It’s hard not to be a fan of clematis. With stunning variety, these hardy vines put on an unforgettable show that includes colour, scent and perennial displays of flowers and showy seed heads. Some are evergreen, some deciduous. Flower sizes range from small and delicate to large, plate-sized blooms, and some even fill the air with sweet fragrance. Flowering seasons range from late winter to fall, with certain species putting on two feats of command during the growing season!
And they come in a variety of sizes suitable for a variety of settings, including borders, containers, ground covers, screens, and trellises. But they have a reputation for being a little tricky to grow – with pruning confusion being the main reason. Despite rumors to the contrary, clematis vines are vigorous, reliable ornamental plants and they are easy to grow with little effort. It is true that they are picky about where to put their roots. And yes, a little extra attention when planting makes a world of difference in her continued performance. But once established, the brilliant annual masses of climbing, tumbling flowers will make you forget all about that little extra initial effort.
Pruning clematis is easy too – that’s true! Once you know our easy-to-remember circumcision tip, that means…read on. If low-maintenance flower-covered vines sound like something your garden needs, then let’s dive into the complete guide to growing clematis! Clematis is a genus of perennial flowering vines in the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. Numbers vary, but there are an estimated 300 to 400 known species native to Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America with thousands of cultivars available. Most are climbers with fast-growing, woody vines that scale, spread, and trip over anything that gets in their way. But there are also some upright (i.e. non-climbing), herbaceous shrub species such as C. recta and some that make excellent ground covers such as C. praecox.
How do I grow
Clematis can be planted in spring, summer or fall. If planted in spring or summer, it is best to occasionally pinch out the growth tips during the first growing season. They like a cool, deep, and moist root run, and a little extra time and care invested in creating the ideal planting location will ensure the best possible performance. The vines prefer loose, loamy soil with good drainage and a slightly acidic to neutral pH of 6.0 to 7.5 in full sun. Before planting, soak the root ball (in its nursery pot) in a bucket of water for about 15 minutes. Create a large planting hole that is 18 to 24 inches wide and deep.
Loosen and remove the soil, then enrich it by mixing in two or three scoops of organic matter, such as old compost or mature manure. Add a scoop or two of moisture-retaining material like coconut, peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite to keep the roots cool and moist. If you need to improve drainage, add one to three shovels of landscape sand or fine gravel. Be generous with gravel or sand if your site tends to get wet – the roots cannot tolerate wet conditions or standing water. Mix the ingredients well until the soil is light, fluffy and brittle. Put about three quarters of the enriched soil back into the planting hole, then mix in some bone meal for healthy root growth. This is the time to set your trellis or other supports in place. Doing this before the vines are planted will help prevent accidental damage.
Thoroughly water the soil in the planting hole. Most commercial specimens are purchased with the vines attached to a small stake, with the stake stapled to the plastic pot. Carefully remove the brackets but leave the stake attached to the vines. Carefully remove the root ball from the nursery pot and place it in the planting hole. Evergreen varieties are planted with the crown down to the soil surface. For deciduous varieties, plant the root ball so that the crown is four to six inches below the surface and stand at a 45-degree angle, with the vines and the nursery stake toward their trellis or other permanent support tend. Planting the crown deep encourages the growth of new stems from the underground leaf axis and also provides winter protection. Backfill the planting hole with the adjusted soil and carefully secure it in place. Secure the vines to their trellis with plant clips, twine, or garden velcro. Water thoroughly. Plants require at least a liter of water per week, and this amount should be increased in hot weather.
They also enjoy plenty of sunlight and prefer a spot where they live for at least six hours a day. However, for dark flowering specimens such as the deep purple C. romantika or C. x jackmanii, a location with mottled or light afternoon shade during the hot summer months will help preserve flower color and prevent fading. Clematis like sunny locations, but also cool roots – “head in the sun and roots in the shade” is a popular saying. If needed, create some shade for the root zone by planting a small shrub or shallow-rooted groundcover in front of the vines. Many varieties are also suitable for tub care. Provide the same soil mix and growing conditions as those planted in the ground, with well-draining soil, cool roots, and vines growing in the sun. Our guide to growing clematis in containers has all the details for successful pot vines.,