How To Prune Clematis
The climbing varieties and species fall into three general categories. All of our clematis are labeled as type 1, 2, or 3. If you don't know the names of your Clematis and can't look them up, all you have to do is pay attention to when they bloom!
The red dotted lines in the illustrations show where to prune.
Bloom the earliest in spring and set flower buds on old wood only. These only need to have stray or damaged stems cleaned out. This can be done any time, but it's suggested that it be done after flowering to avoid losing blooms. Occasional thinning every few years will help with performance. Examples: montana Mayleen and armandii Snowdrift.
Can bloom on old and new wood, and generally start flowering in late spring. These should be pruned lightly in late winter or early spring when you see buds begin to swell. Cut just above fat buds. This can be done higher or lower on the vine. All traditional large-flowered hybrids like 'Henryi' and 'Nelly Moser' are in this group.
Bloom only on new wood. They start flowering in summer or later. Type 3 can be cut nearly to the ground just before growth begins in spring. Some will have buds on stems, but many will sprout right from the crown. Examples: Burning Love, and Sugar-Sweet Blue.
These are grouped into type 3 for practical purposes. They die back to the ground or almost all the way depending on your climate. All dead growth should be removed. They should be handled the same as perennials. Find the buds swelling in spring and trim just above them. If you're in a colder climate, they will be under ground.
No need to follow these directions strictly. Consider where and when you want to see blooms. For example, delaying the pruning of a Type 2 Clematis can delay blooms until later in the season. Lighter pruning might also be useful for getting a Clematis higher up into a support. Growing two Clematis of different pruning types can work really well if you're aiming for a space with different blooms throughout the season. Try different things each year until you're happy with the results.