Starting Out With Clematis

All You Need to Know

By Cindy Tibbetts Posted on 3/12/19

There’s a myth about clematis: Clematis are fussy, difficult plants that drop dead at any excuse. Only people with more time and money than good sense grow those wretched things!

The reality is that Clematis are beautiful, tough, long-lived plants with tons of flower power! This guide will help you get started with this marvelous group of plants; we’ll cover choosing the correct plant, planting it properly and a simple method of pruning.

Read all about pruning clematis in cold climate here

Picking the Clematis That’s Right for You!

There are hundreds of clematis available and sometimes it’s challenging – even downright confusing – to try and pick the one that’s perfect for you. This guide will help you narrow your options and make choosing your clematis a little easier!

There are four basic things to consider in selecting a clematis:

  1. Is it Hardy in Your Zone?
  2. What Color Do You Want?
  3. What is the Proper Height?
  4. How Easy is it to Grow?

Hardiness refers to a plants ability to survive the winter. This map shows Hardiness Zones across the United States – make sure you choose a clematis rated hardy to your Zone.

Color is the easiest to consider. In addition to many shades of purple and blue, clematis come in white, pinks, red, bicolors and even yellow! If your new clematis will be near a building, choose a color that will pop against that background. If it will be near other plants, you can choose colors that will either coordinate or contrast. Other than that, it’s up to you – no matter what you chose, we won’t send the Plant Police after you!

Height is straightforward, too. Think about where you want to put your clematis. How high can you go there? Choose a clematis no more than two feet taller than the area you choose.
For example: You are going to grow your clematis on the side of your garage, but the trellis you are using is only six feet tall. You can grow an eight-foot-tall clematis here. However, if you plan to run wire from the top of the trellis to the eaves of the garage (which is 10 feet tall) you could grow a 12-foot-tall plant.

Ease of Growth is really important, especially for beginners. Some clematis varieties are just simpler to grow than others. While there are a lot of factors that come into play, the most fool-proof clematis are those that are cut back in late winter or early spring. You’ll find them listed as Full Prune, Hard Prune, Group 3 or Group C – depending on which source you are using.

Five Easy Steps to Success with Clematis

Many, if not most, clematis failures happen when we skimp on proper planting. Clematis are large, long lived plants and it’s worth a little extra effort to give them a good start!

Keep the tag that comes with your clematis. It contains helpful information that you may need to refer to in the future.

1. Dig a large hole

Dig a hole about the size of a bushel basket. Yes, we know that’s way bigger than the plant’s root system. Trust us!

2. Add Lots of Good Stuff

Mix the soil you have removed from the hole with 10 pounds or so of good quality compost.
Add a handful or two of Biotone to the mixture and replace the enriched soil mixture in
the hole. (Yes, we know this sounds like boot camp!)

3. Plant Your Clematis

Make a hole in this soil mixture big enough to hold the root ball.
Fill this hole with water; wait while it drains out. Place the
clematis in the hole, 2 to 3 inches deeper than it was in its pot

4. Water, Water, Water

Fill around the clematis with the soil mixture you removed.
Water again with a gallon of water to settle the soil in place.

5. Keep Your Clematis Well Watered

Young vines need at least an inch of water a week and
if Mother Nature doesn’t provide it, you’ll have to.

First year they sleep,
Second year they creep,
Third year they leap!

This blog was developed by our friends over at Hummingbird Farm, be sure to check out their listing here on Garden Savvy!

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