Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

The Laidback Gardener’s Guide to Clematis Pruning

20151007AClematis experts classify into three pruning groups. You’re supposed to prune group 1 and 2 clematis after they bloom in the spring, because their flower buds are formed the previous year. If you prune them in late fall or early spring, you’d be eliminating the next year’s first flowers. Group 3 clematis, on the other hand, bloom on new wood. You’re told to prune these severely in the fall or early spring. If you prune them too late in the spring, you’ll be removing stems with flower buds and therefore they won’t bloom.

Fine enough, but what do you do if you don’t know what group your clematis belong to? I suggest taking a laidback gardener attitude towards the situation and not pruning at all! That way, whether they bloom on new wood or old, you won’t be accidentally removing their upcoming flowers.

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When buds begin to swell in early spring, you can easily tell which stems are alive and which are dead.

Over time, though, dead stems will start to accumulate. If this bothers you, there is a period when it is safe to prune any type of clematis: in mid-spring, when the new buds begin to swell and the first leaves appear. It’s the only moment when It is easy to distinguish between living and dead stems. At that time, you simply have to remove any stem that shows no sign of life.

Simple, isn’t it?

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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