Properly prune your climbing plants

July 28, 2015

You'll occasionally need to prune your climbing plants, whether it's to repair winter damage or to prevent them from obscuring doors and windows. Fortunately, most climbers are easy to prune and maintain. Here's how.

Properly prune your climbing plants

Give your plants a proper pruning

Here are the most common types of climbers and how to prune them:

  • Wisteria: Prune the shoots back to about six flower buds in midsummer, then prune again to about three buds in midwinter.
  • Self-clinging climbers: Remove unwanted growth as necessary from climbers such as ivy and Virginia creeper, ideally in spring.
  • Twining forms: Cut back climbers such as honeysuckle, passion flower, and akebia between late autumn and early spring. If your plant is extra vigorous or straggly, you can prune after flowering.
  • Herbaceous climbers: Cut climbers such as hops and perennial sweet peas to ground level in the late autumn.
  • Winter jasmine: Thin out unwanted growth in the late spring after flowering.  You can cut out dense tangled growth or unwanted long shoots at any time of year.
  • Clematis: Pruning depends on plant variety and flowering time. If in doubt, treat your plant as mid-season type.

When pruning, follow these guidelines whenever possible:

  • Cut back early flowering plant varieties immediately after flowering to remove old growth and encourage new flowering stems — but only once plants are well established. Don't cut back to more than about 1 metre (3.3 feet) in height or your plants won't flower the following year.
  • Once mid-season flowering varieties are well established, prune them gently in the early spring, removing only dead or damaged growth for flowers high up on stems. For mature plants at head height, prune them lower down in the same season to about 1.5 metres/5 feet.
  • For varieties that flower late in the season (midsummer onwards), prune right back in early spring to about 30 centimetres (12 inches) from the ground, before leaves are fully opened.
  • When pruning, cut to just above a pair of buds.

When cared for well, climbing plants add beauty and personality to your home and garden. Prune your plants properly to ensure that they blossom, grow, and flourish every year.

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