Gardening Magazine

Pruning Clematis

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

Pruning ClematisPrune Clematis to a pair of healthy buds by making a clean cutPRUNING CLIMBING PLANTS IN SPRING

There are many types of climbing plants and lots of them will need some attention now to tidy their growth before the new growing season ahead.

What you will need

  • A sharp pair of secateurs – bypass secateurs will give the cleanest cutting action
  • A pair of gloves
  • A container to collect the pruned growth so that it can be chopped up and added to your compost heap
  • String or plant ties to train growth to the plant’s support
  • Scissors

How to prune

 Below are some of the more common climbing plants and how to prune them. Don’t worry if you get it wrong – usually the worst that can happen if a plant is pruned at the wrong time of the year is the loss of a crop of flowers!


These are divided into three groups for pruning purposes:

Group One are the spring and winter flowering types that include Clematis montana, macropetala, alpina and the winter flowering C. cirrhosa. These should be pruned as soon as they have finished flowering and only if they are getting out of hand, by removing some of the old, woody growth to encourage new shoots that will flower in subsequent years.

Group Two are the early large flowered hybrids that have big, flat flowers and begin blooming in May or June, often with a second crop of flowers at the end of the summer.  Prune these by removing any damaged growth and pruning the rest back to a pair of healthy buds 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) from the main stems which should be tied into the trellis or wires that support the plant.

Group Three are the late large flowered hybrids and late summer flowering species including Clematis viticella and C. texensis. These begin to flower in July, producing all of their flowers on the current year’s growth. Pruning these is easy – cut all of the growth down to a pair of healthy buds 30cm (12in) above the ground. Don’t worry if there is growth further up the stems, the plants will soon shoot away with renewed vigour.

Pruning Clematis
Ornamental Vine pruned to three pairs of buds from woody frameworkHoneysuckle

Evergreen varieties
These include Lonicera japonica varieties, which tend to be very vigorous. Remove some of the old wood on established plants and tie in the new shoots which can be shortened back to keep the plant tidy.

Deciduous varieties
These are best pruned after flowering, but overgrown plants can be pruned now to thin some of the oldest wood. Any vigorous growths from last year can be pruned back by half and tied in to the supports. Honeysuckles flower on the short, twiggy growths so do not prune these until the end of the summer.


Rambling Roses
Rambling Roses flower once at midsummer and include some of the old varieties such as ‘Albertine’, ‘Wedding Day’ and ‘American Pillar’. They should be pruned immediately after flowering by removing some of the old wood on established plants and tying in new growth by gently bending the shoots so that they are horizontal along the supports. Spring pruning needs nothing more than removing any growth that has been damaged through the winter – either broken by the wind or young tips that have been damaged by frost. Prune back to a healthy bud with a sloping cut away from the bud.

Climbing Roses
Climbing Roses are less vigorous than ramblers but flower through the summer instead of only once. The main pruning of these takes place in spring, by removing any wood that has been damaged through the winter and any that has died back leaving ‘snags’.  Congested, crossing branches can also be removed and last year’s young growth can be ‘tipped’ or pruned lightly. Climbing roses should be trained horizontally along the supports to encourage more side shoots and subsequently flowers.

Ornamental Vines (Vitis)

These should be pruned while the plants are dormant in winter. Remove weak growth from last summer by pruning back to one pair of buds from the woody framework. Stronger shoots should be pruned back to two or three buds from the woody framework.

Many other climbers need only a tidy in spring, thinning out overcrowded growth and tidying long, straggly shoots, to encourage twiggy growth.

Remember not to prune plants that flower in spring – you will remove the wood that will flower!

Finish the job with a feed of granular fertilizer to the base of the plant and water it in well. The soil around the roots can then be mulched to improve it and help preserve moisture.

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