How to Prune Clematis in Autumn


Clematis is a genus of woody flowering vines with a climbing and spreading growth habit. According to Purdue University, there are many species and numerous cultivars and hybrids of clematis, and not all of these are treated the same way with regard to pruning. There are three main classes of clematis when it comes to pruning: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3, based on when they flower and if they flower on new or old wood. Autumn pruning is reserved for Type 2 clematis plants after their second flowering in the late summer and early fall, according to the University of Illinois. Commonly planted Type 2 clematis species and cultivars include: ‘The President,’ ‘Vino,’ ‘Anne-Louise,’ ‘Arctic Queen,’ ‘Bees Jubilee,’ ‘Crystal Fountain’ and ‘Rosemoor.’

Moderately Easy


things you’ll need:
  • Secateurs
  • Loppers
    1. Prune your Type 2 clematis in the autumn immediately after the second flush of flowers fades in late September or early October.
    2. Cut away any dead, discolored broken, abrading or diseased vines, pulling them free from the plant and discarding them.
    3. Reduce the height and spread of the vine by cutting back the terminal tips of the vines as desired. Place all cuts 1/4 inch above a leaf axil or branch spur. Never remove more than one-third of the total plant volume in order to reduce stress on the plant.
    4. Thin the density of the vine mass, removing up to one-third of the volume of the oldest living woody stems. When there is a bit of space between the vines, sunlight penetration and airflow are improved, and the individual flowers are shown off to better effect. Thin out tangled and congested portions of the plant lightly and carefully. Place all cuts above a leaf node or branch spur, and sever on the bias with the cut facing the direction toward which you want to see the new growth spread.

Tips & Warnings

  • Prune clematis vines very carefully, cutting one vine at a time and double-checking before you make each cut to ensure you are cutting the correct vine. Since clematis vines grow in a somewhat tangled mass, it is easy to make unintended cuts that sever portions of vines you might want to retain.

  • Extensive autumn pruning may reduce the amount of blooms that occur on old wood in the following spring. Limiting autumn pruning to just what is necessary will preserve the maximum amount of spring bloom on Type 2 clematis species and cultivars.

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