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To help plants develop sufficient shoots and stems and ensure good displays of flowers in the future, young clematis vines should be cut back to 12 inches above the ground the second spring after being planted. The third spring after planting, they should be cut back to 18 inches above the ground. After that, the vines are considered established and should be pruned according to the group they belong to.
If you're unsure of what type of clematis you have, simply take note of when it flowers so that you can fit it into one of the three pruning groups below. As a general rule, if your clematis flowers before July, then treat it as though it belongs in group 1 or 2. If it flowers after July, assume that it falls into group 3. You may also want to try identifying it using Clematis on the Web. The website features a searchable database of approximately 3400 clematis varieties as well as 3500 photographs of 1400 different cultivars. www.clematis.hull.ac.uk
Group 1: The Spring Bloomers--Minimal to No Pruning
Group 1 contains small-flowered clematis that flower early in the year (late winter to late spring). These clematis flower on old, woody stems (growth made from the previous season) and typically don't need any pruning. Cut them back only when they become congested or overgrown. This should be done right after flowering (no later than midsummer) to avoid removing next year's flower buds, and should be carried out gradually over several seasons.
Examples of clematis in this group include: C. alpina and its cultivars, C. armandii, C. cirrhosa, and C. macropetala and cultivars, and C. Montana and cultivars. Note: In colder climates, gardeners may find tender varieties (like montanas) naturally pruned to the ground each year due to sub-zero temperatures.
Group 2: The Repeat Bloomers--Light Pruning
Clematis vines in group 2 are the large-flowered hybrids that flower in early summer, and sometimes flower again with a lesser flush in the fall. They produce their flowers on the short side shoots of old wood, and should only be pruned to remove dead wood. Because new sprouts can emerge from dead-looking wood, pruning clematis in this group can be tricky. Wait until early spring, before the new shoots start to grow, to determine whether or not the old wood is actually dead.
If so, cut stems back by roughly one-third, to just above a pair of vigorous-looking buds. Just a few examples of the many clematis in group 2 include: 'Asao', 'Daniel Deronda', 'Duchess of Edinburgh', 'Henryi', 'H.F. Young', 'Liberation', 'Marie Boisselot', 'Moonlight', 'Nelly Moser', 'Niobe', 'The President', 'Silver Moon', 'William Kennet', and 'Vyvyan Pennell'.
Group 3: The Late Summer and Fall Bloomers--Hard Pruning
Clematis vines that make up group 3 are both large-flowered hybrids and smaller-flowered species that bloom in late summer or early fall. These clematis produce flowers on the current season's growth and need to be pruned hard in winter or early spring, before new buds start to develop. If not pruned hard annually, clematis in this group will soon develop long woody stems and few flowers.
Cut back all previous growth to a bottom pair of buds where you would like the current season's growth to begin-usually to at least 12 inches above the ground. Examples of clematis in group 3 include 'Comtesse de Bouchaud', 'Ernest Markham', 'Gipsy Queen', 'Hagley Hybrid,' 'Jackmanii', 'Perle d'Azur', C. tangutica and cultivars, 'Ville de Lyon', and C. viticella and cultivars.
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I am going to have my house painted and I have three really large clematis vines that reach very high. They are right up against the house and are going to have to come down. Will cutting them this early in the season harm them? Any other suggestions are appreciated.
Not sure if you are asking if cutting them down will harm them or cutting them down early. Not everyone does but cutting them down will not harm them at all. I have one I cut down every fall and it comes up more beautiful every summer. As far as if it is too early sorry don't know.
When and how much should a clematis be pruned in east Tennessee? The plant is 2 years old and has bloomed a lot, but not so much now!
By Rosalie F.
I planted one clematis root and every fall I cut it all the way down to the ground, and every spring I end up with dozens of new shoots. Is this normal?
Hardiness Zone: 6a
By Donald from Cleveland, OH
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Can I cut back my clematis now? Ever? I've done a lot of reading on them, but no one ever says anything about cutting them back. C'mon you seasoned gardeners, tell me your secrets. Thanks.
By mom of towers from St. Louis
I cut ours back every fall when the leaves are all dry. I have done this for 10 years. (07/28/2009)
By gram p
This link will tell you all you need to know about pruning Clematis. There are 3 different types of Clematis and each has it's own time to prune or not prune at all. It would be helpful if you knew the name of your Clematis. Then you can determine which group it is in. Here is the link. clematis.hull.ac.uk (07/28/2009)
I have a Jackman II and a Huvi TM clematis. I did not prune them this fall. When do I prune them and how?
Hardiness Zone: 6a
Peg from Springboro, OH
You should prune Jackmanii, a category 3 clematis in early spring and prune hard to about 3 inches. The Huvi can be pruned in very early spring, but not as hard. (03/06/2009)
Here is a website that is very helpful.