How to Plant and Grow Clematis Vines
Clematis vines are easy to care for and grow. On this page, you will find all the information you need to be successful at growing these beauties. They offer a stunning addition to the garden and work well climbing up high decks or fences. A trellis can be used to grow them anywhere. I love mine because they bloom in early June before many of the other summer flowers.
Clematis is pronounced klem-a-tis. The plant is available in different forms and grows over much of the world. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, most varieties are deciduous vines. In other parts of the world, some clematis are evergreen.
There are many varieties available. Some have small flowers, others have large blooms, and some have doubles. The shape of the bloom also covers a large range. They are hardy in zones 3–9 in the US. Wild species are found mostly in North America and China.
The vines can grow up to 5 to 10 feet a year. Mine don't grow this quickly. It will depend on the variety that you choose. The clematis flowers are 3 to 7 inches in diameter. The vine can be covered with the blooms making a breathtaking display.
Choosing a Site for Your New Clematis
If you are like me, I see something beautiful at the gardening center and I have to have it. With a clematis, you need to know where you are going to plant it before you purchase one. Some grow as tall as 18 feet. A vine that large is going to need good support. The good news is that some are as small as 5 feet and don't require such a sturdy structure to grow on. You can even grow some in pots.
A trellis or a fence will work fine for a shorter growing variety. They work especially well on arbors. We have a high deck and my husband ran two rows of wire across for them to crawl up. They are now flowering on the top of the deck. I'll trim them down after they bloom.
If you have a building you'd like to grow them against, you can choose a larger growing vine. My sister grew hers up a TV tower. It covered it all the way to the top. Clematis do like to grow up trees, but remember if you do that, they will need extra water and more nutrients. The tree roots will rob them of both.
The vines can grow in partial shade or sun, but the roots like to be cool. You should keep this in mind when choosing a spot for them. You don't need to worry too much about shading the roots until hot weather arrives. Short growing perennials work well to shade them if planted near the roots.
Be sure to choose a well-drained area. The vine doesn't like water sitting. If the spot you choose isn't too wet, adding sand will help provide better drainage. When planting you can use some gravel at the bottom of the hole too.
If you've found a place to plant the vine, now you can choose a variety that will be at home in the spot. Most garden centers and nurseries will have several varieties to choose from.
Choosing a Variety
When purchasing a clematis, you need to read the tags. Check to be sure that it is hardy in your zone. Next, check how big the plant will grow. Is the structure you plan on using to support the vine sturdy enough? I've seen old plants growing up barns that covered a large portion of the fronts all of the way to the top. It is a stunning site to behold when they are blooming, but you wouldn't want that variety growing on a fence or arbor. It would take it right down.
Think about which colors would look best in your landscape. After considering all of these things, you'll have fun choosing your new vine.
Video: How to Plant a Clematis
How to Plant a Clematis
Plant the clematis a little deeper than it is growing in the container by about 2 inches. First, remove any leaves that will be below the surface of the soil. By doing this it will encourage the growth of more stems. If the plant is really small, bury it deep, but not as deep as you would the larger plant. You can then push good soil or compost around the plant in the autumn instead.
The vine will be more likely to thrive if you place some bone meal in the hole you've dug. It will nourish the plant for a while as it breaks down. Clematis likes slightly acidic soil. Keep the vine watered well after planting.
Video: Caring for Clematis
Caring for Clematis
Keep the roots of the plant cool by providing other plants that will shade the plant. We planted morning glories and they reseed every year. The morning glories are just coming up when the clematis are blooming. By July when the clematis need the shade, the morning glories will shade the roots. Later we get a lovely shower of blooms from the morning glories.
If you've planted in partial shade, hostas will work well too. If you'd rather, mulching will keep the roots cool. The tops themselves can be in partial shade or full sun. These vines like to be watered regularly during dry periods. Because they have deep vines, it is good to water them deeply. Clematis do need fertilizer, which should be done in the spring. Use a 5-10-10 mixture in the spring when the buds have just appeared.
Video: How to Prune a Clematis
Pruning won't kill the vine, but it will make it flower more. You'll also get a vine that is fuller. The varieties that bloom in early spring, shouldn't be pruned in the spring. The flower buds were formed in the previous year and you'll be pruning them off.
Another group is those that bloom in the late spring and early summer. In spring, prune back to the first set of live buds.
Some varieties don't bloom until late summer or early fall. These should be pruned in the early spring also. Prune so only 12 to 18 inches of the plant is left. This sounds severe, but you'll be rewarded with lots of flowers.
Other varieties bloom more than once in the spring and then again in the summer and should be pruned lightly right after flowering. These have blooms on both old and new wood.
Growing in Containers
Choosing the Right Clematis for Pots
Be sure to choose a vine that doesn't grow very tall. There are a few varieties that do stay short.
Choosing the Right Pot
You need to choose the right size of container to be successful. The very small clematis can be grown in pots as small as 18" across. The larger clematis will need larger pots, a least 24" in diameter. The larger the pot, the better.
You'll need a pot that is made out of the right materials. I can attest to this. One year, I found a pretty pot at a garage sale. The soil freezes and any rain or water in the pot will freeze too. The frozen water and soil expand. It cracks just like anything made of glass or ceramic when water has frozen. I was heartbroken when I found it had cracked into two pieces.
Look for pots made out of wood or resin. Some are able to stand up to the freezing temperature. It seems like a solution would be to keep the plant in a warm place, but this doesn't work. The clematis can begin to grow during the winter months and you don't want this to happen.
Plant and care for your potted vine, just like you would for one that is grown in the garden.
Have you grown clematis?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.