Late blooming clematis can be cut low, or lower

Clematis vines can be cut right to the ground and will grow back to be full of foliage and even flowers right to the base. Yet sometimes we don't cut all the way back.

This clematis and the driftwood share a stage. Cut the clematis all the way back to give the wood a chance to star. The vine will gradually reclaim its position and be draping the log by bloom time.

This clematis and the driftwood share a stage. Cut the clematis all the way back to give the wood a chance to star. The vine will gradually reclaim its position and be draping the log by bloom time.

Two late blooming clematis vines share this trellis, a C. viticella variety and C. texensis cultivar. They are rooted right at the trellis base so we know their new growth will immediately find the trellis and head up to the light. We cut them both to the ground each spring and by bloom time in July they fill this 8' x 8' space

Two late blooming clematis vines share this trellis, a C. viticella variety and C. texensis cultivar. They are rooted right at the trellis base so we know their new growth will immediately find the trellis and head up to the light. We cut them both to the ground each spring and by bloom time in July they fill this 8' x 8' space

This clematis also has immediate access to its support, so we can cut it right to the ground.

This clematis also has immediate access to its support, so we can cut it right to the ground.

This late blooming Clematis viticella hybrid can be cut to the ground but we prefer to see it start into growth at the lattice work rather than let it start from the ground and wander up into the adjacent yew.

This late blooming Clematis viticella hybrid can be cut to the ground but we prefer to see it start into growth at the lattice work rather than let it start from the ground and wander up into the adjacent yew.

So we cut one stem to the ground each spring to encourage new basal growth. The rest of the stems we shorten to just above their first points of attachment to the lattice.

So we cut one stem to the ground each spring to encourage new basal growth. The rest of the stems we shorten to just above their first points of attachment to the lattice.

About timing hard cuts:

Usually, late winter or early spring, before growth starts for the year. Sometimes we miss our timing and growth has already started when we arrive to prune --- then, we beg the vine's forgiveness and cut anyway. In the case of the vine pictured previously, growing up a wire trellis to a white post. That vine we cut back in fall. Technically that's not a sound procedure since a fall cut back can starve a woody plant. However, the vine is not pretty in winter and pretty is what we want here quite near the family's main-use door. So we take our chances, cutting it back as late as we can work in fall and accepting the possibility that we may have to replant one spring.

About support for vines:

Some vines twine, some adhere. That should affect your choice of support. Lattice with all its openings can provide climbing surface for a clematis, which grabs by twining its leaf stalks. However, it is a mistake to attach lattice flush to a wall, as in the previous photos. The eunoymus vine on the left side of the picture can climb because it adheres; it doesn't even need the lattice. However, we had to put hooks into the lattice so the clematis has projections to twine around. To hang lattice as a support for a twining vine, attach blocks to the wall and then attach the lattice to the blocks. This leaves a gap the vine can slip through.

A clematis will follow itself. This vine twines around hooks set in the wood. It can be cut to the ground save for one stem. Clip that one stem just above a place where it has hold of a hook and it will act as leader and handhold for the new basal growth.

A clematis will follow itself. This vine twines around hooks set in the wood. It can be cut to the ground save for one stem. Clip that one stem just above a place where it has hold of a hook and it will act as leader and handhold for the new basal growth.

Many other variables can affect how low we prune. One spring day when things just didn't work as planned we couldn't cut this clematis just "right." In Growing Concerns 611 we made about half the usual cut based on time and a storm's approach. No sweat; the vine would be a little bare at its base for one year, then we'd go back to routine the next spring.

Many other variables can affect how low we prune. One spring day when things just didn't work as planned we couldn't cut this clematis just "right." In Growing Concerns 611 we made about half the usual cut based on time and a storm's approach. No sweat; the vine would be a little bare at its base for one year, then we'd go back to routine the next spring.

More in Growing Concerns 611.