How to Grow Clematis
Clematis are truly an international vine. There are species native to North America, Europe, India, Australia, China and Japan. A versatile vine, there are types that bloom in full sun and some in part shade.
Some clematis are rampant growers needing a strong trellis, while others are tame enough to grow in a container. With the right selection, you can have clematis blooming in your garden from spring until fall.
When & Where to Plant Clematis
Light: Clematis blooms best in full sun. Some varieties, such as 'Nelly Moser', can bloom in part shade, but the amount of flowering will be reduced. Clematis will benefit from afternoon shade in hot summer areas.
Soil: Clematis prefers a moist, well-drained soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. In areas with acidic soils, add lime periodically to keep the pH moderated. Clematis is susceptible to stem wilt, so although the soil needs to be moist, it must be well-drained.
Spacing: Space clematis plants 24 to 36 inches apart. For aggressive growing varieties, space them a bit further apart and for bush-types space them a little closer.
Planting: Plant clematis in spring or fall. You can plant in summer, especially in the North, but you'll have to keep the new transplants well-watered and weeded.
How to Grow Clematis Throughout the Season
Growth Habit: Most clematis are known as strong climbers, but there are selections that grow more bush-like, vining only a few feet. Vining clematis can be aggressive with some climbing 20 feet tall.
Staking: Most clematis don't need staking in the traditional sense, but they do need support. If they don't have a structure for a vining-type clematis to climb on they will stop growing. The vines climb by wrapping their leaf stems around a ½ inch diameter supports such as wire, twine and thin branches from other plants. They will not climb up thicker supports. Even if you have a wall, trellis, arbor, lamp post or fence, you may need to add thinner supports for the vines to climb upon.
Watering: The old adage is clematis likes sunny tops and cool, moist bottoms. Keep the soil consistently moist, but be sure it's well drained or you may encourage wilt disease. Pay special attention to watering the first year. Don't let the soil dry out during a hot summer spell. Once established, clematis are more forgiving of infrequent watering.
Fertilizing: Clematis are heavy feeders. Amend the soil at planting with compost. Each spring add a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost around the base of the vines and a balanced organic fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Side dress again in early summer.
Mulching: Clematis should be mulched annually in the spring to keep the soil moist and prevent weed growth. Use an organic mulch, such as bark mulch, but keep it 6 to 12 inches away from the stems to avoid wilt disease.
Trimming & Pruning: Spring and early summer-blooming clematis should be deadheaded after flowering to encourage more blooms to form next year or even later in the summer. Late summer and fall-blooming types don't require deadheading. In fact, the wispy seed heads are an attractive addition to the fall and winter garden.
All vining clematis should be pruned each year. Pruning clematis can be confusing since it depends on the type of clematis you're growing. The first step is to always prune out dead, diseased and broken stems any time during the growing season. Wait until it's clear which stems are alive and dead in spring before pruning.
Prune based upon the bloom time. For clematis varieties that bloom in spring and early summer on old wood (second year), prune after flowering. For varieties that bloom in summer and fall, prune in spring since these varieties bloom on new wood. Spring pruning will stimulate more growth. For large-flowered hybrid varieties, deadhead spent blossoms after the first flush of flowers. A second flush will occur later in the summer.
When pruning new clematis vines, prune back the vine to about 1 foot from the ground to stimulate branching lower on the plant. As it grows in the first year, pinch the growth tips periodically to force more branching. This will eliminate flowers the first year, but create a multi branched plant that will produce more flowers in the future.
For established vines, prune back the vines by 1/3rd at the appropriate time to encourage more growth. Prune back to right above large buds on the stem.
