How to Cultivate Clematis

Learn how to grow and train a clematis vine with these expert tips.
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High Climbing Clematis Vine

High Climbing Clematis Vine

Why Clematis?

Add dimension, spectacular flowers and year-round interest to your garden by choosing one of the most popular vines today — clematis. The captivating vine produces beauty that truly speaks for itself.

"I encourage people to grow the summer-growing clematis because they're the easiest ones to care for," says clematis expert Maurice Horn.

Clematis produces flowers on new growth, last year's growth, or both, depending on the species. You can maximize your flower-power by how and when you prune.

"My friends in England cut it back by half in early June to force new terminals so they can get new blooms," says Horn. In Oregon's mild temperatures, however, the plant is setting plenty of terminal buds without pruning. "I have this plant blooming on and on throughout the season with a fairly good flush of blooms," Horn adds.

Broken or damaged stems can of course by cleaned up, but before you prune aggressively, know the particular requirements for the particular cultivars you've planted.

The one time when all clematis needs to be pruned is just before planting. Cutting back before planting stimulates root growth and promotes new growth for a lot of stems.

Types of Clematis

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Climbing Beauty

Most clematis can be trained to climb up the trunk of a tree, although some, like this clematis alpina, may need some help from twine or canes until they establish their grip.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Open Flowering Montana Early Flowering Clematis

Where the area to be covered is large, the traditional strong growing clematis is Clematis montana. Low on maintenance with maximum coverage, it provides a spectacular burst of color in late spring. It has large flowers with a delicate scent.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Early Summer Clematis have Large Showy Blooms

Large hybrid flowered clematis are bred in many different shapes and sizes. They come to us from all over the world and each has its own special qualities. A few have very large flowers that can actually blanket the vine when it is in full bloom.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Late Flowering Hybrid Clematis Tend to Be Smaller

Clematis, Jackmanii, has profuse, 5 to 7 inch, open, four sepaled, violet purple flowers that cover this vine in mid to late summer. It can be trained to climb a wall, trellis, fence, arbor, porch or lamppost.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Double Flower Hybrid Clematis has Ruffled Petals

Most clematis varieties produce single flowers. Some produce double flowers, with most double flowering varieties blooming double on the previous seasons growth, early in spring.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Patio Clematis Bred Specifically for Containers

Clematis Bees Jubilee boasts a lovely seven to eight petal flower. The wavy petals are white on the margin and brilliant pinkish red down the center maroon stamen. It is a compact plant suited for containers. The seedheads are beautiful, too.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Evergreen Variety of Clematis Popular for Foliage

Armand clematis begins blooming in late winter and continues producing hordes of fragrant flowers for several weeks thereafter. It is a spectacular evergreen vine that is beautiful whether in bloom or not. An enthusiastic climber and able to scramble.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Small Late Flowering Species of Clematis

Clematis koreana bears small, drooping, bell shaped flowers that are dull violet, or red brown on the outside, sometimes edged yellow. Inside the flowers are green with very thick tepals, each with a spur near the base and white anthers.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

'Pamina'

'Pamina' features gorgeous bright pink petals which fade to white at the edges. Black anthers emerge out of the center of this beautiful perennial. This vine flowers from May to September and originates in the United Kingdom. 

'H.F. Young'

'H.F. Young' features gorgeous light purple pointed petals with light yellow anthers. 

'Ivan Olsson'

'Ivan Olsson' features beautiful bright white petals with dark purple anthers emerging from the center. 

'Westerplatte'

'Westerplatte' features a fierce bright pink-red color which is contrasted with bright white anthers. 

'Andromeda'

'Andromeda' features white pointed petals with a pink stripe running down the center of each petal. This perennial features lemon-yellow anthers. 

'Fuyu-no-tabi'

'Fuyu-no-tabi' features bleach white frilled petals with an occasional faint green stripe down the center of certain petals. It is then contrasted with dark red-purple anthers. 

'Fujimusume'

'Fujimusume' features large purple petals complemented with yellow-green anthers that immediately catch your eye. 

'Bees Jubilee' Clematis

'Bees Jubilee' features soft pink petals with dark pink striking the center of each petal. Brown anthers with yellow bases add an incredible contrast to this perennial. 

'Silver Moon'

'Silver Moon' features incredible silver-pink frilled petals with yellow stamens. 

'Forever Friends'

'Forever Friends' features fewer petals than other clematis'. It is bleach white and pointed and showcases deep purple anthers that are streaked with white. 

Planting and Caring for Clematis

Horn selects 'Negritianka' because of its very dark bloom. He removes the garden tape from the stake for easier access to the stems and makes a cut just above a leaf axil. Next, he mixes lots of organic compost — at least 2 inches' worth — with the native soil. Into the planting hole the plant goes, along with a stake or trellis.

He then covers the plant with soil so that it's positioned deeper than it was in the pot. He ties the stems back to the stake loosely, and then waters thoroughly.

"Those of you that live in Northern climates can plant clematis deeper than I would normally plant them here in the Pacific Northwest, which is a very mild climate," says Horn.

Clematis prefer to keep their roots cool, so Horn recommends shading them with another plant. Horn notes that clematis also likes to ramble through shrubs and trees. "I like to use clematis types that don't have much volume, like these double-flowered forms, with rhododendrons," Horn says. Rhododendrons are evergreen, but they lose their interest quickly after the spring, and with the combination of the clematis, these two plants will blossom from spring into summer.

Combining with other plants is just one example of how this wildly versatile plant can be used in the landscape, especially, when you consider that many, like this clematis. The species Integrifolia, which is hardy in USDA Zone 3, do well in some of the colder parts of the country. "Most of the large-flowered hybrids that I've shown you are hardy down to Zone 5, and a few are hardy down to Zone 3," Horn days.

So if you're clamoring for clematis, check what's available in your local nursery or garden center for a good indication of which plants will grow in your area. When purchasing clematis, find established plants with lots of stems.

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