Clematis vines are equally at home accenting beautiful architecture or brightening old weather-stained wood structures. Clematis vines have 300 named varieties and thousands of hybrids. The word clematis is Greek for climbing vine, and although a few of the varieties are shrub-like, most of them are vigorous climbing vines reaching heights of 30 or more feet. Knowledge of the clematis life cycle helps you coax the flowers to bloom.
Pay attention to the plant’s blooming time to determine whether it is a spring bloomer, a summer bloomer or a spring and fall bloomer. Most will put out a blossom or two the first year and more the second year.
Prune clematis to a height of 12 inches after its first growing season, so the root system has a chance to get large enough to support to top growth. Repeat this pruning after the second season as well if growing conditions or the location produces poor root development.
Prune the spring-blooming clematis blossoms after they bloom since the new blossoms develop on the previous year's growth. This will give the plant as much time as possible to grow and set up the following spring's blooms. Before blooming begins in the spring, cut the the branch tips. This encourages growth off that branch, resulting in a fuller looking vine. Pick off dead or dying blooms during the blooming season, which can last a couple of months.Cut back the flowering stems to the supporting main branch after the blooming season ends. Leave the main stem alone unless you want it to be a little shorter. The new growth that buds out after the pruning carries the blossoms next year.
Prune the summer bloomers early in the spring. These plants bloom on the current year's growth from June through August. Cut back the plant severely in the spring so that it is only about 12 inches high. During the growing season you can continue to prune the plant, but if you cut out new growth, the blossoms will be reduced for the following bloom season. Pruning does force new growth of healthy shoots to blossom in the summer. Let the plant grow as high as you want, but remember it grows vigorously if you don't cut it back.
Cut back the spring/summer bloomers by trimming their growth buds. This type of clematis can be challenging for the home gardeners since it blooms on the current year's growth as well as the previous year's growth. If it is not pruned, it grows into a massive tangled mess of vines. It will flowers all summer until September. Cut off the tips in the spring back to the first good leaf bud to force side growth. Later in the season, after the second blooms have passed, cut back some of the old wood to keep it under control.
Cut out the diseased portions of the vine at any time. Spray any blackened leaves with fungicide.
Prune your vine into just about any form that you like, as clematis is such a vigorous grower. Most of the varieties are vines and grow linearly rather han bush-like, unless you cut off the growing tip. Keep trimming the tip, and the plant will soon be very bushy.