With deep red blooms and golden centers, this showy Clematis will make a stunning statement in any area of the garden. (Clematis)...Learn MoreNiobe Clematis Vine Niobe Clematis Vine Clematis Niobe$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotWith deep red blooms and golden centers, this showy Clematis will make a stunning statement in any area of the garden. (Clematis)
Full sun loving Jackmanii is the all-time favorite climbing flowering vine: The famous deep purple Jackmanii Clematis blooms all summer. (Clematis)...Learn MoreJackmanii Clematis Vine Jackmanii Clematis Vine Clematis Jackmanii$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotFull sun loving Jackmanii is the all-time favorite climbing flowering vine: The famous deep purple Jackmanii Clematis blooms all summer. (Clematis)
Sweet Autumn Clematis is the famous vine for a great arbor-covering cloud of small white flowers in summer and fall. (Clematis)...Learn MoreSweet Autumn Clematis Vine Sweet Autumn Clematis Vine Clematis terniflora Sweet Autumn$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotSweet Autumn Clematis is the famous vine for a great arbor-covering cloud of small white flowers in summer and fall. (Clematis)
Nelly Moser is the most popular bi-color Clematis with supersize flowers in classic mauve and pink. Huge favorite. (Clematis)...Learn MoreNelly Moser Clematis Vine Nelly Moser Clematis Vine Clematis Nelly Moser$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotNelly Moser is the most popular bi-color Clematis with supersize flowers in classic mauve and pink. Huge favorite. (Clematis)
With a petite habit and the ability to bloom in both double and single flowers, ‘Piilu’ clematis is a wonderful vine for the deck or patio. Double ruffled lavender blooms...Learn MorePiilu® Clematis Vine Piilu® Clematis Vine Clematis Piilu®, Clematis Little Duckling$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotWith a petite habit and the ability to bloom in both double and single flowers, ‘Piilu’ clematis is a wonderful vine for the deck or patio. Double ruffled lavender blooms are produced on old stems in early summer, and single flowers follow on the current season’s growth. Very hardy. Part-shade. (Clematis)
‚Multi Blue‚ Clematis produces 4-6„ long-lasting blue flowers with spiky thistle-like centers and delicate, pointed petals. It blooms in early summer and then again...Learn MoreMulti Blue Clematis Vine Multi Blue Clematis Vine Clematis Multi Blue$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" Pot'Multi Blue' Clematis produces 4-6" long-lasting blue flowers with spiky thistle-like centers and delicate, pointed petals. It blooms in early summer and then again in late summer or early fall. Plant 'Multi Blue' Clematis against an arbor, trellis or fence for it to climb upon, or allow it to ramble up a shrub or down a bank. Deer resistant. (Clematis)
Snow Queen Clematis produces dramatic large, 6-8” diameter white star - like flowers with red anthers. It blooms early to mid summer. This clematis is an excellent vine for lon...Learn MoreSnow Queen Clematis Vine Snow Queen Clematis Vine Clematis Snow Queen$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" PotSnow Queen Clematis produces dramatic large, 6-8” diameter white star - like flowers with red anthers. It blooms early to mid summer. This clematis is an excellent vine for long lasting and spectacular blooms. Snow Queen Clematis is deer resistant, fragrant, and attracts pollinators. Plant Snow Queen and train it to grow on trellises, arbors and lampposts for showy results. (Clematis)
‚Ernest Markham‚ Clematis produces vibrant magenta-red flowers with a frilly center of golden anthers on fast-growing vines. A vigorous grower once it takes off, be sure ...Learn MoreErnest Markham Clematis Vine Ernest Markham Clematis Vine Clematis Ernest Markham$22.65 Sale $16.99Per Plant - 4" Pot'Ernest Markham' Clematis produces vibrant magenta-red flowers with a frilly center of golden anthers on fast-growing vines. A vigorous grower once it takes off, be sure to give this clematis an arbor, fence or trellis to climb on and twist around. Blooms appear in early to mid summer and then come in strong again in late summer. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Clematis)
Clematis: End of Season Care
Dividing & Transplanting: Generally, clematis are finicky about any root disturbances. For that reason, only divide or move your clematis if it's a strong grower. Although clematis can be divided in spring before new growth begins, the new plants may take some time to get established. Before transplanting, remove the plant from the trellis. Cut back the tops so each stem has about 3 to 4 buds. Dig up the root systems, divide the roots carefully and replant in a similar location as the mother plant. Treat the new divisions like new transplants and mulch, keep them well watered, and be ready to wait a season or two for strong new growth.
Pests/ Disease: Clematis has very few serious pests and diseases. The biggest problem home gardeners will find with their clematis vine is stem wilt. This occurs when individual stems growing from the ground suddenly wilt and die. Although this problem feels severe, it usually doesn't kill the plant. Simply prune back the wilted stem to the ground. To help prevent this fungal wilt in the future, plant your clematis in well-drained soil where it gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. Also, avoid damaging the stems or roots while working around the plant and avoid piling compost and mulch too close to the crown. This disease mostly effects the large-flowered hybrid clematis. Smaller-flowered species types, such as Clematis viticella, have less problems with fungal wilt.
Clematis may also be attacked by powdery mildew disease. The leaves will turn white, then yellow and drop. To prevent powdery mildew from occurring, try a home remedy consisting of one tablespoon of baking soda, one tablespoon of horticultural oil and one tablespoon of liquid detergent in a gallon of water. Spray when you first see signs of the disease.