Clematis: Queen of Flowering Vines

Clematis is a large genus of woody vines grown primarily for the colorful, abundant, exquisite flowers. The vines are perennials that provide a dense mat of leaves to shade porches, conceal walls and fences, and cover arbors. It is not a heavy vine that must forever be held in check. Instead, it is a thin vine with a pencil thick stem and a set limit to its growth (8 to 30 feet depending on variety).

Clematis blooms in late spring to early fall depending on the variety and many have long bloom times, flowering over much of the growing season. Most varieties are profuse bloomers. Many will rebloom.

Clematis is one of our favorite perennials. The plants are easy to grow and versatile. The flowers are gorgeous and make an impact in any garden setting.

Choosing the Planting Site

Sunlight: Clematis plants are sun lovers. For optimum flowering, they
require at least six hours of sun a day. Many varieties will grow well with four or less hours of sun, but the vines will not be as vigorous nor bloom as well. The varieties with large blue and red flowers sometimes fade it they get too much sun. For areas receiving hot afternoon sun, choose varieties with smaller flowers whose colors seem to stand up better.

Rootzone: Clematis require a cool, moist environment for their roots.
To keep the roots cool, provide shade for the rootzone. The ideal way to keep roots cool is to shade them by underplanting with a groundcover or with perennials. Lay down a thick layer of mulch the first year to allow the clematis roots to become established. Then surround it with plants that have shallow roots such as Artemisia "Silver Mound", perennial geraniums and veronicas.

Soil: Clematis thrive in rich well-drained soil with a neutral pH or
slightly above.

Planting Clematis

Before planting your clematis, consider pruning it back to about 12 inches. This will encourage branching from the base, development of multiple stems and, therefore, more flowers.

Clematis are one of the few plants that you want to plant deep. Unlike most plants, a clematis needs to have its crown (the spot where the stem meets the roots) covered by an inch or two of soil. Thus, if the top of the vine is damaged (mowed off, for example), new growth can emerge from the dormant buds protected underground. Dig a hole twice as large as the rootball and add plenty of compost. If your soil is acid, add a sprinkling of lime.

Caring for Clematis

Mulching: After planting, place several inches or mulch around the
plant to help keep the roots cool and moist. Do not allow the mulch to touch the roots directly. A 2 inch layer of mulch should be applied yearly.

Watering: Clematis do best with consistent soil moisture. Giving
clematis sufficient water is very important. Clematis must never be allowed to dry out. In a dry season deep watering is a must.

Fertilizing: A yearly application of 5-10-5 sprinkled around the base
of the plant is sufficient. It is best to fertilize in the fall after the plant
has gone dormant.

Pruning: It is not necessary to cut back the dead foliage in the fall.
Cutting back at the wrong time can result in lack of blooms the following year or severely damaging your plant. We think it's best not to cut the vine back. If you must cut back the vine, please ask a salesperson for advice.

Training Clematis

Clematis do not have tendrils or aerial rootlets. They climb with the aid of their leaf petioles (the appendage which connects the leaf to the stem). The petioles actually wrap around their support. In order for clematis to grow vertically, you must provide support. To encourage the vine to grow vertically, tie the woody stems to the support with a
soft, biodegradable twine.

There are many types of support you can provide. The uses for clematis in your garden are limited only by your imagination.

If you want to grow clematis up the side of a house, lattice will provide a good support, as will plastic coated wire. Do not place the support directly against the wall. Allow at least 4 inches of breathing room for both the plant and the house. Plant the clematis at least 1 foot from the wall and guide the clematis to the support with twine.

If you plan to grow the clematis up a mailbox or lamppost, choose a compact variety and give it a chicken wire tube at least 4 inches wider than the diameter of the pole to climb on.

Clematis are perfect choices to beautify and soften chain link or other
fences. Use clematis to frame porches, windows or entrances. Or let vines cascade over stones in a rock garden. Use clematis to cover old stumps and rock piles. Stone walls and old sheds make good supports. Clematis can actually be grown on the ground as a groundcover. The choices are limitless.

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