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How to Prune Clematis: Simplified

Published on February 13th 2021
A close up of trailing clematis flowers in a garden
The pruning of Clematis climbing plants confuses many gardeners. In this piece, I'll simplify things and guide you so that in future, you will prune your Clematis with confidence!

Why prune Clematis?

  • Without a doubt, correctly pruned climbing Clematis plants flower better!
  • Plants will look neater and will be less inclined to become unruly.
  • Regular pruning encourages new growth when old shoots are removed.
  • Pruning may even extend the life of your Clematis.
A white and pink Clematis flower on a plant


Clematis spp.

Pruned Clematis texensis on a brick wall
Clematis texensis Princess Diana pruned

Clematis Pruning Groups

  • To simplify pruning, Clematis are put into three groups. This grouping is generally shown on plant labels when you buy the plant.
  • Group 1 contains Early-Season Flowering kinds which bloom during winter through to late spring
  • Group 2 contains Mid-Season Flowering varieties, and they bloom from late spring to early summer.
  • Group 3 consists of Late-Season Flowering Clematis, which bloom in midsummer through to autumn.
  • But before we look at each in detail, let's look at how you should prune a newly bought plant.
Pruning Clematis with secateurs
Use secateurs and cut above a pair of buds

How to Prune Clematis the First Spring after Planting

  • All varieties of Clematis should be hard pruned before the first full season of growing in your garden
  • However, I must admit that this rarely happens! Few gardeners are brave enough to do this.
  • This initial pruning will pay dividends in the future, and it's well worth doing.
  • So all varieties should be pruned to leave just 30 cms of growth above soil level.
  • This encourages shoots to develop low down, which leads to a better plant.
  • Such severe early pruning in a plant's life will also aid good establishment.
  • Removing the top growth in that first year will allow the root system to become well established before it is called on to support a lot of top growth.
  • After this first pruning, then one of the following pruning regimes should be followed. You need to know into which group your Clematis fits.

Pruning Group One

A pink Clematis
Clematis montana Broughton Star
  • These tend to be winter through to late spring bloomers.
  • They flower on wood grown in the previous year and so cutting it off at the wrong time reduces flowers.
  • The most common types grown are Clematis montana, C. alpina and C. macropetala varieties. All these are early spring flowering.
purple clematis flowers
Clematis alpina Pamela Jackman
  • Additionally Clematis armandii, C. cirrhosa and other evergreen winter or early flowering types are in this group.
  • Prune these - if they need pruning - immediately after flowering ends. Just concentrate on tidying things up.
A Clematis in a flower garden
Clematis cirrhosa Freckles
  • This group will make lots of new growth in spring and summer, and so if that is getting unruly, you can shorten back this new growth. However, you should leave about 15 cms, and the flowers will be produced there.
  • If your plant has become completely unruly, cutting it hard after flowering should induce fresh new growth. But for a year or two, there will be fewer blooms.
  • Many in this group can be encouraged to climb into large trees. Pruning of these is impractical.

Pruning Group Two

  • Clematis in this group are mid-season flowering.
  • Flowers are mostly produced on shoots grown last year.
  • Many of these are large-flowered, some semi-double and others fully double flowering.
  • However, some blooms will appear on the tops of new season growth.
  • Clematis plants in this group should be pruned at the end of winter, and indeed before growth begins.
Clematis Diamante double flowers
Double flowered Clematis Diamante
  • Tidy plants up in group 2 by merely shortening dead and weak stems from a pair of fat healthy buds.
  • It's a good practice to cut two or three stems back hard (to 30-60 cms) to encourage new shoots to grow from low down.

Pruning Group Three

  • Pruning of Clematis in this group is straight forward.
  • In Group 3, flowers are produced on the current season growth.
  • Consequently, most of the old-growth is cut away at the end of winter!
  • Cut all Clematis shoots back to leave just 30 cms of old-growth above ground.
A pink Clematis in a flower garden
Clematis viticella Madame Julia Correvon
  • This group contains many beautiful Clematis viticella and C. texensis varieties.
A close up of a Clematis flower
Clematis texensis Princess Diana

To summarise:

Pruning Clematis need not be daunting or difficult. Just identify the pruning group to which your plant belongs and go for it!
I hope that now, armed with this new knowledge, you will feel confident knowing how to prune Clematis and, as a result, enjoy much better displays.
Finally, a fun fact: In the UK, we pronounce Clematis - kleh·muh·tuhs!

Find Clematis and other outdoor plants to buy on Candide.

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