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Home > Planting guide to climbing plants

A Guide to Growing Climbing Plants : Pruning, Planting and a few Growers Tips


Climbing Plants are valuable long term investments for your outdoor space to enable you to enjoy your vertical planting areas. They will provide you with privacy from your neighbours and unsightly objects, wonderful scent, flower and foliage affects and a haven for wildlife so they also feel at home in your garden.


Don't expect miracles from your vine from the moment you plant it in your garden. Any flowers that you do have on your vine will NOT have the colour intensity, size or vigour and will generally flower out of its specified flowering period - (for example your red vine starts off wine/purple and you think you have the wrong plant or a double flower you are hoping to see starts off as a smaller single - the plant just needs time to establish). Soil condition will also affect the flower colour and foliage quality, the best type being a good quality loam which retains moisture but does not waterlog (john Innes no 3 is ideal if you need to improve or condition what you have). So for the first year take time to establish its root system. You are begining a process that if you have chosen well and purchased from a reputable grower then you will be rewarded well for the effort.


Now we know the most important part of your plant is the root system and size is not important. A frequent report back is from customers who have spent £8 plus on a plant from the local garden centre and when trying to plant the root system falls apart and the plant never gets going. Our standard size climbers are grown in 9cm wide and deep pots and despatched with the pot to protect the root system in transit. They are 2 yr old vines that we prune twice to encourage a stronger vine. We use a compost additive called 'Exemptor' which ensures that the root system is strong and healthy and will establish well.


We will start with pruning advice as this is the most asked about :


Pruning Clematis



Prune 30cm above ground level above a set of strong buds.

Prune 30cm above ground level above a set of strong buds.

All clematis that you have planted new to your garden will need to be pruned down to 30cm (12") the first February/March after planting. This will give you a strong healthy climber and encourage a bushy multi-stemmed plant .  





Prune 1cm above a strong pair of buds with a sharp and clean pair of secateaurs
Prune 1cm above a strong pair of buds with a sharp and clean pair of secateurs















When, how and why? - Not complicated and the golden rule is 'Do NOT prune if it flowers before June!'



Evergreen Clematis 'Pixie' will NOT need to be pruned
Evergreen Clematis 'Pixie' will NOT need to be pruned




Growers have standardised the pruning of all clematis into three groups and just make sure you know before you buy which group it belongs to and it will reward you well.











Group 1 - No pruning

(Evergreen armandii, cirrhosa, and montanas, alpinas, macropetalas etc)

These are varieties, which flower on the previous seasons growth, they all flower early in the season. These include alpinas, macropetalas, the Evergreens and montanas. No hard pruning is required other than  a good tidy up each year, removing any dead or weak stems after flowering in late May/June and tying the remainder to its support.  Plants that have made excessive growth can be pruned back hard at this time if you wan't to reduce size. This will prevent the montanas from getting out of control and will stop others from getting a woody structure at the base. Pruning these plants at other times of the year will result in fewer flowers but will rarely damage the plant.






Group 2 - Optional Pruning

This group consists of all early, large flowered hybrids, including double and semi-double varieties. Their main flowering period is May, June and September.  They should be left unpruned, but it is usual to remove dead or weak stems in February/March the remaining should be reduced to a strong pair of buds, a variation in the length of stems should result in flowers being more evenly spread along the length of the plant.





Group 3 - Hard Pruning

Late large flowered hybrids, viticellas, texensis, herbaceous and species all fall into this group.  These produce flowers on the current seasons growth and should be reduced to two strong buds in February/March, this will normally be 12-18" from the ground.  Failure to prune these varieties may result in the plant becoming bare of leaves and flowers at the base.





Don't forget:

All clematis that you have planted new to your garden will need to be pruned down to 30cm (12") the first February/March after planting. This will give you a strong healthy climber and encourage a bushy multi-stemmed plant . 



What if i have an older clematis in my garden that has not been pruned each year and needs a bit of help?


You can rejuvenate an old, tired plant with a complete hard prune, carried out in two stages. First in late autumn, we would recommend partially pruning the clematis to waist height, tying in the remaining stems to avoid wind damage over the winter period. This partial pruning will encourage viable buds to form in the leaf joints low down on the stems which will then make the second stage, the final hard pruning (as above) in early spring more successful.




Growing Clematis in Containers -

a few tricks of the trade for show quality displays:



Clematis 'Piilu'
Clematis 'Piilu'


The size of the container is important and a container at least 18" deep and wide is ideal. You need to provide adequate drainage holes and to add plenty of crocks, stones or gravel in the bottom and stand the container on stands to allow good airflow .



The best compost is John Innes No.3 and if the pot is large and you need to bulk it up then you can add up to a quarter of peat or peat substitute. When you plant, as in the open ground, bury the first pair of shoots/nodes below ground level. Water regularly and be sure that the pot is draining well. This is important in the winter months to ensure the pot does not become water-logged.


If you have chosen a large flowering cultivar to plant in a container then this needs to be planted with 4in of stem below the surface level of compost. All the other species need only 1in of stem planted below top of compost. The Herbaceous and evergreen clematis do not need to be planted deeply. If the rootball is dry then soak in water for 30 minutes before planting.

We often plant two clematis in the same pot to demonstrate clematis as patio planters for flower shows, but for long term performance and maintenance it is best that they both belong to the same pruning group.


From late spring to early autumn we recommend using liguid tomato feed once a week. Tomorite or Tomato Maxicrop used at normal strength will improve the colour, size and quantity of our clematis blooms.


To keep these clematis compact, ignore the 'normal' pruning instructions. Hard prune in February/March and prune again hard after the first flush of flowers has finished. Also at pruning time remove an inch or two of compost from the top of the pot and replace with fresh compost to which a handful of bonemeal has been added, and water in. Every four to five years root pruning will become necessary. At pruning time when the plant is dormant cut away 10cm of root from the outside of the rootball and the same from the bottom of the rootball, and then re-pot.





Common garden pests and disease that are easily treatable.

Common garden pests and disease that are easily treatable.












































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A Guide to Planting Clematis & Climbing Plants
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A Guide to Pruning Clematis & Climbing Plants
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A Guide to Growing Clematis & Climbing Plants in Patio Containers
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