With all the types of clematis, proper identification can be difficult. But there are ways to figure out what type of clematis you are growing so you know when or if to prune and how to properly care for your plant.
This is part of the Complete Clematis Care Guide with tips on planting, propagation, fertilizing, and more.
Clematis | Genus: Clematis
Clematis Growing Guide
Woody climbing vine
• Hardiness zones 4 to 9
• Full sun 6+ hours per day
• Well-draining soil
• Pruning varies by group
• Alert: Clematis terniflora (sweet autumn clematis, sweet autumn virginsbower) is invasive in North America
With around 300 species, and plenty more hybrids, no wonder it’s hard it can be difficult to figure out what type of clematis we are growing.
Unless you saved your plant nursery tag or have a popular variety that is easy to identify, it can be a bit of a mystery to learn the name.
But, good news.
With a bit of sleuthing, we can narrow things down, and, while we may not find the specific name, we can figure out your pruning group, which is most important for proper care.
Quick Ways to Identify Your Clematis
Here’s some ways to figure out what type of clematis you have.
The flowers are the big tell. Get photos of the flowers, middle of the flowers, and leaves.
Related: Clematis Not Blooming? Here’s Why
The most basic clematis group is small-flowered (under 5-inches in diameter) and large-flowered.
Armed with good photos, you can now try these things:
- Show the plant to a gardening friend. Then, verify that what they told you is true. 😛
- Ask an online forum that specializes in plant identification.
- Ask at the plant nursery where you bought it.
- Check this online clematis database: Clematis on the Web
- Contact a clematis growing club.
- Ask at your local Horticultural Society.
- Check if there are any clematis experts or fans at your local university extension office.
- Try googling clematis + the flower color and see what comes up. You might score a win right off the bat.
or, upload an image of your clematis flower to google and see what searches match.
If none of these quick ways work, you can still learn essential information by watching your clematis over time (see tips listed below).
Watch Clematis Tips
Identifying Clematis by Observation
By watching your clematis over the period of a year (yes, a full year), it will reveal important information to you. The most important is when and how it blooms.
First, is it actually a clematis?
- Clematis can be a woody, deciduous plant, evergreen, or herbaceous.
- Check the stems for the leaf formation.
- Clematis leaves grow in pairs along the stems. The leaf shapes vary with different varieties.
- If the leaves alternate on the stem, it is some other type of vine.
Even if the leaves are in pairs, it may not be a clematis, but the leaf trick is a super quick way to rule out other plants.
Take notes, record observation dates, and take photos (flowers, leaves, and middle of flowers).
This will not only help you figure out your clematis group, but it will make you a better gardener.
- When does the clematis produce buds? Spring, summer, or late summer and early fall?
- When does it produce flowers? Spring, summer, or late summer and early fall?
- Have a look at a stem that has a bud or flower on it. Is the stem brown and woody or green and new?
- Are the flowers small (2-4-inches), medium (5-8 inches), or large (up to 12-inches)?
- What color are they? Note the color of the petals: are they solid or striped? Are there gradations in the color tones?
- Examine the center of the flowers. Take photos and note the colors of the various parts. Lots of clematis have the same flower colors but the middles (stamen, stigma, ovary—colors and shapes) can vary greatly.
- At the end of the growing season, what do the seed heads look like? This is also helpful for a clematis expert to narrow down your type.
Clematis Pruning Groups
Once you know when your clematis blooms and whether it’s on new or old wood, you figure out which pruning group it belongs to.
If you have the clematis name but do not know the group, a quick Google search with the name + group should give you your answer.
Bloom in spring on old wood and do not require pruning to flower next year.
- Clematis montana
- Clematis alpina
- Clematis macropetala
- Clematis Armandii
Bloom in early summer, first on old wood, then on new wood, and can be pruned after flowering.
- Bees Jubilee
- Nelly Moser
- Vyvyan Pennell
- Perle D’Azur
- The President
Bloom in late summer on new wood.
This is the one group we cut down each winter, anywhere from 6 to 24 inches, depending on the maturity of the plant.
- Clematis Jackmanii
- Clematis viticella
- Clematis texensis
- Prince Charles
- Madame Julia Correvon
- Clematis terniflora
- Ernest Markham
- Hagley Hybrid
I hope this has helped you narrow down which type of clematis you have.
Often a friend or plant ID group will know the popular ones at a glance.
Other hybrids may be tricky to identify, but, once you’ve determined the blooming cycle, you’ll know when or if to prune.
If you want to propagate new plants, see How to Grow Clematis From Cuttings.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