Clematis, known as the “queen of the vines,” may be best known for its large-flowering, purple, star-shape blooms on twining vines. Learn how and when to plant clematis—plus clematis care tips and advice on how to propagate this long-lived perennial plant—which will bloom for generations!
There are more than 300 species and hundreds of hybrids of clematis. Most clematis are woody, deciduous vines while others are shrub, or trailing types. Some species bloom in spring; others, in mid-to late summer. Most clematis are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8 and native to North America.
The blooms are spectacular with some flowers reaching up to 10 inches across! These showy flowers in the form of saucers, bells, tubes, tulips, open bells, doubles, and semi-double. The flowers are usually in the cool shades of purple or pink though they do come in a stunning array of tones including blue, white, magenta, yellow, and bicolor. Also, many clematis varieties are scented. (The most fragrant species is the tender C. armandii.)
Clematises appreciate a trellis, post, or stationary structure to climb; without something, the vine will sprawl, including over the ground. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies love their blooms.
Clematis thrives in full sun—at least 6 hours a day for good bloom. However, the sensitive roots cannot take the heat; keep plant roots moist and cool with mulch, low-growing plants, and ground cover. Soil must be loose, well-draining with a neural pH. Prior to planting, mix in compost or aged manure, plus a few handfuls of bonemeal.
When to Plant Clematis
Planting in the cool spring is generally more successful than fall planting
Plant potted clematis anytime after the last spring frost and before fall’s first one.
How to Plant Clematis
Dig a planting hole that’s about 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball and a few inches deeper. To stay cool, the crown (the part of the plant where the stem and roots meet) should be about 4 inches below the soil surface. This will encourage branching and stem development underground.
Fill in with soil, water thoroughly, and mulch to keep the roots cool and minimize weeds.
Place the climbing structure, if using.
Keep the soil moist during the first year by watering weekly. So not let the soil dry out. In colder regions, add extra mulch around the plant in late fall to protect the roots. Once the plant is in the ground, don’t disturb or move it. .
In spring, fertilize with a liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. In subsequent years, fertilize with a balances, all-purpose (5-10-5) fertilizer.
Each spring, spread compost around the plant (away from the stems).
In spring, prune dead wood back, cutting above new, emerging buds.
On older plants, remove any stems that are 4 years old or older.
Prune clematis to promote flowering. There are 3 different kinds of clematis and you need to determine which kind you have before you prune. Woody-stemmed types like the Clematis montana bloom early on last year’s stems. Prune plants after flowering to remove deadwood.
Clematises belong to one of three groups, based on flower size and bloom time.
Group 1: Woody-stemmed types bloom on last year’s stems. Flowers appear in early to midspring. Prune after flowering, if desired, to remove deadwood. Examples include: C. armandii, C. alpine, C. cirrhosis, C. macropetula, and C. montana.
Group 2: Double and semidouble flowers should also be pruned as above. They may bloom twice: in May/June on last year’s wood, and later in the year on new shoots. But prune after spring flowers fade; remove dead wood in late winter. Examples include hybrids: ‘Miss Bateman’, Lake Sondesborough’, ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘Henry’, ‘Marie Boisselot’, and ‘Elsa Spath’.
Group 3: Large, showy flowers that bloom in summer and autumn are on current year’s growth. Prune severely in late winter/early spring, leaving two pairs of buds on each stem. Common varieties include: C. viticella, C. recta, and C. x jackmanii.