Clematis need to be pruned regularly to prevent them becoming a tangled mass of stems. Without pruning the plant will become bare at the base, with all of the flowers high up on the plant. Regular pruning encourages strong growth and flowering and keeps the plant within bounds.
But how and when to prune? Clematis are classified into three groups according to their pruning requirements, according to whether their flowers are produced on the previous year's growth or that of the current year.
All of the clematis listed on our Plant Database are listed with their pruning category.
If you're not sure what type of clematis you have, observe when it flowers. If it flowers before June, it will just need a light pruning; if it flowers after June it will need a harder prune in February.
You will need:
Using the right tool is essential for this task - for more information read our guide to tools for pruning. If you're looking to update your kit, our experts have been busy testing the best secateurs, so you can buy with confidence.
In a hurry? Here are some of the best buys from this tests:
More advice on growing clematis:
- Three golden rules for caring for clematis (video)
- Seven clematis for every season
- What to grow with clematis
Or you can follow our advice below.
Early flowering – Pruning Group One
If your clematis flowers in winter or spring, it is in Pruning Group One. As a rule of thumb, if it flowers before June, don't prune. A Group One clematis needs little or no pruning – just give it a tidy after flowering. Remove any dead or damaged stems, and prune to fit the space you have. Tie in the stems to their supports and mulch. Read our Grow Guide to Group One clematis.
Large-flowered – Pruning Group Two
If your clematis has large flowers in early summer, it is in Pruning Group Two. This too can be left unpruned, though deadheading immediately after flowering back to a bud below the spent flower may encourage further blooms. In late winter, remove dead or damaged stems and prune lightly – follow your way down from the top of each stem until you reach a healthy bud. Read our Grow Guide to Group Two clematis.
Late flowering – Pruning Group Three
If your clematis flowers later in the summer (in July or August) it is in Pruning Group Three. Simply prune in late winter, approximately 30-45cm from the ground, removing all the dead growth above. Cut back to just above a healthy new bud. With a vigorous plant, you can leave one or two stems unpruned so that you get flowers at different heights. Read our Grow Guide to Group Three clematis.