There is always a bit of confusion when it comes to the proper time to prune clematis vines. This is actually a question that includes all woody vines since they all have similar characteristics. The key to all of them is to determine the age of the "wood" which develops flower buds. For example, grapes flower on one year old wood which means that they will only bear flowers (and fruit) on sections of the vine that grew the previous summer. Anything older than that will never flower again.

The genus, Clematis, has several different species. So, over the years, horticulturists have developed a three category ranking to help gardeners to figure out the best time to prune their vines.

Group 1 - Clematis flower in spring on buds from last year's growth.

Clematis in this group form their flower buds on the previous season's growth. Therefore, the buds develop in the fall and spend the winter on the vine.

If these types need pruning to keep them in their proper place, it should be done after they complete their flowering for the year. Remove any dead or dying segments of the vine or guide the growth to where you want it to go. Flower buds for the following year are set in the fall.

Group 2 - Clematis begin flowering in early summer from last year's growth as well as flowering later on short canes from new growth (in most cases).

Many of the newer, large flowering types of clematis bloom on both new and old wood. They will have a flush of blooms early in the season on the upper reaches of the vine which was produced the previous year's vine.

As the current season's vines grow from the base of the plant, blooms will appear lower on the vine later in the summer.

These types should only be pruned to keep them in their place or to remove dead or dying vine segments. Generally, make your pruning cuts just above a healthy looking large bud.

Group 3 - Clematis flower later in summer and into fall. They form flowers on new growth each year.

If you think about it, it makes sense that clematis that wait to flower in late summer and into the fall are blooming on new wood grown in the current season. To keep them fresh and new looking, it is best to cut these vines back to 12 to 18 inches from the ground in the early spring.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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