The Q&A Archives: Care of Clematis

Question: In the What's News section of the May 1998 issue Charlie Nardozzi states the Clematis 'Comtesse de Bouchard' had very little winter dieback. Recently I planted one of this variety. I understood that this variety was one that flowered on new growth and therefore should be pruned back to about 18 inches each spring. Am I incorrect? If so, please tell me the correct way to overwinter it, how much and when to prune it.

Answer: It's true that 'Comtesse de Bouchard' blooms on new wood. In late winter/early spring, before growth begins, prune the main stem back to the lowest set of strong buds. As long as your clematis gets well established in its first growing season, it should be hardy enough to stand the winter without any additional protection. Provide plenty of moisture and good support, and topdress with compost covered with bark mulch. Water well in the fall before the ground freezes, as this will help the crown stay hydrated during the winter. If you plant you clematis in a southern exposure, add additional mulch to the soil after the ground freezes to prevent a freeze/thaw cycle that can cause damage to the crown. Hope this helps!

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