Clematis pruning simplified

 In Climbing and Wall Plants, Gardening, Pruning

Clematis pruning simplified – there’s a lot of confusion and a little trepidation over when and how to prune Clematis!

Since they are a diverse group of beautiful climbers, I guess that is understandable so let’s keep things simple.

When to prune

Clematis pruning simplified, fan trellis

Pruned Group 3 Clematis on a fan trellis

Firstly the ‘when’ bit is easy to answer as, for the majority of Clematis, it’s right now. Late February is the optimum time but if, as old friends of mine had, you have hundreds to prune then anytime during the dormant period will be fine.

How to prune

The ‘how’ bit is not quite so straight forward but can be simplified by roughly dividing the species and varieties into three groups.

But before we deal with these, what of any newly planted ones? Well these are all, irrespective of pruning grouping, best hard pruned back to just 30 cms. from the ground. This seems harsh but it will encourage plenty of basal shoots to grow and ultimately produce a better plant.

Clematis pruning simplified – the pruning groups

Clematis pruning simplified

Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’

The first pruning group contains many small flowered species but especially those that bloom before mid-summer. These primarily flower on old wood and so a hard pruning now would reduce flower production. Therefore you should prune these only after they have flowered and then only a very light prune may be necessary. Examples are Clematis montana, alpina, macropetala and evergreen such as C. armandii.




Clematis pruning simplified

Clematis ‘Niobe’

The second group contains most, but not all, of the large flowered varieties. These are varieties that flower on old wood. Cut out any dead growth which will lack swelling buds now. Then cutback two or three of the weakest shoots to 30 cms from the ground and, as ever, cut above a pair of buds. Tidy the whole thing up by lightly pruning the tops of the remaining shoots back to nice fat buds. Examples are ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘General Sikorski’, ‘H. F. Young’, ‘Marie Boisselot’ and ‘Niobe’.



Clematis pruning simplified, clematis, climbing plants, gardening

Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’

The third group contains those that flower after mid-summer. There are some large flowered ones in this group but mainly consists of the smaller flowered C. viticella types. Pruning is drastic and simple. Because these flower on shoots produced this summer all shoots can be hard pruned to within 30 cms of the ground. Examples are ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’, ‘Gypsy Queen’, ‘Jackmanii’, v. ‘Kermesina’ and v. ‘Polish Spirit’.   Incidentally, if you have herbaceous clematis then these should be pruned right down to the ground now.



So I hope that you have found my Clematis pruning simplified blog helpful but I would recommend that you do further reading. I especially recommend books written by Clematis expert, breeder and nurseryman Raymond Evison.

It’s just a short clip but here’s a video presented by Monty Don concentrating on the larger flowered Clematis

If you’re interested on how to prune fruit trees then do please read my blog here


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Showing 2 comments
  • Ann halliday

    Great information thank you

    • Alan Down

      Thank you. I’m glad that you found it helpful. Alan

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