Clematis is quickly becoming one of America's most popular types of flowering plant, and it's easy to see why. Depending upon cultivar, Clematis can add vertical interest even in small spaces, sprawl across retaining walls or sunny ground, and work beautifully in containers. Clematis are available in early-blooming varieties, but many Clematis bloom later in the season, or even in autumn. This widely-varied genus is incredibly versatile—but that diversity can lead to questions about pruning
Let's cut through all the noise about Clematis pruning — it's actually quite simple. The Clematis expert, Deborah Hardwick has given Spring Hill Nurseries a quick and easy way to remember how to prune each type of Clematis. It's either green, yellow, or red. Check out her video explaining the stoplight pruning system here.
For more videos on clematis and other relevant garden content, check out our video library page.
Green means Go — Also referred to as Type III or Type C »
Clematis in the Green category, sometimes referred to as Type III or Type C Clematis, can be pruned freely. Prune as often or as fully as you like to promote reblooming.
- Green Category Clematis are vigorous bloomers.
- Each year, Green Category plants bloom primarily on new vines, often quite prolifically.
- Vines older than the current season may not be strong or viable.
- Each spring, prune the plants down to just above the lowest node showing growth, which may be just a few inches above the soil.
- Large, established plants can be pruned flat to the soil, which helps them initiate new stems.
- In most U.S. climates, new growth from the mid-season will rebloom.
- Most sprawling, shrubby Clematis are in the Green category, as are later-blooming varieties.
Green Category Clematis include such beautiful and easy plants as:
Yellow means Slow — Also referred to as Type II or Type B »
Clematis in the Yellow category, sometimes referred to as Type II or Type B Clematis, require careful pruning. Use caution to retain stems from last season for best flowering.
- Some Yellow Category Clematis cultivars can flower on new growth, but they tend to produce larger flowers on older vines from prior years.
- In spring, prune to remove ends that are damaged or showing no signs of new growth.
- A good rule of thumb is to cut the stem right above the highest set of fat buds that are breaking growth.
- Right after the first flowering period of the season, prune your Clematis to remove damaged vines.
- Yellow Category Clematis can also be pruned to maintain plant size.
- Many of the largest-flowering Clematis are in the Yellow Category.
Some of our favorite Yellow Category Clematis include:
Red means No — Also referred to as Type I or Type A »
Clematis in the Red category, sometimes referred to as Type I or Type A Clematis, should not be heavily pruned. Only trim if needed after flowering.
- Red Category Clematis only flower well on the prior year's growth.
- Trim right after the first flowering period of the season, but only to remove growth above a broken or damaged stem.
- Red Category Clematis can be pruned to maintain a tidy size, but do so carefully and with as few cuts as possible.
- Red Category Clematis are usually the earliest-blooming Clematis in your garden.
Red Category Clematis include:
Quick Tip—the earlier the Clematis blooms, the more caution you should use.
If you want to know what color a specific variety falls under, look at its product webpage:
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