How to prune clematis

Clematis are divided into 3 groups or categories for pruning purposes, a lot of people worry about pruning their clematis, but it is very simple if you follow the guide lines below...

Group 1 (e.g Alpina, Montana, Armandii)
These are mostly the early spring varieties that flower on previous year's growth. Little or no pruning, unless they have outgrown their allocated space, in which case they should be pruned immediately after flowering.

These need a tidy when they finish flowering. Don't leave this too late or you'll lose next year's flowers – June/July is perfect. Cut hard back to a tight structure. Always hold your pruners vertically to avoid cutting into a central vine. Tie plants in strongly to the frame, as they will – at full tilt next spring – carry a lot of weight. Feed and mulch with a general-purpose organic fertiliser.

Group 2 (e.g Perle D'Azur)
These produce their flowers in May and early June on stems made in the previous year, so prune lightly in February. To do this, follow your way down from the top of each stem until you reach a healthy bud and then cut on a slant just above it and remove old, dead stems above it. Do not prune too vigorously or you will lose the flowers, prune again after flowering if required, if not leave for second flush of flowers.

Group 3 (late summer, e.g Prince Charles, Madame Julia Correvon & Texensis)
Hard pruning as these flower on the new seasons growth. In February, cut all stems (just above a healthy new bud) approximately 30cm from the ground, remove all dead growth above this. It sounds drastic, but they will grow and flower in one season.

These late summer-flowering, viticella-type clematis (for example, 'Bill Mackenzie’) need training and guiding up and over shrubs and climbing roses to maximise their impact. Without this they tend to make a congested nest. Spread the stems out on their support or frame, tying them in with gentle Flexi-Tie or sweet pea twizzles as you go.

If you are unsure or forget which group your Clematis fall into, the simple way to remember is that if they flower before June, prune lightly as they will flower on the previous year's growth. If they flower from late June onwards, hard prune in February as they will flower on new seasons growth.