Friday, May 20, 2011

Taming the Climbing Clematis Vine

For all of you gardeners who love beautiful Clematis vines in your gardens and don't know how to prune them, maybe my post will be able to answer some of your questions.

Why prune clematis anyway?

  • If left unpruned, clematis vines become overloaded with stems that produce few flowers. More vigorous species and varieties that are left unchecked bear most of the flowers high on top the plants and many times can result in pulling down the structures that are supporting them with their weight.

  • Pruning clematis stimulates new growth, which increases the number of flowers at a level where you can best enjoy them, and takes weight off the plant to keep it from toppling over.

  • Pruning also helps to keep clematis vines healthy. Clematis wilt, or fungal stem rot, occasionally strikes this plant, causing shoots, leaves or sometimes whole vines to collapse and brown, usually in early summer. Pruning back wilted shoots to healthy growth, or, if needed, pruning the whole plant almost to ground level prevents the disease from spreading and stimulates new stem growth from the remaining healthy tissue.

  • Pruning the dense tangle of stems opens the remaining shoots to air and light and reduces the number of leaves that can hold moisture, which encourages wilt and other diseases.
This clematis is from my garden. I believe this variety is called 'Little Duckling' and is a repeat blooming clematis.

There are three ways to prune clematis, thus there are three types of clematis:

  1. SPRING BLOOMERS-vines flower in spring, on growth from the previous year.

  2. REPEAT BLOOMERS-vines bloom in late spring or early summer, then again sporadically, on new shoots and old stems.

  3. SUMMER OR FALL BLOOMERS-vines flower in late summer or in fall, on new growth produced earlier in the season.

As you can see, I've waited a little late to prune my clematis, but it was not high on my list of priorities, considering the weather has not cooperated at all this spring. There were so many other items of business to get done in the garden first.

Follow this link from Fine Gardening magazine Click here(which is where I found the clematis information). It will explain in more detail about which method of pruning that needs to be done on your clematis.


  1. Good information, Ramona! I had several plants with clematis wilt. They all grew at the same place, so I suspect that it was something wrong with the soil. I got tired of it and planted clematis montana which doesn't that problem. My oldest clematis montana is big and heavy. I try to prune it, but it's difficult to reach the middle of it. I think that, at some point, I will need to cut it back severely.
    Your plant produces gorgeous flowers!

  2. Thanks Tatyana, I'm glad this information could help.

  3. This makes me want to try this plant out. How much light do they need? I totally relate to the priority thing by the way. There are a lot of things I meant to have done by now, but had to put off to get to the more urgent matters when it's been a nice enough day!

  4. I didn't get to several of my clematis this spring either. The weather has really not cooperated at all, has it? But at least we haven't had tornadoes. It's still so cold here. I have hardly had shorts and a t-shirt on this year!
    This one is beautiful tho Ramona.

  5. J Gardener, I made a correction on the clematis variety, so please take note. This variety is called 'Little Duckling' and loves sun. From what I've read about clematis is that they don't do well if their roots actually get too much heat and sun, so you can underplant it with something to shade the roots. Good luck! I've been happy with this variety.

    Kathleen, thank goodness we haven't had tordadoes like the poor people in the mid-west and southern states. Most of the plants in my yard have actually loved our cooler, wet spring, especially my Japanese maple. The summer garden veggies are hunkering down and riding out this extremely cool weather, though. Hopefully we will have a long enough growing season to actually get a good yeild from my tomatoes. My shorts and flip flops are collecting dust too.