Pruning Clematis ( When & How )

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Pruning Clematis is extremely important, if you allow it to grow without any pruning, the Clematis will look like a tangled mess in a couple of years. Not all types of Clematis have to be pruned at the same time, in fact, if you prune some of them at the wrong time, then they will not flower in the next year.

Group 1 Clematis have to be pruned AFTER they have flowered in the spring, Group 2 Clematis have to be pruned BEFORE they flower in the spring, and Group 3 Clematis have to be pruned in the spring BEFORE they flower. No matter to which group your Clematis belongs, it still needs to be pruned occasionally, the pruning will make the plant a lot bushier, and you will avoid it from becoming a tangled mess in the future.

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Clematis are grouped into 3 groups based on when they flower and when you need to prune them. Group 1 Clematis are early flowering ones in the spring, Group 2 Clematis are large flowered ones, these can flower in spring or summer, but some of them will be repeat bloomers that flower in the late summer or early fall as well. Group 3 Clematis flower in late summer or autumn and herbaceous Clematis are also part of this group.

It is extremely important to prune your Clematis depending on which group it belongs to, as some flower on new and others will flower on old wood. If your clematis is not growing then check out my recent article Clematis Not Growing ( Top 6 Reasons ).

Pruning Clematis

Pruning clematis is an important task to promote healthy growth, control the size of the plant, and encourage abundant blooms. The timing and method of pruning depend on the clematis variety, as there are different pruning groups: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. Group 1 clematis includes early-flowering varieties that bloom on old wood, and they require minimal pruning. Simply remove any dead or damaged wood after flowering.

Group 2 clematis consists of varieties that bloom on both old and new wood, and they benefit from light pruning. In early spring, remove dead and weak stems, and lightly trim back the remaining stems to a pair of healthy buds. Group 3 clematis are late-flowering types that bloom on new wood, and they are pruned more drastically. In late winter or early spring, cut the stems back to around 12 inches from the ground. It’s important to note that proper identification of the clematis variety and its corresponding pruning group is essential to ensure the correct pruning technique is applied.

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Pruning Group 1 Clematis

Clematis in Group 1 flower in the spring, although if the weather is favorable, they might actually flower in the winter. Group 1 Clematis have to be pruned after they have flowered, once the flowers are spent, it is safe to prune them. Group 1 Clematis flowers on old wood, more precisely on previous years’ wood. Group 1 Clematis should never be pruned right back to the ground, as it will not be able to flower.

When pruning Group 1 Clematis make sure not to cut back too much, as this year’s new growth will be where the next year’s flowers will grow, usually cutting them back 8-10 inches above the ground is a good idea. When pruning Group 1 Clematis, make sure to prune off all the vines that are touching each other, as the constant friction will damage them. The most common Group 1 Clematis are Armandii, Alpina, Cirrhosa, Quinquefoliolata, Japonica, and Macropetala. If the Clematis buds are not opening then check out my recent article  Clematis Buds Not Opening ( Top 5 Reasons & Fixes ).

Pruning Group 2 Clematis

Group 2 Clematis are large flowered Clematis, they usually flower in the spring or early summer, but some of them are repeat bloomers that will bloom at the end of the summer or early autumn as well. Group 2 Clematis grow flowers on new wood, which means that you have to prune them before they flower. The ideal time to prune Group 2 Clematis is in the spring right before the plant comes out of dormancy.

Although you could cut back the entire Clematis to the ground, but you should still leave a couple of old stems as well. Once the Clematis blooms in the spring or early summer you can give it another prune, although this is usually done to mature Clematis that need to be cut back due to their large size. The most common Group 2 Clematis are Florida, and different Hybrids like the Charissima, Duchess of Edinburgh, Jackmanii Rubra, Niobe, and Nelly Moser. If your Clematis has powdery mildew then check out my recent article Clematis Powdery Mildew ( Causes & Treatment ).

Pruning Group 3 Clematis

Group 3 Clematis are considered to be late flowering Clematis, they usually flower in late summer or early autumn on new growth. Group 3 Clematis have to be pruned in the spring, as they bloom on new wood, although you shouldn’t cut them back right to the ground. Leave around 8-10 inches of growth above the soil, and cut right above a nice big bud. You can prune the Group 3 Clematis while it is dormant, but if you want to see which stems are actually alive, then allow the Clematis to grow some buds in the early spring and then start pruning.

The most common Group 3 Clematis are Addisonii, Buchananiana, Brachiata, Integrifolia, Viticella, and Texensis.

Key Takeaways

  • Group 1 Clematis have to be pruned in the spring after flowering, Group 2 and 3 Clematis have to be pruned in the spring before they flower.
  • All Clematis varieties have to be pruned, as they will turn into a tangled mess after a couple of years.
  • Do not prune any Clematis right back to the ground, pruning them 8-10 inches above the soil is ideal.