Celebrating Clematis!

Clematis are divided into three groups.  We assign each clematis to a group based upon the time of year the plant flowers, and when the growth that holds their flowers develops.  By evaluating our clematis and assigning our plants to a specific group, we can establish the optimum time to prune our clematis.

  • Group One Clematis produce their flowering stems in the summer before flowering and bloom early in the year (in autumn, winter, and springtime).
  • Group Two Clematis produce larger sized flowers in May and June, and they sometimes also produce smaller flowers in September.
  • Group Three Clematis flower from late summer to early autumn; these plants’ flowers are delivered on new growth produced from early spring onwards.

If you prune a plant at the wrong time of year, you can literally remove the new growth that would have borne blooms, leaving you without flowers during your plant’s next blooming period.  If we leave Group three clematis unpruned, the old growth looks bare and tatty at eye-level; whilst the new growth emerges on top of the old growth, pushing the flowers further up – often up and into next door’s garden, leaving our fences bare!

If you’re growing Group three clematis, get out your snips or sharpest scissors out in February and prune your clematis.  It’s very easy, follow the stems from the ground up and cut above the second pair of buds; this can be anywhere from 15-45cm (6″- 18″) above ground.  Pruning will allow your new growth to have room to grow up and flower.  Make sure you have trellis, wires, an arch, or something for your clematis to climb up, or you may end up with a jumbled tangle and you’ll miss out on the best views of your plant.

Group Two clematis can be cut back by a third in mid-February, whilst Group one clematis don’t require any pruning at all (minimal tidying up immediately after flowering).

If you’re growing a Clematis, please remember to provide your plant with a decent structure to climb on. These plants need supports positioned low down at their base and all the way up to the plant’s highest growth. This is one of my favourite Group One Clematis, Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica.

Clematis cirrhosa (Group one) are winter flowering clematis with attractive ferny foliage that thrive in sunshine or partial shade.  Clematis cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’ 2.5-3m (8-10ft) is a lovely snow-white flowered clematis, which flowers in December and January.  Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ 3-3.5m (10-12ft) delivers its cream flowers in January and February.

Many cirrhosa types bloom in February; look out for one of my favourites, Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica 2.5-3m (8-10ft) with its gorgeous cream flowers so delightfully speckled with maroon.  Other options include, Clematis cirrhosa purpurascens ‘Freckles’ 3-3.5m (10-12ft) which displays more concentrated wine-coloured freckles, and Clematis cirrhosa purpurascens ‘Lansdowne Gem’ 3.5m (12ft) with its deep claret-coloured flowers.

Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica produces cream coloured flowers with these fabulous maroon freckles, from December to March.
Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica is a Group one clematis that needs minimal pruning. Remove any dead stems and give your plant a light trim if it’s really necessary – it’s vital that you do this immediately after your clematis finishes flowering in springtime. I found that I never needed to prune any of my Clematis cirrhosa plants. Pictured in February.

For summer flowers, Clematis ‘Étoile Rose’ 2.5m (8ft) (Group three) is a versatile climber with deep-pink nodding bell-shaped flowers that will happily grow in shade, partial shade, or sunshine, in any moist but well-drained soil.

Peatlands urgently need our protection; please use peat-free compostThe Responsible Sourcing Scheme launched in January 2022, so the labelling on compost bags is changing.  Click here to read my response to the open letter promoting the continued use of peat written by a group of well-known horticulturists.  The UK Government’s Peat Consultation is now open, please complete their online questionnaire.

For more gardening advice for February, please click here.

For more ideas of climbing plants, please click here.

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For more articles about Clematis, please click here.

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