If you have never grown a Clematis vine, you don’t know what you are missing. One of the neat things about Clematis is that if you select the right mix of vines you can have blooms all season long (May through September). Clematis is a Greek word which simply means a climbing plant. It is believed they were first grown in China. They were then exported to Japan and eventually found their way to Europe. It is pronounced Clem-AT-is or CLEM-uh-tis, the first is the North American pronunciation and the latter is how Europeans say the word. These lovely vines can grow from 6 to 30 feet depending upon the variety. Clematis plants are known for being hardy but there are some species, particularly evergreens, which are quite sensitive to frost and some will even bloom twice in the same season.
Clematis does have a reputation, somewhat deserved, for being a little fussy. They prefer a location that gets full sun while maintaining cooler soil conditions can be a little challenging to provide. However, with a good layer of mulch, I’ve grown Clematis in very hot and dry conditions in my yard with great success. If your yard doesn’t have full sun conditions you can still find a variety that is a little more shade tolerant such as Bees Jubilee, Henryii and Sweet Autumn (Paniculata). An additional suggestion is that you purchase plants that are at least 2 years old as this means the plant is more vigorous and is also ready to flower during the current growing season.
Clematis can be planted as soon as the ground is workable. Clematis reacts to the season much like a bulb. In the summer and fall, this is vigorous root growth where energy is stored for next year’s growth. If planted in the spring or summer, it is useful to periodically pinch out the growing tips. Clematis can be grown as a groundcover and even in a container, but I prefer it when it is cascading over a support such as an archway, pergola, fence or trellis. Few plants can rival the spectacular mass of flowers on a Clematis vine in full bloom! Last year I got a little behind in my “to-do” list and before I knew it the Clematis that was growing on a trellis next to my garage was also weaving its way through some Lilac bushes. I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty the flowers looked and I’ve decided to let the vine “do its thing” again this year.
Pruning is also an important task when growing Clematis and this task can vary depending upon the variety of Clematis you are growing. It should be noted that incorrect pruning will never bring an early death to the clematis. My own rule is that the best time to prune the vine is immediately after it finishes flowering. However, there are more specific instructions that you’ll probably want to consider. If you have an early flowering variety that blooms in the spring than you want to resist pruning it until after it has actually flowered otherwise you are cutting the potential blossoms off. If you have some tangled areas you can address those, but otherwise, you’ll want to leave the vine alone. If you have a variety of Clematis that blooms early in the summer you can carefully prune it while it is still dormant in the late winter and early spring, but you don’t want to get overly aggressive in your pruning. Finally, for late flowering varieties, you can prune the vine back in the spring, but you want to leave at least a pair of buds on each stem. These varieties will only bloom off of new growth so this form of pruning is essential for them to flower properly.
I find Clematis to be quite charming and while we don’t offer all 250 varieties of Clematis if you visit our Garden Shop I’m certain you’ll find one to grow in your garden this year! This year we have some new varieties not always found in the US.