Pruning Clematis

Hi Mark,

Thank you for sharing your question.

Here is what you asked:

I grow a number of Clematis. Majority are Jackmani. I usually prune in the fall, down to about 2" above ground. I was otherwise pre-occupied this past fall and failed to prune as usual. Now I see budding coming off the old wood, alot, but not thick and less than aesthetically pleasing. Can I leave them and expect over time for the green and flowers to fill out, or can I prune them back now without damaging them? Also, does one prune Honeysuckle? Thanks! 

For the benefit of our readers: The answer refers to spring. 

How to prune clematis jackmani

With your permission, I'll use your question for the benefit of our readers. I'm aware that people are afraid to cut clematis and cause them damage, but fear not my friends. The worst thing that can happen is that you will delay bloom. Now let us see how I can help you with your beautiful climber...

I'll start with short diagnose, like you wrote, and from what I can see in the picture, your clematis has already woken up from its winter sleep. Looking at it's size, in my opinion, you have no reason at all to prune right now. Wait until next fall and go back to your 2 inches above ground routine. In the meantime, you can definitely make some improvements.. Here's what you can do: 

Pruning clematis - Two options

Option #1 - Sanitation pruning - This isn't really an option, it's my personal recommendation. Look for dead branches, the ones that look and feel dried and dead, and just cut them as close to the ground or the mother stem as you can. See the picture below where I have marked them with red lines. It doesn't matter what kind of clematis you grow, sanitation pruning is always good and healthy for the plant. 

Option #2 - When pruning clematis, this one is not a must, but if you do decide to prune, with the aim of encouraging new growth, which is fine, make sure you don't cut it all back. First decided about the height, and then choose the stems you wish to cut. Make the cut 1/2 inch above the node, see the purple lines I've marked on the picture. Find the and prune nodes that have already begun to swell.

Finally, pruning clematis isn't rocket science, and in both cases you will get new growth for the summer. Then soon after, in fall, you'll be back to your routine, cutting it back for a new cycle of growth.

I hope that helped.

Happy pruning!


Providing general guidelines on 'how to prune' any kind of plant is important, but there are plants, and there is YOUR plant. So despite there being loads of information on this site, I also provide specific and personalized support. If something wasn't clear, or you're not sure of your plant's name, simply send me a picture with your question. Use the form below and I'll get back to you. In the mean time, see what others are asking.