Tag: clematis

3 Ways to Prune Your Clematis

I have always been a strong believer in the value of a well-placed flowering vine. Fast growing annual vines such as moonflowers, morning glories, and cypress vine are excellent quick fixes for many garden conundrums, and I never seem to have any trouble finding a spot for yet another climbing rose. But it is the beauty of a perfectly positioned clematis that most often catches my attention. It is no wonder that this plant is referred to as the “Queen of the Vines.” However, if you have ever tried to wrangle with the challenge of how and when to prune a clematis, a much different name might come to mind.

As a general rule of thumb, clematis can be broken down into three major groups and you prune your clematis according to which of these groups your plant belongs. If you feel the least bit timid about cutting away at your plant, take heart. The important thing to remember is that even if you make a mistake you are not likely to kill the plant.

Early Flowering Clematis

These clematis bloom on ‘old wood’ meaning flower buds form on the previous season’s growth. They also flower earliest in the season, usually sometime between April and June depending on which zone you live in. Prune this group of plants immediately after flowering. This will allow enough time for new growth to produce flower buds before winter. These clematis only need light pruning and removal of dead stems. If you feel your vine has grown out of control it is okay to cut it back hard, but avoid cutting into the old woody trunks.

Large Flowering Hybrid Clematis

The clematis in this group produce a heavy display of large flowers in June on old wood and will often bloom again in late summer on new growth. This makes them somewhat of a challenge to prune.

The best time to prune these plants is in February or March. Begin by removing any dead stems or weak growth. Working on one stem at a time, cut back the top 6 to 18 inches. Make the cut just above the uppermost pair of large, healthy buds.

The largest flowers are produced on old wood so you don’t want to cut these clematis back too hard before the first bloom cycle. A better time to regain control of overgrown vines is immediately after this first flush of bloom.

Late Flowering Clematis

Logistically this is the easiest type of clematis to prune, but emotionally it is a bit tougher because it is difficult to sacrifice healthy stems and buds. Just keep in mind that these clematis will bloom on the current season’s growth and given time, you will be rewarded for this brutal act with vigorous new stems and an abundance of beautiful blooms.

In February or March take each stem and cut it back to a height of about 12 to 24 inches leaving at least two sets of large buds.

A Few of My Favorite Clematis

Clematis armandii

  • ‘General Sikorsky’ – yellow centered flowers with medium blue petals; 6′ – 8′, hardy to zone 4; blooms June – August; pruning group A
  • ‘Will Goodwin’ – stunning ruffled blue flowers; 8′ – 12′; blooms June – September; hardy to zone 4; pruning group B
  • ‘Mrs. Cholmondeley’ – huge 7″ – 9″ lavender flowers with brown centers; trouble free; blooms May – June then again in September; 12′ – 16′; pruning group A or B
  • Clematis montana Odorata – masses of small light pink, sweet smelling blooms on a vigorous growing vine; hardy to zone 6, will grow in zone 5 but there is a risk of winter kill; 20′ – 30′; blooms May – June; pruning group A
  • ‘The Duchess of Albany’ – abundant pink, bell shaped blooms; showy golden seed heads; 8′ – 12′; blooms July – October; pruning group C
  • C. viticella ‘Etoile Violette’ – deep, velvet purple blooms; 8′ -12′; blooms July – September; pruning group C
  • ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’ – mauve-pink flowers; very tough and floriferous; blooms June – September; 8′ – 10′; pruning group C
  • ‘Henryi’ – large, flat white flowers; 12′ -15′; blooms June – September; protect from strong winds; pruning group B
  • ‘Belle of Woking’ – double sliver-mauve blooms; blooms May – June and then again in September; 6′ – 8′; pruning group B
  • Sweet Autumn Clematis – small, highly fragrant, white, star-shaped blooms; blooms August – September; 20′ – 25′, pruning group C

Growing Clematis

I have really enjoyed subscribing to your online newsletter. I have gotten so much information on gardening and really delicious recipes! I just today, got my current newsletter with the article on "Pruning Clematis," but you left out general care instructions. How does one grow clematis?

Thank you so much for the kind comments. It means a lot to hear positive feedback. In response to your question here are a few tips on growing clematis.

Situating Your Clematis
Clematis need 5 to 6 hours of sun but prefer their “feet” to be shaded. To accommodate this requirement I plant my clematis in full sun at the base of an evergreen shrub or in combination with a climbing rose. You can also shelter the root area with a mass planting of low growing perennials.

Clematis prefer neutral soil. If your soil is acidic it is recommended that you add lime. Check with your local Cooperative Extension about getting your soil tested. This will help you determine if lime is needed.

If you find that your soil is highly acidic, lightly dust under each plant with a small amount of lime. Do this in the spring and fall the first year and then just once a year after that. Lime helps the plant to absorb nutrients.

To plant your clematis dig a hole twice as wide as the nursery pot and deep enough that the base of the plant will sit 3 inches below the soil level. Add a good dose of well-rotted organic matter to the bottom of the hole. Gently remove from the nursery pot, careful to not disturb the root ball and place in the hole. Fill in with soil. Water well and support with the stake that came with the plant.

During the first year not much feeding is required but keep well watered.

Clematis are heavy feeders. In the spring after the new growth is about two inches long, feed with a fertilizer rich in phosphorous. There after alternate feeding every four to six weeks between an all-purpose and a phosphorous rich fertilizer. Continue this routine until the end of summer.