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Clematis pruning made simple

One of our best-loved climbers is the deliciously frothy clematis, at its best scrambling through roses or smothering a fence with an ocean of flowers. You'll find a clematis for every month of the year in our garden centre in Poynings, Sussex, but there's often confusion over when to prune them.

Don't worry: it's actually quite simple. All you need to know is roughly when your clematis flowers, and then you can follow our straightforward guide.

Here's a step-by-step guide to pruning clematis in a simple way:

Determine the type of clematis you have. There are three main types: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. Group 1 clematis bloom on old wood (last year's growth), Group 2 bloom on both old and new wood, and Group 3 bloom on new wood.

  • Prune Group 1 clematis lightly in early spring, removing any dead or damaged wood and cutting back the tips of the remaining stems to the first pair of healthy buds.
  • Prune Group 2 clematis in early spring before new growth appears, removing any dead or damaged wood and cutting back last year's stems to a pair of healthy buds. Leave any new growth that has emerged from the base of the plant.
  • Prune Group 3 clematis in late winter or early spring, cutting back all stems to a height of 30cm above the ground.

After pruning, feed your clematis with a balanced fertiliser to encourage healthy growth and blooming.

Remember, clematis is a resilient plant that can tolerate a wide range of pruning techniques. If you're unsure about how to prune your clematis, start with a light pruning and adjust as needed based on the plant's growth and blooming habits. With a little practice and patience, you'll be a pro at pruning clematis in no time!

Don't prune: early-flowering clematis like C. alpina, C. armandii, C. cirrhosa, C. montana

If they're getting too big and need trimming back, do it just after they finish flowering in late spring: otherwise, don't touch

Tip from Rushfields: Prune in February

Large-flowered clematis flowering in May and June, like 'Barbara Jackman' and 'Nelly Moser' light pruning to remove dead or weak stems down to a strong pair of healthy buds. If your plants are getting too big, cut them back harder late summer, after they've finished flowering and clematis that flower late, such as 'Etoile Violette', 'Gravetye Beauty' and C. viticella cut hard back to about 15cm above ground level, always cutting to just above a healthy bud.

Please ask the staff in our Poynings, Sussex garden centre for more information and advice about how to prune clematis.

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