How to Grow Clematis

By Kathy LaLiberte
A well-grown clematis in full flower is a sight to behold.
EVERY flower gardener should know the leasure of growing clematis. !f you already
ha"e one in your garden# you$re robably scheming about how to s%uee&e in another'
(ew to clematis) Read on and disco"er how easy it is to be successful with the *%ueen of
climbers.*
+electing a ,lant
-ntil fairly recently# only a handful of clematis culti"ars were readily a"ailable in the
-.+. +ome of these traditional fa"orites include .ackmanii# /eneral +ikorski# 0enryi and
1omtesse de Bouchard. But clematis ha"e become a hugely oular erennial# and today#
the a"erage local garden center offers do&ens of different choices.
2hen selecting a clematis for your garden# you$ll want to think about a coule things#
which include its mature height# flower form and color.
!f you ha"e room a "igorous 34 or 54 ft. clematis "ine# there are many wonderful
culti"ars that will fit the bill. 6here are also more comact "arieties that are erfectly
hay growing in a small garden or e"en in a ot on the atio.
6he standard clematis flower form is a large blossom with si7 or se"en etals# measuring
8-9* across. 6here are also culti"ars with smaller blossoms# double blossoms# and lo"ely
bell-like flowers. 1olors range from white to wine red# la"ender to dee urle# and there
are e"en a few yellow ones.
+ome trellises are o"erly ornate showieces# not so well-suited to suorting lants. 6he
.ardin :lower 6rellis retains the classic lines of 6udor arches# but with a simler#
understated design that makes it easy for clematis to climb.
!t can take se"eral years for a clematis "ine to mature and begin flowering "igorously. 6o
shorten the wait and hel ensure your success# it$s best to urchase a lant that$s at least
two years old. Look for a container-grown lant in a %uart or gallon-si&e ot. !f you$re
shoing for your clematis at a garden center or nursery# select a robust lant that$s
showing "igorous growth# rather than a weak lant with a beautiful icture.
2here to ,lant !t
0oefully you ha"e a lanting location in mind before you bring home your new
clematis. !deally it$s a sunny sot. 6hough some clematis culti"ars will bloom in artial
shade ;such as (ellie <oser and 0enryii=# to reach their full otential they need at least
si7 hours of sun each day.
1lematis refer moist# well-drained soil that$s neutral to slightly alkaline in 0. !f your
soil tends to be acidic# you should sweeten it eriodically with limestone or a little wood
ash. >ig a ?84 hole for your new clematis# working in lots of comost and some granular
organic fertili&er.
Be "ery gentle when settling the lant into its new home@ the roots# crown and emerging
"ines of clematis can be easily broken. ,osition the lant slightly deeer than it was
growing in the ot# so the first set of true lea"es is Aust under the soil surface. 2ater
weekly for the first season# to hel the lant get established. !f you can get your clematis
through its first year# chances are good that it will continue to thri"e. <ulching around
the base of the lant will hel conser"e moisture# but kee the mulch se"eral inches away
from the crown# where the "ines emerge from the soil.
1omanion lants# such as this ale-urle batisia# kee the clematis$ root-&one cool.
1lematis are haiest with cool shade at their roots and warm sun on their foliage.
<ulching around the roots will hel kee the soil cool# as will the foliage of a low-
growing erennial.
0ow to +uort !t
6hough there are some tyes of clematis that ha"e a bushy habit# most of them are born
to climb. Like other climbing lants# the growing end of a clematis "ine is searching for
something to grab onto# and if it can$t find anything# it will sto growing. <ake sure you
ro"ide it with something to climb on from day one.
A clematis "ine does not climb by twining around something# as a ole bean or a morning
glory does. !t climbs by wraing its leaf stems around something. Because these leaf
stems are not "ery long# anything that$s more than about 3B5 inch in diameter is too wide
for the leaf stem to twist around. 6he easiest things for a clematis to grab onto# are twine#
fishing line# wire# thin branches# wooden dowels or steel rods. 6he more grabbing
oortunities you offer# the better# so e"en if you ha"e a nice trellis# consider adding
some twine *heler* lines# or co"ering your trellis with a grid of trellis netting.
>eending on the "igor of the lant and the tye of trellis you ha"e# you$ll robably need
to do some *trussing* during the season to hel suort the "ines and kee them attached
to the trellis. Both fishing line and twine work well for this Aob.
,runing and 1are
6he (early !n"isible (etting ensures that a clematis can climb the trellis# which has
crossieces that are too wide. Another otion is the Biodegradable (etting.
1lematis "ary in their need for runing. +ome tyes flower on last year$s "ines# so you
want to a"oid cutting them to the ground in the sring. Cthers flower on current-year
"ines# so they don$t mind being cut to the ground each year. Rather than dri"ing yourself
cra&y trying to kee track of the ideal runing techni%ue for each culti"ar# try this
common-sense aroachD lea"e the rior year$s growth in lace until mid-sring. Begin
runing only when you can see which "ines are dead and which ones are starting to leaf
out.
A hay clematis lant uts out an ama&ing amount of flowers and foliage. :eed your
lants well to kee them healthy and "igorous. !n early sring# surround the lant with a
sho"elful of comost and a handful of granular organic fertili&er. :eed again# once or
twice during the growing season# with a water-soluble organic fertili&er.

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