Growing Clematis – Tips For Care Of Clematis

Clematis plants are among the most popular and attractive flowering vines grown in the home landscape. These plants include woody, deciduous vines as well as herbaceous and evergreen varieties. They also vary greatly among species, with different flowering forms, colors, and blooming seasons, though most bloom sometime between early spring and fall.

Growing clematis successfully depends on the type chosen; however, most plants share the same basic growing requirements. Keep reading to learn more about clematis care.

How to Grow Clematis

For proper care of clematis, clematis vines prefer sunny locations (at least six hours of sun needed for blooming) but the soil should be kept cool. An easy way to accomplish this is by planting some type of ground cover or shallow-rooted perennial plants around the clematis. A 2-inch layer of mulch can also be incorporated to keep the roots cool and moist.

Growing clematis vines must be supported in some fashion as well. The type of support system is usually dependent on the variety grown. For instance, poles are acceptable choices for smaller growing clematis

vines, which can range anywhere from 2 to 5 feet in height. Arbors may be more suitable for growing larger types, which can get 8 to 12 feet. Most varieties, however, do quite well growing along a trellis or fence.

Clematis Planting Info

Although many clematis vines are grown in containers, they can also be planted in the garden. They are usually planted in fall or early spring, depending on the region and variety.

Clematis plants need plenty of space for adequate air flow as well as a rich, well-draining planting area. You should dig the hole large enough to accommodate the plant, with most recommendations suggesting at least a two foot depth of soil amended with compost prior to planting. It may also help to cut the plant back some before planting to lessen shock as it adapts to its new environment.

Tips for Clematis Care

Once established, care of clematis vines is minimal with the exception of watering. They should be watered about an inch or so weekly, and more deeply during dry spells. Mulch should be replenished each spring.

In addition, be on the lookout for common problems affecting these plants. Clematis wilt can cause vines to suddenly collapse and die after their foliage and stems have blackened. Powdery mildew often affects plants with poor air circulation. Aphids and spider mites can be a problem as well.

Pruning Care of Clematis

Annual pruning may also be required to keep clematis plants looking their best. Pruning clematis helps plants remain both attractive and full of flowers. The type of clematis vine grown dictates when and how it should be pruned.

For example, early spring-blooming varieties should be pruned back as soon as possible following their blooming but before July, as they bud on previous season’s growth.

Large-flowering types that bloom in mid spring should be cut back to the topmost buds in late winter/early spring.

Late-blooming varieties should be pruned back about two or three feet in late winter/early spring.

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How to Grow Clematis. How I successfully grow beautiful clematis though I don’t always follow the rules. Easy how to care for your clematis instructions you can follow.

Today I am sharing how to grow clematis. This applies to all types. I grow about 10 different clematis vines and am always adding more. In this post will share how to care for your clematis so you can have tons of blooms clamoring over your trellis, fences and arbors.

Disclaimer..there are tons of differing opinions and experiences on how to grow clematis. What I relate here, for the most part, is from my personal experience. Reading about gardens and watching gardening shows is something I do a lot of. The education is wonderful but many times it does not fit my region and conditions, so experience has been my best teacher.

Please PIN for reference later.

I live in USDA Zone 8, have cold, snowy winters and dry summers (no rain or humidity) with temps up to the 90’s. Gardeners in other areas may grow them differently and be equally successful.

This post is about how I grow clematis that reward me every year with plenty of blooms.

Bourban Clematis

(this post contains affiliate links, please see disclosure page for more info)

There are 3 requirements for healthy growing clematis.
1. Sun on their stems and leaves (at least 6 hours or more)
2. Cool roots and steady moisture but not overly wet (some dispute the claim that Clematis prefer cool roots)
3. Support for climbing

Getting Started Growing Clematis

Good soil is always the best way to get started.

Soil health is the best thing you can do for any plant in your garden. To see how I got my start click on over to Lazy Gals Garden Guide.

Amending your soil with compost is one of the best ways to build your gardens health. I avoid chemical fertilizers, they are not conducive to good soil and there is no need if you keep your soil rich and well amended.

This is not a one time deal, you don’t just add compost when you are getting started, you will be adding it frequently.

Belle of Woking Clematis

Planting Clematis

You can buy clematis as bare-root or in a pot, either way prepare your planting hole well.

Loosen up the soil deeper and wider than you will plant. Do your best, the roots of these plants are vigorous and will run deep.

