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Should I Prune a Clematis?


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Most clematis varieties are straightforward to prune. Clematises fall into three main groups and pruning requirements will depend on when they flower. Those that flower in the winter and spring do not need routine pruning. Summer flowering clematises need a little pruning to remove the end of the shoots and dead growth. Hybrid clematises that flower later in the summer only produce flowers on new growth so are the easiest to prune by removing the old growth.

Winter and Spring Flowering Clematis

  • Clematis Montana flowers in the spring.

    Remove any weak and dead shoots at the end of winter to keep the plant tidy. Cut back any excess branches above a leaf joint immediately after flowering to allow new shoots plenty of time to ripen over the summer as these plants flower on old wood from the previous year. These include Clematis Montana, Alpina, Macropetala, Armandii and the winter flowering Cirrhosa. Markham’s Pink tolerates a great deal of shade.

Early Summer and Double Flowering Clematis

  • Prune early summer or double flowering clematis plants in winter or early spring by removing dead or weak shoots. Shorten any long stems by trimming back to a pair of buds. This promotes new growth from lower down the plant. Go easy on pruning or you may dramatically reduce the next season’s flowering. The first flowers come on the wood grown from the previous year and the second flush are grown on the new shoots later in the summer. Species include Royalty, Barbara Jackman, Corona, Lincoln Star, Nelly Moser, Mrs. Cholmondeley, Richard Pennel and William Kennett.

Late Flowering and Hybrid Clematis

  • Large hybrid clematises need hard pruning.

    Prune the growth of large flowered clematis hybrids in late winter as they flower on growth made in the current season. Remove all the old growth by cutting back the stems to about 12 inches or just above a pair of healthy buds to remove all of last year’s growth. This encourages new strong growth and flowers for later in the summer. Late flowering clematis species include Betty Corning, Bill MacKenzie, Crispa, Gypsy Queen and Rouge Cardinale.

Maintaining Your Clematis

  • Shrubs make good gardening companions with the clematis.

    Protect the roots of all clematises from full sun by shading their roots with other shrubs and plants. Shrubs will also provide them with support to climb up and scramble over. Clematises need good drainage and benefit from well-rotted compost when planting. Water in dry conditions.

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