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Clematis Montana - cut back by mistake

Yesterday I cut back hard a Clematis Montana (Freda) by mistake. I know they are not normally meant to be pruned. It's only a couple of years old - will it live?

Comments (15)

  1. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Richard, you are not alone, we've all had those "whoops!" moments and from my experience, yes, the clematis will live.

    Montana are not normally pruned because they are sold as "vigorous", and are usually only planted in a position where you want as much growth as possible - covering a garage, or an unsightly fence, that sort of thing. But, like all clematis, they "can" be pruned, if they have grown too large, or too tangled/bare at the bottom. The problem is that montana flower on last year's growth, so by chopping this one, you will have to accept that it might not flower very much next year.

    But it will be fine the year after!

    I am occasionally called on to renovate ancient clematis, and my approach is to chop them down to about knee height, regardless of which pruning group they belong to (having warned the owner that they might not flower the following season): if I'm doing it at this time of year, I'd give it a deep mulch of home-made compost, and when I say "deep" I mean 4" or so: bury it up to the neck! This is to protect the bottom-most sections from frost and harsh weather, as a hard pruning will inevitably stimulate them into growth, and those tender new buds might not make it through the winter: so if you bury them in compost, they stand more of a chance.

    Then, early next spring, give it plenty of water and it should start to regrow. After it's been growing for a month or so, look closely at the base and cut out any shoots that have failed to make buds, as they are probably dead.

    If yours is only a couple of years old, it won't be a gnarled ancient old thing, and all the stems should be fresh enough to resprout next year - but, as mentioned, you might not get any flowers next year.

    Maybe it's time to ask Santa for a garden notebook, then you can take photos and make notes to remind yourself not to do it again next winter!

  2. Grower

    Richard Holland

    Many thanks for your helpful (and reassuring) reply Rachel.

  3. Grower

    The GPS Team

    Or save Santa the trouble and list your plants on this site. You can simply add photos and notes to the listings ;-)

  4. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    Great advice. I have done the same several times in various gardens I have had over the years and am of the opinion that they are difficult to kill!

  5. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Just to be sure, if you have still got some of what you have cut off, cut out a few nodes where the leaves were, peg them in or secure them in good John Innes compost and in the spring a good percentage will have rooted. These new plants will probably re-establish better and quicker then the old damaged plant, worth a try or just get a length of stem and secure along the nodes not too deeply as if layering. One or the other will work. I did this for a client who chopped down her ' Marjorie' , a Montana with a peachy coloured blossom, and the old plant still re- sprouted without any fuss anyway, so all is by no means lost

  6. Grower


    I find Montana's are pretty forgiving, although we have had some well established plants drop dead for no apparent reason as did our beautiful Wisteria this year!!

  7. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    That's odd, a clients wisteria did just that this year. It was grown as a free standard, a method that results in much more flowers, it was established for several years and had started flowering twice a year, yet the large wall wisteria is still ok, I don't know as yet what is causing this sudden death in wisterias, probably a phytopthera blight or something. Clematis are affected with wilt mostly whilst planting. Any damage to the stem can get infected, so extra care while planting can avoid this problem

  8. Grower


    Even more of a coincidence ours was a plaited one!! yet our pergola trained wisteria is fine!!

  9. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Angela (waves), those plaited Wisteria have been tortured almost beyond endurance to get them like that, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised if they only last a few years. I'm guessing it was also in a pot, rather than in the ground?

  10. Grower

    Richard Holland

    Returning to the subject of Clematis Montana - I had a very attractive "Elizabeth" climbing a cider gum which shriveled a couple of years ago just before coming into bloom as if it needed a good watering but that didn't help and it soon died (cutting it back couldn't bring it back from the grave). A nearby Montana was fine however. Could this have been clematis wilt?

  11. Grower


    Richard wilt does not usually kill clematis...but there are other diseases that will..Rachel the wisteria was in the ground...and it had been loosely plaited by me..because it was such a rubbish plant..and was doing very well it was 16 years came in to bloom but then died....

  12. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    I've seen clematis battle with wilt for years dying stem by stem. If something goes wrong when planting, like a stem being damaged, that's when the trouble starts, when a pathogen gets in that way, at soil level.Not necessarily clematis wilt, it can be any number of fungi and blights that does this sort of thing. All I can suggest is next time you plant a clematis, water the area to be planted with a solution of potassium bicarbonate, you will only need a pinch of this to a litre, this will rid the area of any troublesome spores and disease that is likely to be a problem as well as giving the plant a bit of resistance . This will also help with existing plants with wilt. A tip from an old Gardeners World episode was to cut a plastic plant pot down one side and cut out the bottom wrap it around the base of the plant to protect it whilst planting. I always found this backfired if you caught a stem in the process of removing this pot after the planting. Best just to be aware and extra careful

  13. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Angela, oops! I thought you meant one of those fancy tightly-plaited ones in a pot that is just 3' tall or so, which had probably been created in a polytunnel somewhere abroad - my mistake!

  14. Grower

    neil thompson

    i have a clematis montanna or should i say had following gardenerswourld advice on pruning ""be brutal they said"so i was great i thought after a couple of days new shoots appeared 20 approx,then within a week all had started to shrivel and look dead,so i fed with fertilizer pellits no joy,now what???

  15. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Neil, perhaps you could take some photos of it? If you were to start a new post, with pictures, we might be able to offer some advice.

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