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Pruning clematis

Almost all clematis benefit greatly from pruning improving the vigour and density of the plant, so it is worthwhile doing. Also it is a good idea to pinch out the shoot tips of newly-planted clematis after every two pairs of leaves, to encourage bushier plants to form. With most varieties, stop pinching out by late May or early June or flowering will be stunted.

Clematis fall into three basic pruning groups based on when they flower. The main thing to figure out is which type(s) of clematis do you have. Use one of our search engines to help you identify them, and make sure you record all of them in your personal garden account, so we can guide you correctly. We will take the guessing away.

  • Group 1
    These are the early-flowering species and cultivars that rarely need pruning, unless they grow too large and out of control. An example of a very vigorous clematis in this group is the popular Clematis montana. Make sure you have planted this and all climbers in an appropriate place to begin with (click here for planting climbers).

Remove dead or damaged stems, and once flowered, reduce other stems back to keep tidy. For renovation, cut back harder to around 15-30cm from the base immediately after flowering. This hard pruning may seem harsh, and may reduce flowering over the next seasons, but it usually worth it as it stimulates strong growth needed for the plant's longevity.

  • Group 2
    This group includes summer-flowering species and cultivars such as Clematis 'Abundance' which generally flower in May-June on short laterals developed on the previous year's growth. Remove dead and damaged stems in early spring before growth begins, trimming all remaining stems to a pair of strong buds. For renovation, thin shoots in spring by removing older ones to the base.

Cutting stems back encourages new growth from lower down on the plant and brings the flowering height down.

  • Group 3
    This group includes the late-flowering species and cultivars, such as Clematis 'Jackmanii', which all benefit from an annual prune in late winter or early spring.

Cut back all growth to a pair of strong buds 15-20cm above soil level, before growth begins in early spring.

At the same time check that the roots of the plant are shaded. If not place some stones on the soil around the stems. Clematis like 'their heads in the sun, but feet in the shade'. This also helps prevent clematis wilt.

Supplies you will need

You will need some sharp secatures, well-rotted organic matter, liquid fertiliser, and probably some garden twine or ties as you may want to tie in the clematis again after pruning.

Feed when you prune

Work feed into the soil surface around the clematis right after pruning.

Ongoing care - we will remind you if you have stored your plants in your account. Clematis need fortnightly liquid feeds throughout spring to encourage new shoots to develop.