On Gardening Pruning Vines

University Park, Pa. -- Most landscape vines need pruning just as any other woody landscape plant. This garden practice is used to limit growth, remove dead wood and thin stems and branches. Regular pruning also helps promote new growth and enhance seasonal flowering.

Each season, remove dead, weak, and thin wood back to healthy wood to encourage new growth. Always prune back to a lateral branch, twig or bud and do not leave a stub. Crowded stems should be cut clear to the ground. The remaining twig or bud should also point in the direction you wish the plant to grow.

Some fast-growing vines can be severely cut back to induce growth closer to the ground each year. Severe pruning is not harmful if done in the spring before new growth begins. A light application of a complete fertilizer will enhance the growth that comes from the plant base.

Early spring flowering vines should be pruned after they flower, since new growth that develops after pruning will produce flower buds for next season. Vines that flower on growth made this year, as do many of the hybrid clematis, can be pruned in early spring a few feet to a few inches from the ground.

The type of support provided for vines can influence their growth and development. Some vines produce rapid vertical growth with few lateral branches except near the top. Such vines can be pinched and tied, or leaders can be pruned back in the growing season to develop more horizontal branches to cover and fill in quicker. Generally the horizontal branches grow slower, but will produce more leaves and flowers than vertical branches and stems. Knowing how a vine climbs and grows can increase the ease of maintenance. It is important to realize that pruning can be used to enhance the quality of the vine and meet particular landscape needs in the garden. The following suggest should help to maintain selected vines in your garden.

Boston Ivy - (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) should be pruned to control spreading.

Clematis - (Clematis species), depending on the cultivar, can bloom on previous season's wood or new growth. Prune after blooming for early spring flowering types and before new growth begins for later flowering types.

Wintercreeper - (Euonymus fortunei) is a vine and ground cover that is pruned to control spreading and stems growing out from a support.

Honeysuckle - (Lonicera japonica) is a very rampant vine that needs constant pruning to keep it out of nearby trees and shrubs.

Trumpetcreeper - (Campsis radicans) can be cut back to three to four buds on the stem each year to promote new growth. Cut the tops back to encourage branching.

Wisteria - (Wisteria species) can be pruned back to three or four buds each year to promote new growth and flowers. Top cutting will also encourage branching.


**Dr. Nuss is a horticulturist at Penn State. He coordinates all extension horticulture programs. He has bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in ornamental horticulture and has been on the Penn State Faculty since 1966.