Questions related to pruning: (click on the question)

What is pruning?

How do I prune my clematis?

How do I prune my Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper)?

How do I prune my Vitis coignetiae (grape vine)?

How do I prune my Hydrangea petiolaris (climbing hydrangea)?

How do I prune my Solanum (potato vine)?

How do I prune my Trachleospernum (star jasmine)?

What happens when we prune?

Your questions answered:

Q: What is pruning?

A: Simply put, pruning is cutting and trimming the branches of a shrub or tree.

There are two pruning techniques, FORMATIVE and MAINTENANCE.

Formative pruning is carried out on newly planted trees and shrubs to encourage the plant to form a balanced shape.

Maintenance pruning is carried out to encourage the plant to produce new, strong growth, flowers and to remove any dead, diseased and damaged growth – all of which will weaken the plant by being an entry point for pests and diseases.

Most plants need a prune at some time in their development. It's a broad brush-stroke but if something flowers after June then you are safe enough to prune it in spring. Like everything in life there are exceptions so grab yourself a brew, maybe a few Rich Tea biscuits (only because someone has snaffled all the Jaffa cakes), snuggle down in your favourite chair and check out our plant specific pruning guides.

Q: How do I prune my clematis?

A: Firstly, the worse you can do by pruning a clematis incorrectly is to delay flowering by a year or so. It is difficult to kill  your clematis outright, and indeed most plants, by pruning. Now that worry is out of the way, there are a fw tips and tricks to bear in mind for all your clematis pruning activities:

  • February is a key month. It’s during Feb when many of the popular clematis need some kind of attention. Clear your diary.
  • Always use clean and sharp secateurs. This prevents diseases being spread around the garden and makes the job easier.
  • Whenever you are having a nibble at your clems do make sure to remove dead stems or anything that looks diseased. It’s generally all round good gardening practice.
  • Newly planted clems should be pruned to the lowest pair of buds in spring. This encourages more stems to be produced which in turn will produce a better display down the line. It feels counter intuitive to be pruning off what you have just bought but in the long run it is best.

If your clematis is new then the chances are that the plant label will have the the pruning group printed on it. Our descriptions always tell you which pruning group your clematis belongs to.  This is all based on the time of year the clematis plant flowers. If your clematis is already growing and the label a faded memory, then simply wait for it to flower. You then know which group to place your clem into to.

Next bit - you do different things to different pruning groups, but it is easy. Honest. We’re not fond of tables ( other than potting) and spreadsheets ( other than spreading sheets of newspapers on seedlings in the greenhouse to prevent frost damage) , but we reckon this makes pruning your clematis clear:

Pruning group

When does your plant flower?

When should it be pruned?

What should be pruned?

Can it be hacked back to start again?

Group 1

January - February

March /April after flowering

Just take off faded flowers.

Of course - cut to 15cm of the soil but you will lose flowers for a year.

Group 2

March - June

February and July

Just take weak shoots in Feb and then faded flowers in July.

Yep - but again it may affect flowering for a year.

Group 3

July - September


Cut the whole lot back to a low pair of juicy buds usually around 75cm or so above the soil.

Go ahead - new growth will soon flower.

Or, just remember: if it flowers after June then give it a prune!

Print that table off, laminate it and stick it in your shed next to the secateurs (clean and sharp of course) so you never get it wrong.

So get out there and brandish you secs in your hand and get to grips with your clems. And remember, if you are fed up with straggly growth with flowers nodding at the top, or a tangled mass of wiry, non flowering stems, it’s probably all down to the pruning. And remember (again) that you can always hack the whole lot down and let the plant start again. No worries.

If you are still anxious about pruning then just get in touch, even send a few photos and we will sort you out.

Q: When do I prune my Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper)?

A: If necessary, prune immediately after flowering in mid- to late spring when the danger of frost has passed.

Q: How do I train and prune my Vitis coignetiae (grape vine)?

A: If you want your grape vine to clamber up a tree, wall or pergola, you will need to provide some support and tie it in as it grows. Once it has developed a good framework, you should shorten all the lateral shoots to within two or three buds from the main stem. It is essential that the majority of the pruning work is tackled in mid-winter as the sap tends to 'bleed' at other times of the year, but you can cut back the odd over-long stem to a healthy bud in summer.

Q: How do I prune my Hydrangea petiolaris (climbing hydrangea)?

A: Once it has started to climb, the process of which can be assisted by tying in new stems, the growth rate of the climbing hydrangea will increase. It should be pruned after flowering, simply by removing spent flower heads and trimming any wayward shoots back to healthy buds.

Q: How do I prune my Solanum (potato vine)?

A: Firstly, make sure your hands are protected with gloves when pruning your potato vine. Remove overcrowded and browned shoots. It can be cut hard back and will regenerate from old wood.

Q: How do I prune my Trachleospernum (star jasmine)?

A: Prune in spring to remove any shoots damaged by winter cold and cut back straggly side shoots to approx.150mm of the permanent framework to encourage flowering.

Q: What happens when we prune?

A: There's one piece of gardening advice that crops up time and time again. 'Nip out the growing point to encourage bushy growth'. It's a basic form of pruning and chances are you've done it to your fuchsias and pelargoniums to prevent one shoot from growing away to eventually produce a lanky plant. Get nipping and you will end up with a bushy specimen. But what is actually happening when your thumb and forefinger spring into action?

We are into the murky world of hormones. Yep, plants have them in the same measure as teenagers and the growing tips of shoots have lots. Think of a shoot tip – the main shoot on your plant. That tip is producing and pumping down a plant hormone called auxin. It inhibits the growth of buds lower down – that shoot tip is top dog and won't let anything take its limelight. Get rid of it and suddenly the side shoots beneath are allowed to grow. So instead of one shoot growing tall, you then have side shoots growing. Let them grow a bit and their own leading shoot pumps out auxins to lower shoots and prevents them from growing. Nip out the new leader and, hey presto, the next set of side shoots are allowed to grow. Allow them to grow a bit and then… you get the idea.

So, it's all down to plant hormones. Remove the source of auxin at the top and lower shoots will grow. Simple but clever!