How best to prune this one?

Julia NY(6)October 14, 2010

This is 1 of 2 existing clematis I have in my garden. As you can see, I've shamefully neglected this one. I have no idea what it is called but I did buy it probably 5 years ago. I just let it run wild and as you can see the little metal trellis it is climbing on is not adequate. It vined up one side and is now flopped over the other side but I have alot of bare wood vine showing for at least 2 feet if not more.

I bought a 6ft wooden trellis to replace the metal one. Since the vines are all tangled up in the metal trellis, as well as on itself, could I just cut this back? If so, how far up from the ground should I cut? I was planning on doing the pruning in the spring around March. It is still blooming here.

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Pic of blooms which start around end of May and continue until we have a hard frost.

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I'm not up on identification ---there's more than 1000 different varieties of clematis so the way I suggest you get its name is by going to
otherwise, when does the plant bloom...early or toward mid summer. Does it bloom on old wood, then re-bloom late on new wood. That can identify the type.
If it blooms on just new wood, it is safe to say its a class "C" and can be cut down to the ground ...well to 18" March or April (depending on your weather at the time) and it will regrow and bloom on all its new wood.
If it blooms on old and new...its probably a class 'B' plant and it should be cleaned up as necessary, remove any old or damaged stems and cut back as you see fit.
If it blooms on old early, then its probably a class "A" and it should be again cleaned up as you see fit and given protection so the snow doesn't bring it down.

In any case, a cleamtis cannot be harmed by pruning at the wrong time....only set it back in bloom time.
You can sacrifice some bloom by cutting it back to manageable size if its the type that bloom on old wood.
The trouble with not pruning is if it blooms on new wood, where you leave off in the fall, that's the starting place for bloom on new wood in the spring.
Thus a 6 foot clematis with bloom at the 5 foot level...and not below, will begin to bloom there...and climb up. In the meantime the bottom of the plant has no bloom...its the old wood there.

I suggest you, for next season, cut it back swome...say half-way....see what bloom results and plan for the next season on what you see as far as where the bloom starts and finishes.
In any case, do protect the mass of stems from how the snow might affect it. Tie to the trellis securely whatever stems you have so that the heavy snow doesn't bring down the trellis and the plant. give you lots of answers about what type you might have.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 12:56PM
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Julia NY(6)

goren: Thank you for the explanation.
As you can see from the pic, I haven't maintained it at all. It just keeps growinig more vines off the old plant which resembles a big ball of twine. I will cut it back next spring so I can get the vine off the old trellis, get the new trellis in place and see what happens.

I have another one but that one dies back each season and sends up new vines each season. Doesn't get very tall either...maybe 3 to 4 feet. And flowers very little.

Since I plan to get more clematis, I will need to do a better job of growing and maintaining them.

Thanks for all the help.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 7:45AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

It is not a type A/I no prune for sure. It doesn't look like a B/II the Large Flowered Hybrids either. The flowers are small which says Type C/III which should be pruned hard every year as they bloom on new wood.

Looks like Comtesse de Bouchard but there are others that are similar.

With that much tangled dry mess, I'd cut it almost to the ground no matter what Clematis it is. It won't hurt it.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 4:27PM
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Julia NY(6)

buyorsell888: I guess I will never know for sure what it is called, ie Comtesse de Bouchard or something else. Going forward, I will definitely keep tabs on who is who by putting in the same type of markers I use for my daylilies.I will have to cut it pretty far down to be able to get it off the metal trellis. Lesson learned.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 10:01AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Looks pretty close.....

You can't hurt it by cutting it back. Pruning helps Clematis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Comtesse de Bouchard

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 1:14PM
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Julia NY(6)

Thanks for the link. It certainly does look like it. I hope a 6 foot trellis is going to be tall enough.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 3:21PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Doubtful. Sorry. Six feet isn't much room for any Type III.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 11:20AM
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Julia NY(6)

Darn. Now I will have to think about moving it over to the pergola area. Oh well....


    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 6:43PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

Julia, is that a 3 or 4 ft chainlink fence behind it? If so, BorS, do you think it could run on the ground over to the fence? A chainlink fence makes an ideal trellis, doesn't it? I think the part that otherwise grows taller simply grows wider along the fence. Julia, I'm a beginner with baby clems but I've read in this forum that a clematis doesn't like to be moved & might not bloom for a long time thereafter. You could get it to look nice where it is and perhaps also propagate it and have a new one on the pergola, that way you wouldn't risk killing it. I've got a good propagation thread saved when you're ready for it. My clems are so tiny that there's nothing extra to propagate!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 10:37PM
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Julia NY(6)

river crossroads: No, the fencing is temporary to keep the deer away and sits a good distance from the garden bed. We live on a large plot of land and our fields tend to draw the deer.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 6:45AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I've moved plenty of Clematis with no problems. Big ones like the OP's. I've given my friend at least twelve and I've moved at least twelve. No worries on moving it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 11:04AM
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will be pruning mine - my husband always said no but now I feel better about it. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 12:32PM
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Julia NY(6)

I was reading the FAQ's about transplanting but I am concerned about timing of it to have the least amount of setback.

When did you transplant your clematis?


Here is a link that might be useful: FAQ

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 8:12AM
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