How to grow clematis

Clematis 'Blue Light'
Clematis vines are a fantastic group of plants offering bold seasonal colour. From the beautiful, large-flowered hybrids, to the more subtle but equally stunning smaller flowered species, these plants have definitely earned their place in the spotlight.

Planting and care of clematis
Clematis are sold in plastic or fibre pots. While plastic pots should be removed, fibre pots should be left on. Remove only the rims to just below the soil line and make three cuts halfway up from the bottom. These pots will decompose in the soil.

Dig a hole four to five inches deeper than the root ball depth and fill that area with an enriched soil mix. Place the plant in the hole, ensuring the top of the root ball is slightly higher than ground level. Backfill with the enriched soil.

Soil conditions:
Clematis prefers a fertile, well-drained soil. Alkaline soils can be attained by regular applications of horticultural lime around the root ball. Regular watering is required to ensure the root ball does not dry out.

Clematis should be fertilized regularly to maintain healthy growth and flowering potential. Also, a regular application of organic fertilizer will help to maintain good soil structure.

Light requirements:
Clematis prefers a sunny location, but will not tolerate excessively hot environments. Some varieties will adapt to lower light conditions such as north- or east-facing exposures, and still bloom quite well. Equally important is that the roots of a clematis plant stay cool. Provide shade from nearby leafy shrubs or perennials. The use of mulch also helps to reduce soil temperatures.

Clematis viticella 'Etoile Violette'

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of clematis care is their pruning requirements. Different varieties flower at different times of the year, and in order to prune properly, one needs to know its blooming habits. Generally, clematis can be organized in one of the following groups:

Group 1
Blooms in early spring on last year's growth. Prune only dead or weak branches after flowering to tidy the plant.

Group 2
Blooms on new growth in May, June or July. Light pruning to strong buds in April is recommended to promote branching.

Group 3
Blooms late in the season, from July through the fall. They can be pruned back hard in early April to just above a good set of buds, usually around 30 cm.

Clematis tips:
Clematis vines need to be supported with a trellis or archway. They can also be trained to ramble over stumps, rocks or to grow among shrubbery. Taller growing varieties should be selected for archway and arbor applications.

Planting two to three different varieties of clematis will provide a sequence of bloom, contributing a continuous display of colour to the garden.

Images courtesy of Horticopia