Friday, 19 February 2010

Have you pruned your Clematis?

Do you struggle knowing how or when to prune Clematis?  Pruning any plant can seem like a daunting task,  not too dissimilar to brain surgery actually, but it's not all that difficult really when you have a little know how.


Several Clematis grow quite happily in my garden and I find them particularly useful for catching the eye and drawing your focus vertically.  This is important in my small garden as space is always at a premium.  Any method at my disposal to increase impact or increase room for plants is most certainly welcomed.  I particularly enjoy C. ‘Elsa Spath’ and C. ‘Madame Julia Correvone’. These grow up the boundary wall with the added support of Hazel bean poles.  They continue to wind their way through an ornamental quince and finally onto a trellis panel, which is bathed in sunshine, something that Clematis really enjoy.  Aside from the vertical draw that the Clematis offer, they also add interest to the otherwise green and leafy Chaenomele speciosa when its blooms have faded.  Clematis love having cool shaded roots and their heads in the sun and this position at the back of a border appears to suit them very well. If you have a shrub, hedge, tree or another structure that needs some additional interest, consider using a Clematis.
At this time of year your Clematis should be coming in to bud. It is this unmissable visual cue which signals a need to prune.  With the increase in daylight hours (which I think I enjoy just as much as the plants) pairs of plump buds form along stems, ready and waiting for the chemical nudge to burst and grow.  By pruning just above a healthy set of buds and following the rules below you will create a new set of growing points and stems upon which your flowers will be produced.
It is worth noting that Clematis fall in to three pruning groups:
  • Group 1  - consisting of those that flower early in the year
  • Group 2 - consisting of the early large-flowering hybrids which flower in early summer
  • Group 3 - consisting of those which flower from mid-summer onwards. 
Before making the cut it is essential that you know which group your Clematis belongs to as this will dictate your practice.  You can usually find this information by carrying out an online search or by asking your local nurseryman.  At this time of year most groups are ready for pruning, however, the group 3 plants, such as my C. ‘Madame Julia Correvone’, will be our main point of concentration in this post as it is these late flowering species which flower on new growth.  Group 2 plants, such as C. ‘Elsa Spath’ , can also be pruned in a similar fashion but this is not as essential.


Pruning has two main functions.  It increases general vigour and helps to ensure a good flowering season.  Like many other garden plants, Clematis appreciate an annual structural overhaul.  Not only does this allow us to keep unruly plants in check and remove dead or diseased plant material, but it also reduces the opportunity for stems to overlap, form open wounds and become infected.  By pruning the plant back to two strong buds on each stem, around 8-10” from the ground, we can encourage plants to flower profusely.  Group three plants flower on current years growth and by pruning in this way we improve the plants overall health and help it to put its energy in to creating new healthy shoots and blooms.
I would also recommend that after pruning you apply a good feed for your plants, blood, fish and bone is ideal.  I always follow this with a good layer of mulch and lots of protection from slugs, which are extremely problematic when it comes to any form of new shoot.   
Do you have any tips on growing Clematis?  Did you find this post useful? I would be interested to hear from you.


*The main photograph is new growth from Clematis 'Madame Julia Correvone' taken in my garden today.

15 comments:

  1. This is useful information, thanks for posting it! I wish I could take advantage - it's a little too hot in Albuquerque for Clematis, but they sell them all over town anyway. They're gorgeous, I haven't tried to grow them here because it seems cruel.

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  2. This was an informative post. I have an 'Ernest Marham' clematis, that I just planted last spring. Some sites say it's Group 2 and some say Group 3. I'm more inclined to believe it's Group 2. I find that not all clematis you find at garden centers have the pruning group right on the tag. Mine didn't. I think that kind of sucks.

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  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Kyna: The grouping for C. 'Ernest Markham' is quite confusing. Either way I would prune now. Maybe taking some growth back further than others. This way you can be sure to give the plant a fighting chance.

    I hope that helps.

    Ryan

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  4. You know I always forget which is which when it comes to clematis... thanks for the info!

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  5. I also add a bit of wood ash when fertlising.

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  6. I've got a Group 3 clematis and find that it's really easy to remember to prune. It's gets the chop early in the year and then no need for further pruning until the following year.

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  7. Thanks again for your great comments.

    Kate: Wood ash is good in small amounts. I add some ash from my wood burner to my homemade compost and it seems to work well. Just have to be careful not to over do it though.

    Ryan

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  8. Very useful. Sadly, the clematis does not like our hot summers so did not dare plant anyone yet. It is difficult to keep its roots cool in our subtropical climate.

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  9. I really like this photo Ryan, plus it's always good to be reminded about the whole pruning thing. Mind you, you learn quickly once you've chopped one down and completely wrecked it.. as I have several times! (So you'd think I'd learn eh?)

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  10. Great tip Ryan. We have a couple of Clematis which didn't do very well last year - probably down to incorrect pruning. Not this year.

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  11. The picture still looks good even really an interesting blog :)

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  12. Thanks for this informative post Ryan. I have a couple of clematis (and have killed a couple of clematis) and I always get frozen with inaction worrying about what group they belong to! I will come back here when the right time comes for some clear insructions!

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  13. Another way of identifying which of the 3 groups a clematis belongs to is to determine whether the clematis flowers on last years growth, this years growth or both.

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  14. You’re the best, beautiful weblog with great informational content. This is a really interesting and informative content.

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  15. I like your illustration work, your creativity and designs are really amazing.

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