Wilting wisteria: an update

by James Alexander-Sinclair

A few months ago I wrote about the annoying loss of my wisteria that suddenly turned up its toes...

Wisteria foliage and flowersA few months ago I wrote about the annoying loss of my wisteria that suddenly turned up its toes. If you can cope with the tragic story then read it here.

Anyway, I now have a very vigorous morning glory growing in its place while I try and work out what to plant but, judging by your many comments, I am not alone.

One of the (many) advantages of being a member of the Royal Horticultural Society is that any member can get free advice on plant and disease identification. The RHS advisory service at Wisley handles hundreds of thousands of questions every year. This summer I hosted various Gardeners' Question Time sessions at both the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows and was staggered by the sheer volume of knowledge that the representatives of the RHS came out with: no matter how obscure the question they always had an answer.

I have been a member of the RHS for about 25 years and have never used the service, so I thought I would do so on your behalf. I wrote to the Society pointing them towards my previous blog and this is their reply:

Dear Mr Alexander-Sinclair

Many thanks for your enquiry. For some years we have noticed an unusual number of wisteria dying, and indeed have suffered casualties amongst the Wisley wisteria. There are probably many causes of this, and sometimes the answer lies in damage to roots by factors such as water-logging, ill-advised heavy pruning at the wrong season and harm to the root zone by construction work nearby.

Sometimes it is apparent that there is fungal damage at the base of the plant - these web profiles point you in the right direction:

Honey fungus

Phytophthora root rots (often linked to wet soils that have been especially prevalent after wet summers in recent years as this disease is more common where soil is moist.)

Often there is no sign of disease and here, especially if there are suckers, we suspect a graft failure between the very variable seedling rootstock and the named scions. This hard to diagnose, but is specially likely if suckers can be seen coming up from below the graft.

Often in the nature of diagnosing plant losses the cause is uncertain, but the prudent gardener assumes disease to be present and replants in a different place or after replacing the soil.

I hope this helps.

Yours sincerely

RHS Members' Advisory Service


So sadly there is no miracle cure, as these things are always a bit more complicated than that, but it is at least a start...

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/09/2009 at 15:26

I waited 7 years for a flower and during the 8th year vine weevil killed the plant!

Gardeners' World Web User 19/10/2009 at 13:57

I have collected seed from a friends plant - any advice on how and when to plant the seeds please?

Gardeners' World Web User 24/10/2009 at 10:17

I am surprised your wisteria took 7 years to flower as rule buy grafted plants not seed raised and they should flower the year. We bought Wisteria floribunda Alba from http//floraselect.co.uk and it flowered in the first year.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/11/2009 at 10:21

what is the ideal pH number for your soil when growing vegetables please, I am a new boy at this allotment lark

Gardeners' World Web User 15/11/2009 at 11:50

I bought this house in 1987 and found to my delight a very old Wisteria which divided the flower end of the garden from the "veg plot" It has flowered beautifully ever since, only once getting nipped by the frost but came back in its second flowering [do they all flower twice a year?] Today I have spent all morning clearing up after the heavy rain and strong winds. Sadly my lovely Wisteria has suffered with a couple of branches almost down to the ground so I have been giving it a good "pruning" [fingers crossed not too hard]

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