How to Grow a Clematis
Clematis are one of, if not the most popular choice of climbing plant, as they are easy to grow and maintain. They are reliable, hardy climbers offering colour, scent and seasonal interest.
I am often ask me how to care for clematis plants. They are not high maintenance plants, you only need to remember a few basic rules which I will cover in this article, in order to have a succession of beautiful blooms.
Choose wisely and you could have various clematis in flower every month of the year from the aptly named Winter Beauty or Freckles that flower from December through to early spring, March flowering Clematis Avalanche or Pink Flamingo in April followed by the riot that are the Clematis Montana varieties in white, pale pinks and mauve, to name a few.
Through the summer and autumn there is a blaze of colour from clematis such as Clematis Taiga, Countess of Wessex and General Sikorsky.
Evergreen green clematis are also valuable plants to grow for all year round coverage and a plethora of flowers to give interest in the winter.
These hardy, tough plants are a staple for most gardens, they cover a multitude of sins when grown against unsightly outbuildings or walls, fences and pagodas. They will ramble happily through trees and hedges and look well, partnered with other climbers like roses. Growing clematis vines is easy and rewarding with thousands of cultivars to choose from.
With such a wide choice of these versatile climbing vines it is easy to see how Clematis are a firm favourite with gardeners.
Pruned and maintained correctly clematis will give a show stopping display year after year. Always use clean, sharp pruning secateurs. Best Secateurs review
When should Clematis be Pruned?
Clematis are classed in three main groups in terms of when they flower. Regular pruning keeps the plant healthy, encouraging strong new growth and stops them becoming a tangled mess of old, possibly damaged, woody stems that won’t flower so well. The group your Clematis is in will determine when and how to prune it. See the Garden Calendar for more information on which plants to prune and when, throughout the gardening year.
Pruning Group 1
Mid to late spring, once all risk of frost/snow has gone.
Pruning Group 2
February and again after the first flowering.
Pruning Group 3
Late January and February
How to Prune Clematis
Group 1 Clematis
These are early flowering clematis that need a light prune, flowers are produced on the previous seasons growth. A light prune of faded flowers is all that is required. As they become more established training of the stems is needed for you to direct it where you want it grow.
All new plants should be pruned back hard in their first spring. Prune stems to a pair of healthy, new buds to about 30cm from the ground
Thin out old and damaged stems.
To renovate, cut all stems back to a pair of healthy new buds to 30cm from the ground. This will result in new, vigorous growth. Tie in new stems to the support framework.
Clematis Montana varieties only need a light prune with shears after flowering.
Examples of Group 1 Clematis
- Armandii (very light prune only)
- Clematis ‘alpina’
- Clematis cirrhosa (winter flowering, evergreen clematis)
Group 2 Clematis
Clematis that belong in group 2 are the big, blousy hybrids that flower through summer. Pruned correctly they will give you a second flush of flowers.
New plants should be pruned to a pair of new buds about 30cm from the ground.
Prune out old and damaged stems in late winter.
Prune again after flowering by pruning some of the stems to new buds or growth.
Overgrown plants can be pruned back gradually over several seasons to maintain a desired size and coverage. Alternatively prune back more rigorously to between 30cm and 100cm every three years or so.
Examples of Group 2 Clematis
- Miss Bateman
Group 3 Clematis
For new plants cut back all stems to a pair of new, healthy buds about 10cm to 30cm from the ground.
Some of the small-flowered clematis can have the stems thinned out, thereby leaving most of the attractive seeds-heads.
They can also be left to ramble through trees or pergolas without any pruning.
Examples of Group 3 Clematis
- Countess de Bouchard
- Star of India
If you have a lot of pruning to do, which in large gardens is highly likely, or you struggle with hand, finger or wrist injuries or aching joints then you might want to consider a set of cordless electric secateurs. These are safe and easy to use and take away the strain of joints that excessive pruning can cause.
How To Plant A Clematis
The best time to plant Clematis is spring, early summer or early autumn.
Dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the pot or root ball, a few inches from where your plant support is.
Set your plant in it and bring in the removed soil with added compost or organic matter. Firm down the soil around the plant. Water well and add another inch or so of soil as it settles.
If the plant does not yet reach the support then put a few sticks or short canes in the soil, angled to the support so that the young early shoots have something to twine around.
Clematis like plenty of water and do better with a good watering once a week rather than short drinks on a daily basis.
Keep their roots shaded by placing some stones at the base of the plant or by adding other, smaller plants around the base.
Hard pruning of groups 1 and 2 will result in loss of flowers for at least a year.
Position: Full or part sun/part shade.
Hardiness: Mostly fully hardy.
Soil type: Chalk, clay, loam, sandy. Moist but well drained.
What Are The Best Clematis To Grow In Pots?
If you have limited space, don’t despair, you can still enjoy some beautiful clematis as there are many that do very well in containers. These are just a few examples for you to consider.
- Countess of Wessex
- Oh La La
- Ice Blue
These beautiful, versatile climbing plants add a wealth of charm to any garden, as some can be grown in containers, they can be included in any garden, large or small.
Their characteristic open or bell shaped flowers are a magnet for pollinators, attracting butterflies and bees into your special outdoor space.
Whatever your garden style, preference or colour scheme there is a Clematis that will fit right in, helping to add to the wow factor in your garden. Bringing your outdoor space to life.
I personally wouldn’t be without them.
For a selection of other equally lovely climbing plants :- hardy-climbing-plants
Best Place to Buy Clematis
I have mentioned several hybrids and cultivars of Clematis throughout this article but there are many, many more beautiful choices in terms of colour, flower shape and fragrance. Some have dainty bell like flowers, others are huge double/triple pet taller flowers, almost like rose blooms.
The following are all reliable suppliers of quality plants.
Thompson and Morgan Suppliers of award winning plants, they have an extensive range of lovely Clematis.
Gardening Express also have a great choice of quality clematis plants.
Waitrose Garden are another online supplier of fantastic clematis plants and offer a huge choice.
I hope that this article proves helpful to you in choosing and how to care for clematis plants, please share it with friends, family and social media. For more details, gardening know how, tips and advice check out my How To Do pages.
Any queries or views can be posted in the comments box below, I will reply as soon as I can.