You want to give them a head start by loosening up the area around their roots. Don’t sweat it though they are vigorous growers and don’t need too much babying.

Plant the clematis about 3 to 4 inches deeper than the crown of the plant. This will help if the clematis gets struck with wilt or a fungus that causes the entire vine to die back.

Having the crown under the soil allows you to cut it completely back and it will grow new shoots that are fungus/disease free.

If you do contend with the wilt be sure to clean up and burn any of the vines, leaves etc you cut off, you don’t want that fungus hanging around.

No matter the pruning group, when you first plant your clematis you should prune back the growth to 12 or less inches the first growing season.

Pruning it back ensures good root development which is crucial to a healthier clematis and more shoots coming up from the base. More shoots, more flowers.

Nelly Moser

How to Care for Clematis

There are differing views on growing other plants close to the clematis base to shade its roots, some say it robs the needed nutrients for optimum bloom from the clematis and others have no issue with it.

Personally, I have some growing with roses, at least within a foot or so and shorter growing flowers shading the roots of both. I have had no problem with the clematis being vigorous and bloom happily.

That is because of healthy, rich soil that I regularly add compost to.

I also have clematis growing on their own with a deep mulch to keep their roots moist and cool.

Clematis like moist, well draining soil not soggy soil so keep them watered if you don’t get summer rains, (we don’t).

We have contended with deep drought for several years, my clematis did okay with a lot less watering, they just did not bloom as prolifically.

They like the sun, the ones I grow that do the best get nearly 6 hours of sun a day. Late afternoon shade helps the colors on darker versions stay vibrant. Hot sun tends to fade them out, but they are still beautiful just less showy.

Be sure and provide support, something for the clematis to climb, a sturdy trellis, arbor or post. A healthy clematis will smother it with beautiful blooms in no time.

Pistachio

Clematis Groups

There are 3 groups of Clematis.
Group 1 blooms the earliest in Spring and has the small flowers. Here is one that is on my list to acquire, Pamela Jackman. I don’t have any growing now to show you but I do have some on my list to add to my garden. Exactly when in Spring these bloom depends on your region, some areas it blooms in late winter as well.

Group 2 bloom in Spring and early Summer, they are the large, showy flowered ones we all love. They bloom on both old and new wood. Many I have are in this group. Some will re-bloom but the first bloom of the season is the best.

Group 3 Summer blooming and they will bloom on into Fall for masses of color all season. Add a few of these to your collection and you will have gorgeous clematis until frost.

Pruning

They are also known as A,B & C and an easy little way to remember pruning advice for the different ones is here

Pruning group A (or 1)
A is for After bloom
Includes: Species that bloom in early spring, such as C. montana, C. armandii, or C. macropetala.
When and how to prune: Don’t prune until after the flowers are finished. Flower buds were formed the previous year, so if you prune before they flower, that means no flowers for you that year.

Pruning Group B (or 2)
B is for Before bloom
Includes: Species that bloom in late spring/early summer, including most large-flowered types.
When and how to prune: In spring, cut back to a set of live buds, about a third down from the top. Hard-prune (to about 12 inches) for the first two years after planting to develop a strong root system.

Pruning Group C (or 3)
C is for Cut back hard
Includes: Species that bloom in summer/early fall: C. viticella, C. tangutica, C. virginiana, C. texensis, C. crispa.
When and how to prune: In early spring, cut every stem to 12 to 18 inches or so.

Warsaw Nike is one of my Group 3 clematis and it is a power house bloomer and so is Pistachio above.

There are some scented varieties I would love to get and have Summer Love by Proven Winners on my list.

This double one below called Franziska Maria, is one of my favorites, it blooms and blooms in early summer.

Then if I make sure to dead head and feed it after blooming it will put on another good show of blooms.

Be aware that if you plant a double that the first year it will most likely have single flowers, the doubles develop on old wood so the following year you will get the doubles.

If you can plant all three groups in your garden you will have clematis blooms for months and months. It is advised to plant like groups together so pruning will be easier.

The pruning of clematis is going to get an entire post to itself, then I can try and photograph what I do for pruning. It is not as confusing as it can seem.

Feeding Clematis

Clematis are considered heavy feeders. As I stated before, start with healthy well fed soil.

Every Fall I add a few inches of chicken manure mixed with compost all around my flowering plants. The compost chicken litter mixture sits all winter at their feet.

I have no trouble with it burning my plants as they are all dormant by then.

