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Pruning Clematis

By Rebecca Fitzpatrick, Colorado Master Gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Clematis can be a confusing group of plants to prune, since they are not all pruned the same way.

Clematis generally fall into three different categories, based on bloom time. The earliest flowering clematis bloom on old wood, and later blooming varieties must produce new growth in order for flower buds to form. If you are planting brand new clematis in your garden, wait until the second growing season before undertaking any pruning.

Early flowering clematis

Early flowering clematis typically bloom in April and May, from buds produced during the last growing season. Prune these plants immediately after blooming, but no later than the end of July in order to give the plant enough time to produce new buds for next year. Start by removing shoots that have bloomed. If you like, prune out select vines to control size or shape but avoid cutting far into the main woody trunks. This group includes C. alpina, C. macropetala, C. armandii, C. montana, and C. chrysocoma.

Large-flowered clematis

Large flowered hybrids like ‘Nelly Moser,’ ‘Miss Bateman,’ Lasurstern,’ and ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’ bloom in mid-June on stems from the previous season and often will bloom again in late summer on new growth, though these blooms tend to be smaller. Remove dead or weak stems in late winter or early spring, leaving the best of last year’s buds. Once they finish blooming, deadhead all bloom stems or cut the plant back to 12-18” to force new growth for a second round of flowers.

Late flowering clematis

This group’s flowers are produced on the current season’s growth and are the easiest to prune. Some types begin blooming as early as June and continue into the fall. In early spring, cut the plant back to 24-36” since no old wood needs to be maintained. Varieties like C. x jackmanii, C. viticella, C. flammula, ‘Royal Velours,’ and ‘Duchess of Albany’ fall into this category.

Photograph by Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010