Jobs to do in February

A major job in my garden each February is to prune the clematis – a big job as I have over one hundred!

Fortunately I kept a note of which one went where so it’s not as hard as it could be. A tip …. even take note of where you plant your first one as you will be sure to plant others. Also, if you are planting several in one place, plant all from the same pruning group which will make things much easier going forward.

Pruning clematis mystifies and confuses people but it really needn’t. The most difficult thing is to know which group the plant belongs to. To summarise:-

Pruning Group 1 needs little pruning. Clematis like this Clematis macropetala “Snowbird” below and Montanas just need a trim to keep shape but, if necessary, prune immediately after flowering in mid- to late spring when the danger of frost has passed. Dead stems can be removed and branches wandering outside the space you wish them to grow. If plants are completely overgrown a hard prune to 0.5m can usually invigorate but flowers will be many less the next year and the plant will need several years to re-establish itself.

Pruning Clematis

Clematis macropetala “Snowbird”

Pruning Group 2 (early flowering), such as this Clematis “Westerplatte” climbing up my door frame, should have the top 30/45cm pruned back by cutting to large buds or a strong side shoot in February. This will retain the size and shape of the old wood at the same time encouraging new flowering shoots. If the prune is too hard however future flowers will be lost.


Pruning Clematis

Clematis “Westerplatte”

Group 3 (late flowering) needs a hard prune to a healthy pair of buds to 30-45cms from base, again in February. Clematis “Prince Charles” below belongs to this group. These Clematis grow each year from the base of the plant so can weather a hard prune well. Be bold though, as you will be tempted to leave all of the wood already sprouting leaves and flower buds in February – however this will result in a top heavy plant only producing flowers at a height.

At the same time as pruning its a really good idea to tie in all stems getting a little unruly, ensure supports are firmly in place, check that the plant’s roots are still in the shade and give a handful of blood fish and bone to each.

I do sometimes find it heartbreaking to throw away some of the rampant growth and buds that have been pruned, so often stick cuttings in a free draining pot to see what happens and…. low and behold… I end up with even more clematis!!

Pruning Clematis

Clematis Prince Charles

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  • Paul F

    Hi Dawn. Enjoyed your post. I planted my first clematis last year – a Westerplatte. I followed some online advice and cut the 2 stems down to the biggest buds, about 1ft off the ground. Also noticing 3-4 new shoots coming up from the ground, so I’m encouraged. Not sure if I’ll get any flowers this year – those buds I left on the 2 stems should flower I think? I’ll be shopping for a couple more clematis plants this year – I think I’m hooked. 🙂

    • Dawn

      Hi Paul – thanks for your comments and glad that you’ve been bitten by the bug! I had a Westerplatte but it succumbed to wilt I’m afraid, but a beautiful variety. Dawn

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