Growing and Pruning Clematis

Nellie Moser Clematis

Clematis is the most popular blooming vine you find in Gardens today.  They are not as hard to grow or prune as you may think !  There are some easy guidelines to follow to turn your Clematis vines into beautiful features in your garden.  Clematis are great for any size garden and live for many, many years.  Don’t be intimidated by these beautiful vines, they are very hardy and will bless you with a profusion of blooms every year.  If you have an old mailbox, trellis, or fence you’d like to spruce up, the Clematis is your plant!!  

There is an old saying about Clematis “First year they sleep, second year they creep, and third year the leap.”  

Planting – It is important to plant each plant correctly as they will live up to 50 years or more.  Make sure the pot has been watered well and find your spot for planting.  Most clematis like full sun to semi shade but also like their roots shaded.  This can be accomplished by planting small flowers, ground cover, or mulching around base. Place the clematis so the base of the plant is located about 2-3 inches below the soil line.  This keeps the roots cooler and provides buds below ground.  Water the plant thoroughly and add additional soil if needed.   After watering, you should mulch your clematis carefully.  I like to use composted pine bark but other mulches will also work.  Be sure to water regularly during the first growing season to help them get off to a great start.

Some Clematis varieties grow quickly and flower within a year of planting while other may take a little longer, but they are worth the wait!

Pruning – OK, don’t worry, this is easier than you have been led to think.  There is a very simple Clematis pruning rule to follow .  You use the flowers as a guide.  Clematis flowering is divided into three groups:  spring (category 1), early summer (category 2), and late summer/fall (category 3).  If you know when your clematis flowers, you will know when to trim it.

Group 1 Clematis – Flowers in spring on buds from last year’s growth called ‘old wood’.  This group may not need pruning at all but may need to be tidied up from time to time.  The best time to prune them is just after flowering.  Shade them by removing damaged or crowded branches.

Group 2 Clematis – Flowering begins in early summer from last year’s growth and then bloom again later on shorter canes of new growth.  This group should be pruned in spring before new growth begins.  Look for fat, healthy buds on sturdy branches – usually 1-2 feet down from the top of the vine.  Make your cuts just above these healthiest buds.  At this time you can also trim away damaged or crowded branches also.

Group 3  Clematis – Flowers later in summer and into fall.  This group forms flowers on new growth ‘new wood’ each year.  For them to look their best, prune them hard each spring to about 2 feet off the ground.  If you are training them onto an overhead arbor, you may want to leave them much longer.

No matter what variety of Clematis you choose, they will bring you years of striking colorful blooms to your garden.

We will have several different varieties of clematis for you this summer so stop by the Ranch and take a look.




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