Pruning Your Clematis

Pruning Your Clematis
Pruning Your Clematis
The Spring Hill Nurseries® EZ Pruning Guide

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.

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 best on new vines, often quite prolifically.
  • Vines older than the current season may be damaged, hard prune for best results.
  • 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 after a mid season trim will rebloom with in 6 weeks. 
  • Most sprawling, shrubby Clematis are in the Green category.

Green Category Clematis include such beautiful and easy plants as:

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:

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 right after spring blooming. 
  • 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:

Where to check pruning details

Have another question? Return to the Customer Service Help page or send an e-mail directly to Customer Service