Advanced Clematis Pruning:
Beyond the Basics

The Frozen North Pruning System will take care of most of your clematis pruning needs.
However, sometimes special circumstances arise that require an out-of-the-box approach.

Overgrown 'Full Prune' Clematis
Lazy 'Don't Bother' Clematis
Fall Pruning
Pruning New Clematis

Eyre's Gift clematis

Pruning shears ship for free with your clematis order.

Overgrown 'Full Prune' Clematis

If your clematis blooms in late June or July, it is known as a Full Prune clematis and should be pruned back in early spring. However, life sometimes gets in the way, and pruning doesn't happen as it would in a perfect world. And if this only happens for a year or two, it's no big deal - just resume pruning the correct way and all will be well.
If your Full Prune clematis hasn't been pruned in many years, the shock of cutting the entire plant back could be too much for it! In this case, the best thing is to Full Prune 1/3 to 1/2 of the stems this spring. Make sure to fertilize according to our recommendations this year and then next spring Full Prune another 1/3 to 1/2 of the old growth, along with the section you Full Pruned this year. You’ll be able to tell the older growth because the stems will be significantly heavier and thicker than the new growth.

Lazy 'Don't Bother' Clematis

So your Early Flowered Hybrid clematis is underwhelming you. Maybe it's not blooming well or has a lot of unhealthy foliage or just isn't very thick. What's a body to do? Well, as long as you've been following our fertilizing instructions and the plant is AT LEAST three years old**, you have a slick trick up your sleeve. The next time you prune your Full Prune clematis, prune the Lazy 'Don't Bother' clematis as well. Then make sure you carefully follow our fertilizing instructions and see what happens! The bloom schedule will be thrown off for the first year, but you should see a dramatic improvement in performance!

**Please remember this:
First year they sleep,
Second year they creep.
Third year they leap.

If your clematis is less than three years old, there's probably nothing wrong and you just need to be patient.

Fall Pruning

We're often asked whether it's OK to prune clematis in the fall, instead of waiting until late winter/early spring. The answer is, "Welllll, kinda..."

  • It is OK to prune clematis in the fall ONLY if you wait until Very Late Fall - when you're sure the plant is really, truly dormant, like in early December.
  • Even in Very Late Fall, the vines will not be as brittle as they will be in March. This means it is harder to remove them from their supports.
  • This is more of a problem if they are climbing through a shrub or growing with a rose; the extra force needed to remove the clematis can damage their partners.
  • Fall pruning works best for small clematis that grow among other herbaceous perennials or clematis that are allowed to sprawl on the ground.

Pruning New Clematis

You're going to like this: We keep the clematis quite short while we are growing them for you, so you won't need to do any pruning when you get them. Keeping them short provides several other benefits as well:
  • They become fuller, better branched plants sooner.
  • They don't tangle (as much!) while sitting on our benches.
  • They fit better into the boxes when we ship them!
  • They are much less apt to break on the way to their new home with you.
  • They are easier for you to plant without stems breaking!