The Q&A Archives: Pruning Clematis

Question: I was given a small clematis vine last year. It had been dug up from the ground and was about 3 inches high. I planted it along side my house and gave it an 8 foot trellis to climb. It grew to about the top of the trellis but never bloomed. I am not sure what kind of clematis it is, will I kill it by pruning back all dead vines to the ground?

Answer: Without knowing what type of clematis it is, it is difficult to give a pruning recommendation. Many clematis look mostly dead in late winter but are not, so do not be over eager to prune. If they are truly dead, however, it is certainly okay to prune them off. A new vine could be allowed to grow for the first year or two without pruning, or with some minimal tip pruning for shape. As a general rule, clematis are said to sleep the first year, creep the second and leap the third. If you feel it is getting out of bounds this summer, trim it back lightly. Try to notice when it blooms whether it is blooming on old wood or on new wood and if it seems to continue blooming through the summer on new wood. This will help you figure out how it should be pruned in the future.

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