Pruning Unidentified Clematis
12 March 2010 15:56:52
Today I got the roses and clematis pruned and a bit of clearing done.
I am no expert on pruning clematis but thought that the following might be useful to others in the same boat.
For pruning purposes, clematis fall into 3 groups. If you're like me, you may not know what clematis you have or what group it falls into. So, what to do?
Remembering when your clematis flowered last year is key. If you're lucky enough to have an early flowering clematis then you are off the hook. There is no need to prune as you would only end up cutting off the flowers which are about to open. Leave well enough alone.
If your clematis flowered later than spring last year then it would fall into either group 2 or 3 for pruning. Pruning for both these groups is similar so in the absence of a positive id, I would opt for group 2 pruning. Group 2 pruning is less severe that group 3 so if you do this pruning but your clematis is actually a group 3 clematis, then at least you won't kill it. The worst that could happen is that you build up more woody stem than is necessary.
Group 2 pruning involves removing a few stems right back to the set of buds nearest the ground. Then, all remaining stems should be tip pruned, back to the highest set of buds.
A few things I found useful...
1) Get a chair. Start at the top. From the top you can easily prune back to the topmost set of buds on each stem.
2) Bring a scissors and string with you. Be prepared to cut the existing ties and re-tie your clematis. It may be much easier than trying to work around existing ties.
3) Any woody tendrils serve no useful purpose. The whole pruning job is made harder by the complication of woody tendrils wrapping themselves around branches. It is easy to get confused. Cut off any tendrils that are in your way or are making it difficult to work out which one is the stem. The tendrils extend horizontally from each stem and grab anything in their path. Cut as many of them off as you need to. Cut them all off if you want.
4) Dead leaves are no use either. Cut as many of them off as you want.
5) Strong buds are easy to see but barely emerging buds are harder. Your clematis may be farther behind than normal because of the cold weather.
6) If you make a mistake and cut a healthy stem, don't give up! Don't pull up the whole plant in frustration! Your plant will probably do fine without that stem and probably the worst you have done is gotten rid of a few extra flowers. Your attempt at pruning, even with mistakes, is undoubtedly better than no pruning.
I hope this is helpful.