Clematis Pruning

    • Asparagus will provide you with delicious, low-priced spears for years to come if you plant them now from dormant crowns.
    • Spring vegetable starts are now ready to be planted. Set out starts of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other greens for delicious home-grown vegetables.
    • Thin raspberry canes to 4-6 inches apart. Cut back remaining canes to 3 feet tall.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Plant strawberries now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.

Clematis Pruning Made Simple

These beautiful vines have a reputation for being hard to understand when it comes to pruning. This probably comes from the fact that there are so many different kinds of clematis, and different kinds are pruned differently.

Actually, when it comes to pruning, there are only three kinds of clematis: spring flowering, summer flowering, and those that flower in spring and again in summer. The first group flowers on wood formed the previous season, the second blooms on new wood formed since spring growth started, and the third group flowers on year-old wood in spring and on new wood in summer.

All first-year clematis should be pruned in February or March. Leave two sets of buds on each stem between the soil level and where you make your cut. In later years, follow the rules below.

Spring bloomers should be pruned to remove weak or dead stems just after flowering in May or June. Pruning later will result in fewer blooms the following spring. They need only be pruned lightly if space is limited. These include small-flowered Clematis montana varieties and the fragrant, evergreen Clematis armandii.

Clematis that bloom only in summer should be pruned in late February or March. Cut back all of last year’s growth to just above a good pair of buds about 10-12 inches from the ground. Over the years, a stump will form at that point from which new stems will grow. This will give you a plant with blooms that start near ground level and continue to the top of the plant. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is in this group, as are many hybrids such as ‘Ernest Markham’, ‘Gypsy Queen’, and ‘Hagley Hybrid’.

Those that bloom in both spring and summer should be pruned in late February or March. Remove any dead or weak stems, leaving an open, evenly spaced framework of strong growth. Cut back all other stems to a pair of healthy buds 1 to 4 feet above the ground. This group covers the rest of the large-flowered varieties and includes ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘General Sikorski’, ‘The President’, and ‘Henryi’.

If you don’t know which type you have, watch it for a year to see when it blooms and then prune accordingly. Always prune just above a joint where there are two healthy buds. If a plant has been neglected for many years, it can be rejuvenated by severely cutting back most of the old growth.

Remember that dormant vines often look dead, so trace the stem up to see if it supports new growth before cutting it off. The object in pruning clematis is to produce the greatest number of flowers on the shapeliest plant.

You can train clematis in many ways: on a trellis, on a fence or wall as a handsome tracery, twining up a tree, around a post or on an open framework for twining. Enjoy the “Queen of the Vines” in your garden.

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