Trim clematis in spring [UPDATED]Published 6:03am Tuesday, February 12, 2013 Updated 8:05am Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Every spring, the extension office gets calls from people wondering how or if to prune clematis. The problem is, there are 3 different types of the vine, groups A, B and C. if you kept your plant tag, it will tell you which group you have.
Forget about group A. it’s not hardy here.
Group B, like “Nellie Moser,” usually flowers in mid spring on last year’s stems. Later in the season, they have blooms on this years’ stems.
The flowers are all over the plant. if you have a double flowering clematis, the odds are it is in this group.
As soon as you see leaf buds starting to swell, in early spring, remove all the dead leaves so you can see what you are doing. Cut off any broken or dead branches. These will be the branches with no buds on them. Now you need your artistic side.
Stand back and take a good look at the vine. Is it filling the trellis?
If not, trim back some of the long stems that are sticking out. If it is thin, bend these stems back on to the trellis.
You may have to tie them there. If it is too thick, you can either cut it off the trellis to thin it or just thin out some of the branches.
You will have to tie it back on the trellis if you pull it away. Do train new growth back into the trellis.
Then there is group C. this group flowers mostly on new growth.
They are later to bloom than group B, in late spring or early summer. If they haven’t been properly pruned, they will have naked stems and a full head of blooms and leaves, not the prettiest look.
These are easy to prune. As soon as you see new sprouts starting to swell, about the time the tulips are blooming, cut the whole vine down to about a foot. Now they will bloom their full length.
If however, you want them to cover a tall wall or your pergola, fasten the long, bare stems to the structure and cut only the top 1/2 to 1/3. They will only bloom on the top this way.
All clematis want warm heads and cold feet. With group C, you may need to plant quite a tall perennial or annual at its feet to shade them. with group B, the covering plant will not need to be quite as tall but do provide shade of some type for her.
About pruning, now is the time to prune your apple trees. Get out the step ladder, the snow is deep. As all gardeners know, gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener for Otter Tail County.