In Summer I do supplement feed my clematis with fish emulsion (stinky but effective) or foliage feeding (I am using Spray and Grow combined with the fertilizer though you can just get the Spray and Grow alone).

Since I plant my clematis next to other heavy feeders like roses I know that they all will get enough nutrients to pump out the blooms for me.

Other gardeners have reported that they don’t feed them at all and still get good results.

For those of you that live in a warmer winter region I have had a few readers that successfully grow clematis and get it to bloom by burying a plastic flower pot beside it and putting ice in the pot to chill the roots.

One reader said she does it for about two weeks long and she gets beautiful blooms. (clematis need some winter chill to bloom successfully, I have not had to try this as we get cold winters but I thought I would pass that on for those of you who live in warmer regions)

You can also grow many of these in pots on your porch, patio or deck, some varieties have been bred especially for container gardens. What is not to love about Clematis?

Until then…..Happy Gardening!

Other posts you may enjoy
How to Prune Clematis for Top to Bottom Bloom(this happens in Fall)
How to Spring Prune your Clematis
Propagate Clematis by Layering
Build an Easy Garden Obelisk (for your Clematis to climb)
How to Start Clematis from Cuttings

Tips for Pruning Clematis Vines

Is it Time to Prune Your Clematis?

First, you must find out which pruning group your variety belongs to. If you bought it from Wayside Gardens, our website or catalog will tell you. If your variety isn’t being offered this season give us a call and we’ll happily look it up. If you bought yours elsewhere, take a look at any book on Clematis. (An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis is an excellent source of information about all things Clematis.)

Group I:

(Bloom in early spring from buds set the previous season on old wood; doesn’t die back in winter)

Prune only when needed, after bloom in spring.

Clematis should only be pruned sparingly. They tend to bloom earlier, in the spring. After their bloom show is over you can give them a light pruning. All you want to do is clear out dead wood and keep the stems tidy.

Since this group blooms only on old wood, cutting too low or too early in the season could cost you flowers! Examples of a Group I Clematis are shown here.

Group II:

(Usually includes rebloomers that produce flowers on old wood in late spring/early summer and often bloom again on new wood in late summer or fall)

In March, remove dead wood and cut the remaining stems 6 to 8 inches to a pair of strong buds.

Clematis should be given a moderate trim. Since they bloom on old and new wood alike, you want to trim enough to encourage new growth, but without losing any promising buds. Remove dead wood and cut back the remaininsg tems just 6 to 8 inches.

Do this trim in March, before the blooming has begun. This group tends to bloom in the middle of the season, setting flowers on old wood in late spring/early summer and then reblooming on the new wood through late summer or even early fall. This group is a bit more forgiving—even if you prune a bit too harshly, you will still get to enjoy the late-season rebloom! An example of a Group II Clematis is Vancouver Fragrant Star.

Group III:

(Bloom on new wood in the summer and fall; dies to the ground over winter)

Each year in March, prune all stems back to a strong set of buds 12 inches from the ground.

Clematis are the easiest to prune, since you basically cut the whole thing down! This group goes dormant in the winter, letting the stems die off, and then they grow anew each spring. This means that each year in March you should prune back all the stems to just about 12 inches off the ground to make way for the new growth.

This group will come back strong and will bloom on the new wood each year. Since they have to re-grow their mature size each summer, they tend to be the last to flower, opening in late summer or fall. Examples of a Group I Clematis are shown here.

Before You Prune Your New Clematis

You aren’t going to like this, but the first year of your Clematis’s garden (or container!) life, you need to do a special pruning. If you planted your Clematis last spring or fall, or if you’ve been growing Clematis without pruning it, please give it this first-year trim — it will make your Clematis more beautiful over its entire (long!) life.

Every variety, regardless of group, should be cut back to about 5 inches from the ground in late winter/early spring the first year after it is planted. You don’t have to — it will certainly still grow and flower without ever feeling the snick of the shears — but if you want a bushier, stronger, tighter growth habit, with flowers from the base of the plant instead of beginning 4 feet off the ground, cut every stem back to 5 inches from the soil. Don’t worry about leaving buds; Clematis handles that sort of thing with underground growth.

Now, the bad news is that if your Clematis is in Groups 1 or 2, this first-year pruning means that you won’t get blooms this year. These groups bloom on “old wood” (the previous season’s growth), so you’ll lose one season of color. But I promise you your Clematis will more than make up for this loss in the years to come!

