Clematis are hard to beat for adding beauty to your garden in surprising locations. You can grow them up a wall, trellis, arbor, gazebo, fence or even a tree. They make stunning ground covers spilling over rocks, tree trunks and garden walls. From early spring straight through to late fall there are clematis suitable for growing. It’s when we have to decide when to prune clematis that the problem starts. Because not all clematis have the same growth habits, they must be treated differently. Fortunately for the gardener, clematis fall into one of three groups for clematis pruning.
How to Prune Clematis
If your clematis blooms in early spring (April and May), it belongs to this group. Group A clematis only bloom on growth produced the previous year, also called old wood. Any pruning should be done as soon as they have finished blooming, to prune later than June or to severely prune will result in fewer flowers next spring. Simply prune out weak or dead stems.
C. Nelly Moser
If your clematis blooms in May and June and then blooms again in early fall, it belongs to group B. Group B clematis bloom mainly on their old wood in late spring, then produce a smaller flush of blooms on their new wood, this years growth, in September.
If your clematis blooms from June to September continuously on both old wood and new wood at the same time it also belongs to group B.
Pruning group B is best done in early spring (late February or March). Remove any dead or weak stems, and prune lightly with variations in the length of the stems. This will help to develop a well balanced vine. Group B clematis can be left unpruned for a couple of years and then rejuvenated by cutting back most of the old growth. New growth will very quickly take its place.
C. Ernest Markham
If your clematis starts flowering in June and blooms heavily and continuously through September, it belongs to group C. Group C clematis only bloom on new wood, and should therefore be pruned heavily. In late February or March your vine should be cut back to strong sets of buds on each stem as close to ground level as possible. Left unpruned this type of clematis can grow out of control which is useful if you want it to grow through a tree. In this case the blooms will all be concentrated at the top of the vine. To keep the vine bushy and full of blooms all along its length, it should be pruned yearly.
If you make a mistake don’t panic. Improper pruning will not kill your clematis, it will only delay flowering. Proper pruning will ensure that your clematis is as beautiful as it was meant to be. Pruning clematis solved!
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