By: Garden Gate staff
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The best way to prune
Confused about pruning clematis? You can always get the very best blooms — once you decide which of three groups your plant falls into. Each group requires different pruning techniques, but none of them are the least bit difficult.
Just click ahead to learn how to identify your clematis and the best way to prune it every year! You’ll even find a few helpful illustrations showing you exactly where to cut.
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HOW TO IDENTIFY IT The species and cultivars in this group are evergreen and found mostly in USDA zones 6 to 9. Clematis in group A rarely die back at all, unless winter temperatures fall well below their normal range. And most of these clematis are the very first to bloom in spring, just like Clematis armandii on the left. Sometimes you’ll get a few flowers later but early spring is the big show.
HOW TO PRUNE IT All this group requires is a bit of grooming to keep the vines looking tidy. Of course, you should remove any dead stems you spot. And if there’s winter dieback, trim it away in spring. Since this group blooms on old wood from the previous season, if you prune any healthy stems too early, you’ll be cutting off flower buds. So save any corrective pruning to thin out thick areas or remove wayward stems until just after the flowers finish.
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HOW TO IDENTIFY IT Clematis in this group, like ‘Multi Blue’ here, usually flower in midspring on last year’s stems. Later in the season, they often have more blossoms on stems that have grown since spring. The flowers are evenly scattered up and down the entire height of the vine, and if you have a clematis that has double flowers, odds are it’s in this pruning group.
HOW TO PRUNE IT In late winter or early spring, when you see leaf buds starting to swell, cut back dead or broken stems. If your clematis is a bit thin, bend several long stems back onto the trellis and tie them in place with strips of fabric. If the plant is too thick in some areas, thin out a few branches or snip the vine loose from the trellis and reposition some sections. (After you do this you’ll have to tie the stems to the support until new growth twines onto the structure.)
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HOW TO IDENTIFY IT Group C flowers mostly on new growth, so they are rarely the first clematis to bloom in your garden. Most likely they’ll begin to flower in late spring or early summer. And if you don’t cut the old stems back for a year, the majority of the new foliage and flowers will be at the top. The lower branches usually have only sparse leaves and maybe a few flowers.
HOW TO PRUNE IT Group C clematis, like ‘Ville de Lyon’ in the photo here, are usually easiest to prune. But it takes courage to cut! Even if there is new growth higher on the stems, cut everything down to the ground, as shown in the illustration below.
Perhaps you want a group C clematis to cover a tall structure, such as a pergola. In that case, fasten the long bare stems to the uprights and prune away only the top third to half. You may not have flowers near the base but you will have a beautiful bunch of them on top of your structure.