So — cut every stem that’s coming out of the ground to 5 inches tall, even if you’ve got an old established Clematis that’s been twining up a tree for 5 years without a trim, or with random trims at various times of year. (Do you notice it blooms less each year, and perhaps only at the very end of the stems instead of from the base? This pruning will put a stop to that nonsense and give you lots of blooms, all along the stems!) That’s it — your work is done for the year!

Now, if your Clematis is in Groups 1 or 2, you should also do a special second-year pruning. Not everyone does this, but if you want a lush, many-stemmed, bloom-happy plant, the second year you should prune all stems back to about 3 feet from the ground in late winter/early spring. You will get blooms this year, because everything above 5 inches from the ground is old wood, but your Clematis won’t grow so tall so quickly. Again, this is all to the good — it will encourage more shoots to emerge and better flowering in years to come — but if you’re too impatient or simply forget, most Clematis are very forgiving!

If your Clematis is in Group 3, skip the second-year pruning. Your variety blooms on new wood, so this pruning is completely unnecessary.

Once you know your Clematis’s pruning number and get that first-year trim out of the way, keeping this woody climber looking its best and blooming like crazy is simple! A few minutes once a year will yield you armloads of flowers for many seasons, and you will continue to find new uses for Clematis, from hiding an unsightly fence to decorating your most formal garden art!

Shop Clematis Group 1 Group 2 Group 3

How to plant and grow clematis

Transform a pergola or wall with wonderful clematis, or be more adventurous and plant one of them through a tree.

Planting

In the garden

Clematis need moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil,in full sun or partial shade. Keep the base of the plant and the roots cool and shaded by carefully positioning other plants, or put a layer of pebbles or flat stones at the base.

Dig a hole, at least twice as wide as the pot in which the plant is growing and half as deep again.

Add some well rotted organic compost (leaf-mould, decayed manure, etc) to the bottom of the hole, add a handful of fertiliser. Soak the plant well before carefully removing the plant with its cane support from the container. Gently tease out some of the roots and place in the hole. Large flowered cultivars should be planted with two leaf nodes below soil level. This will mean that the top of the container plant will be at least 3 inches below the soil level. Planting this deep will encourage the plant to become multi-stemmed. Species clematis, which have thin fibrous root systems, do not be need to be planted deeply. Back-fill with a mixture of soil and compost. Water the plant well.

When planting next to shrubs or trees place the hole outside the rain shadow and use the canes to train the plant into the shrub/tree.

When planting next to a wall or fence, dig the hole at least 2 feet from the wall and train the plant along the cane towards the wall. Water regularly until well established.

In Containers

To grow clematis in pots it’s best to use a large container – at least 45cm in diameter with the same depth, for good root growth. Make sure a suitable support is in place such as an obelisk or a small trellis. Use a loam-based compost to fill your container, such as John Innes No. 2 or 3. Water regularly and feed throughout the growing season to maintain healthy growth and lots of flowers!

Aftercare and maintenance

Newly planted clematis will need regular watering whilst they establish. All clematis will need watering during hot dry periods. A thorough, deep soaking once a week is better than watering little and often.

Feed your Clematis each year in late winter or early spring. Spread a slow-release, potassium-rich fertiliser around the base of the plant and apply a mulch afterwards of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.

In early spring, put some slug/snail prevention in place to prevent damage to young shoots.

For detailed instructions on how to prune clematis see Sarah’s guide.

Cut flowers

Cut early in the morning or evening. Select only the blooms in good condition growing on strong and healthy stems. Use flowers which are not fully open, as they will unfurl their sepals (tepals) gradually after cutting and placing them in water.

You may also like:

  • Clematis for every month of the year
  • The very best annual climbers
  • How to prune clematis
  • Wonderful wisteria

Interview with Clematis Expert – Ray Evison

Andy:

No one knows more about growing Clematis than Ray Evison. Many times an RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winner, Raymond has bred show-stopping varieties, some of which we’ve featured on this blog. However, what I want first and foremost are Raymond’s top tips for success with these wonderful climbers. They don’t always thrive on my light, sandy, slightly acid soil. Is that the problem? What should I do to make sure they grow and bloom at their best?

Raymond:

1. Clematis must have a cool root area to grow well. Always plant shallow rooted perennials or seasonal bedding plants around the base of a clematis to shade the roots of the plant. This is particularly important when growing them in containers, or when the clematis is planted in a sunny location. Do not use stones or pieces of slate, which are often recommended, as these retain warmth and can heat up the ground, rather than keeping the roots cool.

