Pruning Clematis 101: When To Prune Depends on When They Bloom

The snow is beginning to melt, and the warmer temps are heading into the Twin Cities  Spring is upon us – that’s right, this Thursday is the first day of spring!  Before much longer the first spring flowers such as crocus, daffodil, and tulip will begin to emerge.  And not long afterwards, those shrubs and climbing plants will begin to bud.  If you have clematis among your garden plants, you may have questions about pruning.

The clematis one of the most popular plants with a climbing habit and profusion of flowers. It’s an excellent plant to grow on a fence, a trellis, perogola, or arbor. Big flowering expanses of cover draw your eye to wherever they are growing successfully. But there is no other plant that is as confusing when it comes to when to prune it.  Clematis are divided based on when they bloom into three groups: Spring Bloomers is Group 1, Repeat Bloomers is Group 2, and Summer or Fall Bloomers is Group 3.  The timing for pruning is different for each of these clematis groups and the clematis pruning techniques used are different also.  For good guidelines, read this article.   Some clematis plants should be pruned now before any growth begins; others should be left alone until they’re done flowering.

Why prune at all? If you don’t prune them the vines can produce few flowers and be left with dead looking stems.  When a clematis isn’t pruned it becomes heavy and loaded with flowers on the top.  It can actually bring down a trellis or break under its own weight. The benefits of pruning is that it keeps the plant healthy which increases the number of flowers because it’s growth is encouraged when you prune. Plus, than you get flowers all the way instead of merely over your head.

The diseases that clematis get are clematis wilt and fungal stem rot. You may note these when you have a plant that seems to be turning brown all over and wilting, and falling down. If this happens in the summer, it is a good idea – no matter what the species – to prune back to the healthy growth so you nip any disease going further. In addition, pruning when there is just a tangle of shoots going up is a good idea as the air flow and light will allow the leaves to be dry instead of having moisture on them which causes diseases and wilt.

Designing your gardens to showcase your favorite specimens is just the first step of a beautiful landscape.  Continuing to maintain your gardens with such things as periodic pruning means your landscape will continue to provide the beauty and enjoyment you envisioned from the start.