Clematis vines are known for their beautiful flowers. They are also known for their ability to grow in diverse environments, such as shade, sun, or dry soil. They are a very popular choice for many gardeners, as they are easy to grow and maintain. They can be grown in pots or in the ground, and they come in a variety of colors. Pruning is an important part of caring for your clematis. It helps keep the plants healthy and in good shape.
We are often asked, “do you or don’t you prune”? For the sake of clarity, incorrect pruning will not cause your clematis to die. What it can do is delay the flowering of the plant. The flowers are the most important aspect of this plant, and they will help dictate when you prune.
The first thing you need to do before making your first snip is figuring out what type of clematis you have. If you don’t know you can determine this by noting when the flowering time is for your clematis.
Early Spring Flowering – Clematis in this growing period are in Group A. These clematis vines typically only have one flowering period which occurs from April – June. The clematis in this group tends to have smaller flowers. Remember not all smaller flowering clematis are in this group.
Clematis in this group flower only on growth from the previous year. When you prune cut out the weak and dead stems as soon as the vine finishes blooming in May or June. If you happen to prune later than June or severely prune your clematis, you will have fewer flowers next spring.
Mid-Spring or Later Flowering – Clematis in this group are pruned in early spring before buds swell and growth begins. How you cut the plant will be dependent on if the plant blooms in the spring or late summer. Clematis in these groups have longer blooming periods that begin in late spring or early summer. Group B1 clematis flower in May and June and then again in September. Group B2 is similar to Group B1 when grown in the shade. If they are grown in full sun, B2 clematis will have more flowers on the softer new growth that bud throughout the summer. The last group is Group C and they flower continuously from June – September.
A Group B1 clematis grows flowers on wood that has been hardened by the prior season’s growth. With this group in May and June, the plant produces a heavy amount of blooms on the prior season’s growth and a second smaller amount of flowers in September on the current season's growth.
Group B2 clematis produce flowers on last year’s growth and the current year’s growth. In this grouping, the flowering occurs continuously from June – September.
For both of these groups, a light pruning needs to take place in late February or March. When you prune your vines, vary the length of stems to produce a well-balanced plant. Also, remove any weak or dead wood and make sure the spacing of the stems looks nice. Good stem spacing allows for lots of space for all of the beautiful blooms.
Remember, if you wind up pruning off too much of the plant it will reduce the number of flowers, the next time the plant flowers but will not hurt the plant. It also helps grow a better-balanced plant for the future. If for some reason you neglected your clematis a good pruning can help rejuvenate the plant.
Group C clematis bloom only on the current year’s growth. The flowers start appearing in early summer and continue into fall. Group C plants start their new growth very close to where the prior season’s growth ended. If these clematis vines are not pruned the plant will very quickly grow out of control. Prune these clematis in late February or March. Cut them to two strong sets of buds on each stem as close to ground level as possible. Doing this will cause the plant to flower near ground level and continue to the top of the plant.
Let us know if you have any tips for pruning your Clematis!