2. Clematis like to grow in a garden as they do in the wild: in a micro-climate with other plants. Do not plant a clematis on its own to grow up a bare trellis against a wall or on a wooden fence. Plant another wall trained shrub, rose or other climber and then grow the clematis through the host plant.
Doing this gives the maximum benefit in growing conditions and decorative effect. The foliage and flowers of the host plant are a foil for the clematis. Also the clematis may flower when the host plant is perhaps not looking its best.

3. Some pale flowered clematis fade in strong sunlight. Use varieties with pale blue, pale pink, or other pastel flowered clematis in shady positions. They will not fade and more importantly they will brighten up a dark or shaded area. As long as the clematis have 3 to 4 hours sunlight a day, not necessarily direct sunlight, they will grow and flower well.
Use the red, deep blue, white and purple flowered clematis in sunny locations. They are unlikely to fade and often the colours become even stronger in direct sunlight.

4. Feed clematis with a high potash, high nitrogen fertiliser. Rose fertiliser is ideal in spring and again in midsummer. For an extra boost use tomato fertiliser during the growing season. This is ideal for clematis growing in pots and containers.

5. Always plant a new clematis an extra 7-8cm (2-3 ins) deeper than the growing medium level in

the nursery pot. Whether you are planting it in the ground or in a larger pot or container. This

helps the plant to recover if it is damaged; perhaps eaten by mice or rabbits at the base, or if it

suffers from clematis wilt. By planting that bit deeper it will form a root crown below soil

level, and will therefore regrow from below soil level if it is damaged. This is particularly

important with the large flowered varieties.

6. Clematis pruning can be really confusing. Today plant labels give a good indication of how and when to prune. You can also check on the internet or in a good reference book. A good guide is to remember that the later a clematis flowers in the year, the more pruning it needs. So generally clematis that flower in spring need little or no pruning at all. Hence the saying: “If it flowers before June, don’t prune”.

However, whatever the pruning requirements: any clematis should be pruned very hard the first spring after it has been planted. In the first spring, just before the plant starts to grow, cut all stems back to 15-20 cm (6-8ins) above soil level. This will encourage branching and help to cultivate a plant which is bushy at the base.

Andy:

Some great tips there and I’m pleased to hear that clematis like to grow through other plants. I have little in the way of walls and fences but plenty of shrubs that will benefit from another season of interest by the addition of a clematis.

These are such useful plants and the great thing is how easily they fit into any garden, whether you have a courtyard or estate.

Link to Climbers course

Clematis groups explained

Clematis are popular climbers, and a must-have in the garden. They will happily scramble over a range of structures; and with a myriad of colours and flower shapes to choose from, it’s no wonder they’re a favourite amongst gardeners.

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With a little extra care, particularly when it comes to pruning, clematis will reward you with a show-stopping display year after year. Choose the right varieties, and you could have clematis blooming for every season.

Planting soon? Find out how to plant clematis.

To help make sense of the many varieties of clematis available, and to simplify their care requirements, they’ve been divided into three pruning groups. Read more about the three clematis groups below.

To help make sense of the many varieties of clematis available, and to
simplify their care requirements, they’ve been divided into three
pruning groups.

Group 1 clematis

These early-flowering clematis burst into bloom in winter and spring on the previous year’s growth. This group doesn’t need pruning, but you can remove old or damaged stems after they have finished flowering, if needs be.

How to grow Group 1 clematis

Group 1 clematis to grow

Group 2 clematis

These large-flowered hybrids produce show-stopping blooms in spring and summer on the previous year’s growth. Without pruning in February, you’ll likely have a poor display and a top-heavy plant. Trim away weak or damaged growth, and cut other stems to just above the strongest, highest buds. Prune again after the first flush of flowers to a pair of buds halfway down the stems, and they will flower again in late-summer.

How to grow Group 2 clematis

Group 2 clematis to grow

Group 3 clematis

This late-flowering group produces flowers on the current season’s growth, which makes pruning all the more important. To ensure a robust display of flowers in summer and autumn, cut it down to a couple of feet from the ground every February or March. Left to their own devices, plants will become tangled and unproductive.

How to grow Group 3 clematis

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10 Group 3 clematis to grow

Three top tips for growing and caring for clematis

  • Clematis are thirsty plants. Give them plenty of water once a week, rather than little and often
  • Never hard-prune clematis in Group 1 and 2. Doing this will result in a year of flowers lost
  • All clematis prefer their roots to be in the shade, and the top growth to be in the sun

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