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How to Grow: Clematis
Learn how to grow clematis including information on varieties.
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full, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Spring to fall depending on the variety, in colors including white, pink, blue, red, yellow and bi colors
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 20 feet x 2 to 5 feet
attracts beneficials, deer resistant
This romantic, fast growing vine comes in a wide variety of flower colors, shapes and sizes. Depending on the variety you grow it can bloom from spring to fall. The flowers can be small and delicate to large and gaudy colored. I enjoy the seedpods almost as much as the flowers with their whorl of feathery tails. While it needs support to grow, clematis isn’t choosy about scrambling over walls, up fences and trellises, or into shrubs, trees and other perennials. Some varieties are quite tame in the landscape, while others can become large enough to provide a screen or cover an unsightly object. The flowers are favorites of bees and butterflies, adding to the color and activity around these vines.
When, Where and How to Plant
Many clematis species and varieties are hardy throughout New England. Purchase vines hardy in your area from a local garden center and plant in spring or summer. Most clematis varieties flower best in full sun. However, their roots like a shaded, moist, well-drained, compost-amended soil conditions. Space plants 1 to 2 feet apart.
Keep clematis roots consistently moist with a layer of bark mulch around their base. However, don’t pile the mulch around the stems or it might lead to stem rot. Fertilize in spring with a layer of compost and monthly with an organic plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Clematis should be pruned annually to look and flower their best. How and when you prune your vine depends on the type you are growing. Check with your local garden center about specific instructions for pruning your clematis. Always deadhead clematis to promote more flowering later in the season unless you want to enjoy the seed pods Remove any dead, broken and diseased stems at any time. Provide a support structure such as trellis, arbor or pole for clematis to grow.
Companion Planting and Design
Clematis can be grown in a wide variety of locations. Grow them up a trellis, arbor or lamppost in the yard. Plant along a chain-linked fence to make it more attractive. Plant clematis among shrubs, such as forsythia and lilacs, or other perennials, such as peonies, to provide flowers in summer when these plants aren’t blooming. Plant clematis among roses to provide complimentary colored flowers.
‘Nelly Moser’ is a large, pink and white pinwheel flowered variety that grows well in full sun and part shade. It blooms in early summer and repeats blooms in fall. ‘Henryi’ produced large, white flowers and blooms in summer to fall. ‘Niobe’ produces large, red flowers and blooms from early to late summer. Sweet autumn clematis is an aggressive vine that will cascade over a pergola or arbor. It produces, small, fragrant white flowers in fall. ‘Patricia Ann Fretwell’ has unusual double, frilly pink flowers. ‘Blue Bell’ has nodding, deep purple flowers that bloom in mid summer to fall. ‘My Angel’ produces, small yellow flowers and blooms in late summer to fall.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.
This buttercup family plant literally means ”vine” in Greek, but there’s not a more international flower. Clematis are native to North America, Europe, India, Australia, China and Japan. There are clematis that bloom in full sun to shade. Some are rampant climbers, while others are more tame. And with careful selection you can have a clematis blooming in your garden from spring until fall.
First select hardy types for our cold climate. I like the early blooming Alpina clematis with single, multi-colored flowers shaped like bells that can bloom in full shade. The rampant growing Montana group is another early bloomer but has larger flowers. The real clematis show begins with the large-flowered types such as ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘Duchess of Edinburg’ and finally the classic Jackmanii. Later in summer and fall the small, white flowered and vigorous growing, sweet autumn clematis and the purple flowered virgin’s bower take over the show.
Plant clematis in well-drained, compost-amended soil a little deeper than the plant rests in the pot. They like moist soil for best growing. Fertilize in spring with an organic 3-1-2 product. For strong growers, be sure there’s a sturdy trellis nearby for them to climb or some shrubs. I once grew ‘Nelly Moser’ among some junipers and loved when the bright red flowers burst forth from the juniper’s dark green foliage. But be patient with clematis. An old adage about vines seems to be true. The “first year they sleep, the second they creep, and the third year they leap”. The Jackmanii and late summer and fall flowering clematis bloom on new growth so prune in early spring. Any clematis blooming before Jackmanii should be pruned after they flower.