Prune Clematis for Top to Bottom Blooms, this is not a general clematis pruning guideline but how to renovate an overgrown or spindly growing one.
Again I need to repeat, this is not how you prune your clematis generally. This post is really about how to renovate clematis that may be blooming all on top but down below is bare vines. This is my Warsaw Nike clematis. It is in Group 3, a Summer bloomer that blooms on new wood on into Fall. (it is often sold as Group 2 but after having it several years it is definitely a Group 3)
This method will also work on Group 1 & 2, you may sacrifice some blooms on any of them the first season after the renovation prune but it will give you top to bottom blooms. In the long run you get more blooms and a prettier plant.
This method can be done from November on into March. I choose November as I can access mine then, come any later and the ground could be covered in snow until June.
(when starting a new garden I do so in Fall as noted in this article, Start a Lazy Gal’s Garden)
This past Summer my Warsaw only bloomed way high at the top and did not re-bloom as prolifically as years prior. Notice the tangle at the top of the lattice and on the porch rails. If you follow it down you note the bare woody vines towards the base.
I start by cutting the entire top back by a third. I just used the porch floor as my guideline and cut across the tangle of vines.
This helps me to see which vines come from which canes at the bottom.
The bottom near the ground is overgrown with other plants which I need to remove to get a clear picture of the base of the clematis and what I am working with. So out with all the other plants. Nothing here is dear so I start yanking them out and tossing into the compost bucket. (note: if you struggle with a fungus that can kill back clematis do not compost your vines)
Clearing it all away shows me this…
I have strong woody vines coming from the base, 5 good strong ones and one small one that is very limber. I pull the skinny limber one to the side so as not to accidentally cut it during my foray with the pruners. I will show you what I am going to do with that long skinny vine later.
I cut one of the thick canes back to the ground then one 12 inches from the ground. Right now my favorite pruners are these Fiskars Bypass Pruning Shears, and for larger vines I use the Loppers (these came in really handy when I pruned back the larger canes on my Climbing Rose) This will encourage new growth lower on the clematis. new growth is a good thing.
The next cane, the center one is cut at about 3 feet long.
The cane on the left is one I left longer, it goes in behind the trellis and comes out at the base of the porch floor.
The cane on the right actually goes behind the trellis and snakes over to the right side and back out around the corner, I left it to erupt from the other side but cut it back to the floor base as well.
By cutting the canes at the different lengths I will get new growth and blooms all along the plant from the base all the way to the top. Some suggest just cutting these to the ground every 3 years but I would have to sacrifice the height until the following year. This way I can still enjoy my clematis blooms covering this lattice all the way up to my porch railing.
So that leaves the long skinny more limber cane….I buried it along the ground, not deep, just under the soil..you can see the leaves on the left and under the bare dirt is the vine. This will stay this way all winter and if everything goes as planned it will root in more than one spot along the vine…
like this one below…I know it doesn’t look that convincing but towards the center where there are some brownish leaves is a clematis that rooted where it touched the ground. I will dig this up and replant it elsewhere after severing the vine from the mother plant.
This is called layering…it is similar to Air Layering, like I shared in this post..Air Layering for Propagating Roses
Next Summer I will show you how well my newly renovated Clematis is doing. Now I have about 5 more I need to do this to.