Clematis is one of the most-loved garden vines yet it’s not always easy to know when to prune your vines or leave them alone. This will help you determine which type of clematis vine you have and when it’s best to trim it back, and when you should leave it alone.
If you would like to create free vines from the ones you have, also see How to grow clematis from cuttings.
For more, see all my plant suggestions for a cottage-style garden, and have a look around my garden here.
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The Blooming Time is Key
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.
Clematis Quick Links
1 Seed Companies | US & Canada
2 Plant Databases | ID your plants
3 Growing Tips | Smart tips
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. You can also browse vines for sale if there’s a specific one you want.
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.
- Clematis likes moist, well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. Use mulch to help retain moisture.
- 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.
- 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.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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