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How to Prune a Climbing Clematis


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Clematis has a reputation for being a finicky grower, but with proper care these vines thrive. Plant clematis in fertile, well-drained soil. The vines require at least six hours of sunlight daily, but prefer cool roots. Plant small annuals to provide shade or use mulches. When pruning clematis, the most important thing to consider is the plant variety and its bloom time. Spring and summer flowering varieties bloom on old wood. If you prune them heavily before they flower, you’ll remove the blooms. Fall blooming varieties bloom on new wood and are more forgiving of early spring pruning.

Difficulty:
Moderately Easy

Instructions

things you’ll need:
  • Pruning shears
  • Wire clips or ties

Spring and Summer Blooming Clematis

  1. Identify spring or summer blooming clematis by their flowers and growing habits. These plants bloom in late spring or early summer and usually produce large flowers. They may produce a few flowers in late summer, as well. Some examples of spring and summer blooming clematis include Dr. Ruppel, Duchess of Edinburgh and Henryi.
  2. Remove dead and weak stems in late winter or early spring as new growth emerges. Start at the top of the plant and remove old foliage down to the first large, healthy buds. Don’t remove healthy old wood because this year’s flowers bloom on old wood. Healthy, old wood may look dead on the outside, but is green on the inside. As you are cutting, stop when you reach green wood.
  3. Cut the plant back after blooming to improve its shape or control its size. Pruning may encourage the plant to produce more blooms later in the summer. Deadhead spent flowers for additional blooms. Some of these varieties tend to get thin at the base. Cut them back to 18 inches after spring blooming to encourage new growth low on the plant.

Fall-Blooming Clematis

  1. Prune out dead growth in late winter or early spring on fall-blooming varieties such as Comtesse de Bouchaud, terniflora (Sweet Autumn) and Hagley Hybrid. Start from the bottom and work your way up.
  2. Remove all top growth not killed over the winter, so the plant stands 20 to 30 inches high. While this pruning may seem severe, autumn-blooming plants are vigorous growers and may produce as much as 8 feet of new growth over the summer. Left untended, these plants become tangled and unsightly.
  3. Secure the vine to the trellis with a few wire clips or ties to protect it from wind and encourage its twining habit.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clematis climb by wrapping their leaves around the support, but they can’t climb materials that are wider than 1/4 inch. Staple galvanized wire to trellises so clematis can climb them.

  • Water and fertilize your clematis after pruning to encourage new growth.

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