Clematis 101. Easy Care Guide. Really.

Clematis 101 Easy Care Guide
Clematis Is Your Friend
Clematis care does not have to be complicated. This simple chart is intended to assist the new gardener who has a clematis and doesn’t know what type it is or what care it needs. With a few quick steps you can figure out which group (1,2, or 3) your clematis belongs to and understand what it needs to provide beautiful blooms, year after year.

If you would like to grow clematis from cuttings, this post shows you how.

Clematis is a very forgiving vine. You’re not going to kill it by cutting it back. The worst thing that could happen is you might delay some blooming. Some of these vines get so woody and overgrown as they age that, in the long run, a good pruning is the best thing you could do and, when you’re more familiar with the plant later, you can learn how to prune it more selectively.

How Do I Know What Type Of Clematis I Have?
If You Do Not Know The Name Of Your Clematis (and therefore do not know which group it belongs to):
Assuming you haven’t got someone who can give you a quick answer—
1. Pay attention through the growing season noting when it blooms. Does it bloom in spring, early summer, or late summer?
2. Photograph the blooms.
3. Use this website to identify your clematis.

If You Know The Name Of Your Clematis (but not what group it belongs to):
1. Use this website to identify the correct group.

Once you know the group, use the chart (above) to know when and how to prune it. You may also want to Google the name of your particular plant in case there are any special exceptions.
What Your Group Number Tells You
Clematis instructions vary as much as gardeners do, but these are the ones I follow (with good results).
Group 1 Clematis

  • Blooms in spring. This is the group that has the guideline: If it blooms before June—don’t prune!
  • The blooms form on old wood which is why you don’t want to prune it—trimming away old wood can mean trimming away future blooms. The exception is to remove dead wood (has no leaves or blooms) when the plant is a few years old. New shoots will form and bloom the following spring.

Group 2 Clematis

  • Blooms in early summer and then (sometimes) blooms again. The blooms form on both old and new wood.
  • There are several possible approaches to pruning. 1) You can trim away any dead wood (has no leaves or blooms) as needed or 2) Cut the entire vine down to one foot tall every 2-3 years. Easy!

Group 3 Clematis

  • Blooms in late summer. The blooms form on new wood only.
  • This vine can be pruned back hard, after blooming, leaving 6-12″ of vine with strong buds.

Tips On Growing Clematis

  • Clematis likes moist, well-drained soil in full sun or part shade.
  • Look up the details on your specific plant to understand what group it belongs to (for pruning) and how tall it may grow.
  • You can grow clematis in containers or in the ground.
  • Place bricks or stones around the base of the plant to keep it cool and moist.
  • Clematis needs support. Options include tall posts, chicken wire, trellis, arbour, or trees (the vine is gentle and won’t choke a tree). Make sure there is something for the tiny tendrils to grab onto.
  • Love what you have? Consider propagating the plant using leaf bud cuttings.

Here’s A Favourite (Aren’t They All?) From My Garden
Clematis 101: Easy Care Guide

Here’s a gallery of clematis I have grown and loved…

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  1. says

    I have a dr. ruppel and it says on the tag that it is a spring-summer bloomer and to prune back in spring. It is listed in Group2 in your information and it says there to prune after flowering(fall/winter). I wonder why the difference in directions? Nancy

    • says

      Hi Nancy, This guide is intended for anyone who doesn’t have that tag information. As mentioned in the article, there are exceptions to the “rules”-lots of them-that’s why most generalized clematis guidelines seem so complicated. What I did here was take everything I’ve read and summarize into the most general terms-hoping to assist newer gardeners. Since you have the info for your particular plant, so you’re set. I’m guessing it’s a hybrid that’s fast to form flower buds if it can bloom in the same season you pruned it. If someone doesn’t know what type they have but knows when it blooms, the safest approach is to prune after flowering so a blooming season is not lost. :)

  2. says

    I bought my very first clematis at Lowe’s today … imagine my surprise when I checked my email and found your newsletter with this article! How cool is that!
    I found a “Blue Light” clematis (tag says a ‘summer’ bloomer) that was in bloom here in May and fell in love with tt! Thanks for the tips on the care of my very first clematis. Wish I could figure out how to post a picture of it… It’s beautiful and so different…

    • says

      Yes, you can. There’s various techniques – too hard for me to explain here but probably online somewhere. I like Carol Klein’s method in the book Grow Your Own Garden.

  3. Donna says

    Can the plant be save by the roots? One was cut by a weed eater an almost pull up. What do we do to keep it in the family?

  4. diana says

    We have clematis growing around our light pole and it has gotten very thick. Can I thin it out and if so, how do I do that. And what I take out can I replant in another area?

  5. aliceh says

    i sprinkle 1/4 cup epsom salts aound each plans in spring. My clematis have gotten a lot more stems and more flowers. I do it every year and am often asked why my clematis are so beautiful.

  6. Dave says

    Hi Melissa I just planted a Clematis for the first time , it did not bloom this year so far I live in southern ILLinois by St. Louis MO. My soil is sandy and I’ve kept it well watered dose this plant like a acidy soil I also put miracle grow on it . I have it on a trills too . Thanks Dave

  7. Rachel says


    I’ve had a lovely Clematis (not sure of name but early bloomer) in a pot for five years. It has loads of buds this year and some flowers already opened (smaller and greener than usual) but I’ve noticed a lot less leaves. Is this something I should be worried about?

    Thank you

    • says

      Hi Rachel,

      There’s lots of possible causes. Does your clematis need repotting (is there plenty of room for the roots now)? Did the potting soil get too dry (this can cause leaves to drop)? When the leaves were emerging, did cold weather harm them? There’s also diseases and pest problems that can cause this but it could also just be a simple case of needing better housing or a dry spell that has now passed.

      I would make sure the conditions in the pot are good (room for roots and good potting mix suitable for clematis) and then watch and see. They don’t like to ever dry out or be too damp. Some people start overwatering after a dry spell has caused a reaction in the plant and this doesn’t solve anything. The plant just needs time and consistent conditions. Next leafing season it should be fine.

      Let me know how it goes. :)

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