poncey designer rather than being a Pippa Greenwood-style pest queen.

Anyway, in that geum post a chap called Bruce asked about his wisteria that had "gone limp and lifeless as if hit by frost. It flowered extremely well but there are no pods and none of the exuberant growth". I didn't have much idea what could have caused this problem, so wasn't able to offer a useful solution.

In a very spooky Twilight Zone moment, the very next week my wisteria started doing exactly the same thing. First the leaves looked a bit droopy and exhausted, then they turned crispy and finally fell off, leaving the plant naked and neglected. Since then I have heard of three other wisterias that have suffered the same fate. It is very annoying as it was just beginning to make a difference to a large wall - there was a ceanothus there before but that got frosted to death.

I asked my wise friend Nigel Colborn and he says that it is probably a specific wisteria disease like a phytophthora. He also suggested honey fungus, but I checked for mushroomy smells and found nothing.

So generally I am a bit stumped, but thought that if I wrote about it somebody might know. Maybe Pippa will ride in like the US Cavalry to solve the mystery...



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Gardeners' World Web User 01/07/2009 at 08:48

I hope you both remembered to take off the plant lables or any close fitting ties on the main stem. I heard this problem on a GQT session and despite years of experience the gardener had still left a tie so tight it choked the plant to death. Commonly happens just after as summer growth surge kiks in. Always check the plug.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/07/2009 at 22:13

I am having a problem with my young (4yrs.)pleached lime hedge. One of the trees is having a problem that does not affect the others. Last summer all of its leaves suddenly went brown and crispy and fell off. It kept its buds and this spring although later than the others it did spring back to life. However the same thing has happened again. Within a couple of days the leaves go brown and the tree defoliates itself. I have checked for insects, none. A fungal disease would surely affect the others in the hedge. So I had a look at the roots. Moles have made runs directly under the tree which is preventing the roots from taking up water. Should I dig around the roots to try and settle the earth back round them or will this make matters worse?

Gardeners' World Web User 05/07/2009 at 04:19

I am having trouble with some of the leaves turning yellow and falling off. I have sprayed for insects (saw japanese beetles before) but no sign now and still continues on. Any ideals?

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2009 at 11:18

I also lost my Wisteria after 6 healthy years of growth the flowers appeared but did not open then shivelled up and died the leaves then fell off. cutting some of the stems back they had also died and I do not have any explanation

Gardeners' World Web User 09/07/2009 at 19:29

I planted my wisteria against a fence. Unfortunately, it was a shady damp area of my garden. Obviously it didn't flower/ Once I realised my mistake I transplanted it into a pot and all of the 'buds' became brances with leaves. However, they are all drooping, I know the cause but does anyone know what I can do. I was surprised that started growing any at all and now I am a little disappointed. Cany anything be done to save it? Any help would be appreciated.

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