Do you struggle knowing how or when to prune Clematis? Pruning any plant can seem like a daunting task, not too dissimilar to brain surgery actually, but it’s not all that difficult when you have a little know how.
Several Clematis grow quite happily in my garden and I find them particularly useful for catching the eye and drawing your focus vertically. This is important in my small garden as space is always at a premium. Any method at my disposal to increase impact or increase room for plants is most certainly welcomed. I particularly enjoy C. ‘Elsa Spath’ and C. ‘Madame Julia Correvone’. These grow up the boundary wall with the added support of Hazel bean poles. They continue to wind their way through an ornamental quince and finally onto a trellis panel, which is bathed in sunshine, something that Clematis really enjoy. Aside from the vertical draw that the Clematis offer, they also add interest to the otherwise green and leafy Chaenomele speciosa when its blooms have faded. Clematis love having cool shaded roots and their heads in the sun and this position at the back of a border appears to suit them very well. If you have a shrub, hedge, tree or another structure that needs some additional interest, consider using a Clematis.
At this time of year your Clematis should be coming in to bud. It is this unmissable visual cue which signals a need to prune. With the increase in daylight hours (which I think I enjoy just as much as the plants) pairs of plump buds form along stems, ready and waiting for the chemical nudge to burst and grow. By pruning just above a healthy set of buds and following the rules below you will create a new set of growing points and stems upon which your flowers will be produced.
It is worth noting that Clematis fall in to three pruning groups:
Group 1 – consisting of those that flower early in the year
Group 2 – consisting of the early large-flowering hybrids which flower in early summer
Group 3 – consisting of those which flower from midsummer onwards.
Before making the cut it is essential that you know which group your Clematis belongs to as this will dictate your practice. You can usually find this information by carrying out an online search or by asking your local nurseryman. At this time of year most groups are ready for pruning, however, the group 3 plants, such as my C. ‘Madame Julia Correvone’, will be our main point of concentration in this post as it is these late flowering species which flower on new growth. Group 2 plants, such as C. ‘Elsa Spath’ , can also be pruned in a similar fashion but this is not as essential.
Pruning has two main functions. It increases general vigour and helps to ensure a good flowering season. Like many other garden plants, Clematis appreciate an annual structural overhaul. Not only does this allow us to keep unruly plants in check and remove dead or diseased plant material, but it also reduces the opportunity for stems to overlap, form open wounds and become infected. By pruning the plant back to two strong buds on each stem, around 8-10” from the ground, we can encourage plants to flower profusely. Group three plants flower on current years growth and by pruning in this way we improve the plants overall health and help it to put its energy in to creating new healthy shoots and blooms.
I would also recommend that after pruning you apply a good feed for your plants, blood, fish and bone is ideal. I always follow this with a good layer of mulch and lots of protection from slugs, which are extremely problematic when it comes to any form of new shoot.