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Vines/Pruning; "Best Practice" versus Necessity


Hello Kathleen,

So many different plants, each seeming to require their own special treatment. Thus, I confess; pruning utterly befuddles me, so much so that I rarely prune at all, for fear I will kill ... whatever.

My question relates to the issue of Necessity versus Best Practce. By that I mean, which is it; and with what plants?
I have several varieties of clematis, mixed with a honeysuckle and on a garden wall. (You can imagine the tangle.) Now, the wall needs repainting.

I have heard that clematis can be cut back right to within inches of the ground, then to come back florishing, but what about the honeysuckle?

So, is all this talk of careful pruning merely a matter of Best Practice or is it one of Abosulte Necessity? In short, if I cut both the clematis and the honeysuckle back to within an inch of their life, will I kill them altogether?


Good day, Dan -
Wow, that must be one gorgeous display!  Honeysuckle AND clematis!  Probably nice whether they bloom sequentially or simultaneously.

Pruning is one of those things (I've found# that is somewhat like lasagna.  There's no one way to do/make it, and there lots of approaches/recipes.  

CLEMATIS: For clematis, the key is to find out exactly which type you have.  Type 1, 2 or 3? All of my clematis #clemati?# are Type 3 except for 1 Type 2.  There are very specific instructions for pruning clematis, depending on the Type.  I am happy to say that I have successfully ignored whatever I originally learned about pruning Type 3, and I hack mine right back down to the ground, and it comes right back like a jobless college graduate. Seriously, I have never worried about it.  As long as you don't let the root systems freeze #mulch is a good insulator# over the winter, it's probably going to be just fine.

HONEYSUCKLE: There are 2 approaches to pruning honeysuckle #and other flowering fines such as passionvine and climbing hydrangea#. #1) Maintenance pruning: Honeysuckle actually thrives under "maintenance pruning." Without pruning, the older portions of the vine can become leafless and unattractive, leggy and overgrown.  Maintenance pruning is best done in the spring, because then you can see new growth vs. old growth. (2) Rejuvenation pruning:  This is really what YOU want to do.  In late winter, cut the vines down to about 1-2 feet long (say, a half a meter.  God, I wish we would go metric!!!) That should let you move the vines away from the wall so you can repaint it. But be forewarned, rejuvenation pruning may mean that you will not see many (if any) honeysuckle blossoms next spring/summer. However, it will benefit the plant in the long run.

Dan, I hope this advice helps.  Remember to sanitize your pruning shears or clippers before and after pruning anything, to help prevent the spread of any plant diseases.

Let me know how it goes!


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Kathleen Franklin


I can answer all kinds of questions about vines that thrive in most U.S. soils/climates, though I am more knowledgeable about Zones 4-8. I am a huge fan of vines (even the sort of "Look out, Martha, here it comes again" varieties), especially wisteria, climbing hydrangea, Carolina jessamine, and (invasive though it is) English Ivy. I grow them all, and would love to share what I've learned with you!


I am a certified, active Master Gardener in Maryland (Montgomery County) and have six+ years experience working at a local garden nursery. I've been gardening for more than 20 years and have done consulting work for many residential homeowners on all aspects of gardening and garden design.

Maryland Master Gardeners Friends of Brookside Gardens Nature Conservancy

I have authored numerous nature and gardening-related articles for publications ranging from Audubon Naturalist News to Washington Gardener magazine.

I have taken courses in Integrated Pest Management, perennials, shrubs, and vines.

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