Clematis has a reputation for being difficult to prune, but it isn’t, as long as you know when your clematis flowers, as pruning groups are based on flowering times.

My clematis flowers early in the year (January – April) on stems produced last year

Clematis aromaticaWhen?

Prune after flowering, mid to late spring, when there is little danger of frosts 

How?

My plant is overgrown/established

Prune back dead or winter-damaged shoots to a pair of healthy buds.
To renovate, cut all stems back almost to the base, just after flowering. Apply a general fertiliser, mulch and water in dry spells. Response is generally good. Leave at least three years before pruning hard again.
Do not renovate Clematis armandii. It does not usually respond well to renovation, and pruning of established plants should be limited. Restrict them to the space available and removing, in spring, any leaves damaged by wind scorch.

I have bought a new plant

Unless the plant already has three or four healthy stems growing from the base, prune all newly planted clematis back hard the first spring after planting. Cut back to just above a strong pair of leaf buds about 30cm (12in) above soil level. This will encourage multiple stems that can be trained to supports to give good coverage.
During the spring and summer, tie in new growth, spacing stems evenly on the support.

My clematis flowers May to June on short stems produced last year or flowers in late summer on new growth

Clematis 'Carnaby'

When?

Prune in February and after the first instance of flowers in early summer

How?

My plant is overgrown/established

Prune in February as follows:

  • Remove dead or weak stems before growth begins. Check individual stems from the top down until you reach a pair of healthy buds, and prune just above them, removing the spindly or damaged growth above.
  • Avoid heavy pruning or flowers will be lost.

Prune after the first flush of flowers:

  • To encourage a second flush of flowers later in the season prune back some stems by cutting to large buds or a strong sideshoot immediately below the blooms.

I have bought a new plant

Unless the plant already has three or four healthy stems growing from the base, prune all newly planted clematis back hard the first spring after planting. Cut back to just above a strong pair of leaf buds about 30cm (12in) above soil level. This will encourage multiple stems that can be trained to supports to give good coverage.
During the spring and summer, tie in new growth, spacing stems evenly on the support.

My clematis flowers in late summer

Clematis 'Princess Diana'

When?

Prune typically in February when the buds start to break

How?

I have inherited an established/overgrown plant

In February or March, cut back all the old stems to the lowest pair of healthy buds 15-30cm (6-12in) above soil level.

I have bought my plant.

Unless the plant already has three or four healthy stems growing from the base, prune all newly planted clematis back hard the first spring after planting. Cut back to just above a strong pair of leaf buds about 30cm (12in) above soil level. This will encourage multiple stems that can be trained to supports to give good coverage.
In February or March, cut back all the old stems to the lowest pair of healthy buds 15-30cm (6-12in) above soil level.

See more information on the wonderful and colourful world of clematis


Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.