Prune to bloom
Keep your clematis in good shape to encourage masses of flowers
All clematis need regular pruning to keep vines in good shape, and remove any dead and unwanted material. Most importantly, pruning encourages lots of fresh, healthy growth, and masses of gorgeous blooms at a height where you can enjoy them most, rather than up high and out of sight. Proper pruning starts with knowing what type of clematis you have. The many different species, hybrids and cultivars are divided into three main groups, based on the time they flower and the type of growth that produces the blooms.
Flowering in early spring on last season’s growth, this group includes the well-known Clematis montana, along with C. alpina, C. armandii, C. cartmanii and C. macropetala. Don’t prune these now; wait until they have finished their spring show. When the last flower drops, hop straight in and give them a light trim to tidy them up. If they are a bit overgrown and congested, go a little harder.
This is a group of large-flowered clematis that bloom in spring on short shoots that develop from last year’s growth, then continue flowering through summer and autumn on new growth. It includes C. henryi, C. florida var. sieboldiana and popular hybrids C. ‘Nelly Moser’, C. ‘Rebecca’ and C. ‘Snow Queen’.
Pruning starts in late winter, but it must be light. You don’t want to remove too much of last season’s growth, as this is where the spring blooms are generated. Follow each stem down from the tip, and trim just above a pair of plump, healthy buds. To promote a second flush, tidy up immediately after flowering, cutting just below spent blooms. Continue this through the season to encourage repeat flowering. If your vines are overgrown, prune them harder after the initial spring flowers, cutting them back by about half. The vigorous new growth produces flowers in summer and autumn.
These flower in late spring/early summer on new season’s growth, and include showy, large-flowered C. viticella and C. texensis. Prune in the latter half of winter. Vines are generally cut back hard to about 30cm above ground level, leaving at least two pairs of good, strong-looking buds on each stem. This encourages an upsurge of new growth in spring, followed by a profusion of blooms in summer. Chopping them back hard again straight after flowering often encourages another flush of blooms in late summer/autumn.
STAR QUALITY Left The large, star-shaped blooms of C. ‘Nelly Moser’ have made it a favourite with clematis growers. Below Late-flowering species such as C. viticella and C. texensis benefit from a hard prune towards the end of winter.