Growing Clematis

Planting, Growing, and Caring for Clematis Vines

Clematis

When we think of clematis, we generally envision the popular clematis vine, a climber with large-flowering, star-shaped blooms. However, there are beautiful small-flowering and shrub-types that few people even know about. Learn more about clematis and how to get this beauty to thrive!

Clematis is a popular perennial climber hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. They’re a great choice for a fence, wall, or trellis.

There is a wide variety of options as clematis come in many colors, flower sizes, and shapes. Some are at their best in sun and some in shade. Certain types bloom in spring and others bloom in late summer. Select the right clematis varieties, and you could have colorful flowers blooming for every season. 
 

Planting

When to Plant Clematis

  • Plant potted clematis in spring or early fall. Avoid planting in the height of summer, as the harsh sun and heat can make it difficult for the plant to get established. 

Selecting a Planting Site

  • Select a site where the plant’s roots can be shaded and cool, but its stems will be in full sun. 
  • Most clematis varieties need a site with at least six hours of full sun. 
  • Clematis grows best in loose, well-draining soil. Work plenty of compost into the soil prior to planting. 

Planting Clematis

  • Dig a planting hole that’s about twice as wide as the plant’s pot.
  • Set the plant in the hole with the crown 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface.
  • Cover the soil around the plant with mulch to keep the roots cool. 
  • Clematis vines need a trellis or other support on which to grow.

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Care

How to Care for Clematis

  • Once the plant is in the ground, don’t disturb or move it. 
  • Keep the soil moist during the first year by watering weekly during the growing season. Don’t let the soil dry out.
  • Fertilize after planting with a liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. In subsequent years, fertilize in spring with a granular organic fertilizer.  
  • In spring, add compost around the plant.
  • On older plants, remove any stems in spring that are 4 years old or older. 

Pruning Clematis

Like hydrangeas, different clematis varieties are pruned at different times. Some bloom on new wood and some on old wood.

See our post on how and when to prune your clematis.

Pests/Diseases

The most serious disease is commonly called clematis wilt. It is a stem rot/leaf spot disease caused by a fungus. It mainly affects large-flowered clematis hybrids. 

Clematis is also susceptible to powdery mildew, rust, and viruses. 

Insect pests include aphids, vine weevils, slugs/snails, scale insects, spider mites, and earwigs

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • The word clematis comes from the ancient Greek word for a climbing vine. 
  • Many clematis varieties are scented. The most fragrant species is the tender C. armandii.
  • Clematis belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

Vegetable Gardener's Handbook

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Growing Clematis

Botanical Name Clematis spp.
Plant Type Trees, Shrubs, and Vine
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Any
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Spring, Summer
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White, Yellow
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Special Features