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Clematis Pruning

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#1 Karin Andresen

Karin Andresen

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 10:56 AM

Some gardeners become a bit anxious when contemplating pruning their clematis vines. In reality, "incorrect" pruning will not kill clematis. Worst case, it might delay or reduce blooms. In fact, left completely unpruned, clematis will continue to thrive and bloom, however the blooms might not be as full or as nicely distributed as when it has been pruned. If in doubt about what type of clematis you have, spend a year observing it's habit and bloom patterns. Not pruning it one year will not have any long term negative consequences.

Clematis should not be pruned in the fall in areas with cold winters; unexpected warm periods can result in new growth which will become damaged by subsequent frosts.

After pruning, fertilize clematis with a good fertilizer -- preferable an organic fertilizer formulated for flowering plants.

Ideally, clematis should be pruned as described below.

First Spring After Planting

All clematis, regardless of type should be pruned back "hard" the first spring after planting. This should be done in late winter/early spring after the vine indicates it is breaking dormancy with the display of developing leaf buds. Prune the vine back to less than 3 foot; as close to ground level as possible where there are still 2 sets of emerging buds between the cut and soil level.

Clematis That Bloom on New Growth (commonly referred to as Group 3 or C)

Clematis that bloom in late spring or later typically belong to this group and should also be pruned in late winter/early spring as described above in "First Spring After Planting". This will provide vines with blooms that start near ground level and continue to the top of the plan If left unpruned, these vines can become a tangled mess with most blooms at the very top of the plant (on the new growth).

Common varieties of clematis that belong to this group:



‘Étiole Violette’

'Ernest Markham'

‘Duchess of Albany’

‘Gravetye Beauty’

‘Lady Betty Balfour’

‘Polish Spirit’

‘Princess Diana’

‘Royal Velours’

‘Ville de Lyon’

‘Sir Trevor Lawrence’

triternata ‘Rubromarginata’


viticella ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans'


Ernest Markham, Magenta blooms on vigorous vines

Clematis That Bloom on Last Year's Growth (commonly referred to as Group 1 or A)

These clematis bloom in early to mid spring and should only be pruned AFTER they've finished blooming for the year -- typically late spring/early summer. Do not prune back hard as described above; instead just cut out any dead or weak stems. This group of clematis can be vulnerable to severe frosts which may delay blooms to fall if they bloom at all.

Common varieties of clematis that belong to this group:


alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’


cartmanii ‘Avalanche’

cartmanii ‘White Abundance’


cirrhosa var. balearica

cirrhosa ‘Freckles’

cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’



‘Frances Rivis’

'Lemon Bells'


macropetala ‘Blue Bird’

'Markham’s Pink'


‘Rosy O’Grady’



Lemon Bells, Outstanding unique color

Clematis That Bloom on Both Old and New Growth (commonly referred to as Group 2 or B)

This group will have one of two blooming patterns. They may bloom twice in a year with a heavy flush of flowers in May/June on the previous season's growth followed by a second smaller flush of blooms in September on the current season's growth. Or, they will bloom continuously from June to September. Provide this group with a light pruning in late winter/early spring removing all dead or weak growth. Then space the remaining stems to balance future blooms on the plant. Vines which have been neglected will benefit from a rejuvenating hard pruning as described above in "First Spring After Planting".

Common varieties of clematis that belong to this group:


‘Barbara Jackman’

'Bees’ Jubilee'

‘Belle of Woking’

‘Beauty of Worcester’

‘Burma Star’

‘Doctor Ruppel

‘Duchess of Edinburgh’


Clematis florida var. sieboldiana

'Henryi' (OK to prune even if it still has a few blooms late in the season)

‘Jackmanii Alba’

‘Jackmanii Rubra’

‘Marie Boisselot’

‘Matka Teresa’

‘Nelly Moser’

‘Snow Queen’

‘The President’


‘Royal Velvet’

'Will Goodwin' (OK to prune even if it still has a few blooms late in the season)

‘William Kennett’


'Angela', award-winning & compact

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