Overcoming Obstacles: How Growing Wisteria is Similar to Growing Laboratory Revenue

I planted a wisteria tree seven years ago and have been waiting for its characteristic long, soft, purple flowers and magical scent. While it is one of the most beautiful of flowering vines, wisteria is a bane to all but the most masterful gardeners. Even under the best conditions, it can take several years to flower.

Because it is notoriously difficult, advice and folklore abound on how to get wisteria to flower:


  • Some recommend fertilizing with a high phosphate fertilizer to strengthen flower production.
  • The time of annual pruning and technique are important: once in late January or February and then again in March, down to six and three buds, respectively.
  • Shocking the plant works sometimes—hitting the trunk with a baseball bat or shovel and root pruning (cutting through the roots with a shovel) to make it think it is endangered so that it will send out flowers (and seeds) to survive.

You can see from the picture below that this is one healthy tree. I’ve tried all of the suggestions above and even some in combination (are you getting a visual?). One year I did all three and was rewarded with two measly flowers, but none since. Each year I am certain that this will be the year that it will be covered with glorious blooms. I claim that I am giving it one last chance to blossom, or I will yank it out and replace it with something more reliable!

wisteria2It is now seven years and counting, and my wisteria is still there. I’m still trying to figure out how to make the magic blossoms and I am not likely to give up. Maybe it’s my technique? Maybe I have an eight-year wisteria? I’ll work through it as I have other challenges before it—by learning, practicing, allowing myself to hit something with a shovel, getting expert advice and, most of all, by persisting until I get it right. I’ve decided that I’m going to fess up that I need help and hire an arborist to teach me.

What’s your metaphorical wisteria? What are the intractable challenges in your lab, and what are you doing to master them?

  • Do you need to step back and analyze the situation?
  • Hit something?
  • Try a different tack?
  • Ask for help from an expert?

Commit to doing at least one of the above to solve a problem this week.

Kathleen Murphy, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Chi Solutions, Inc.

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