Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Clematis are a great group of flowering vines that are adaptable to many situations. They are usually sold as “sun” perennials, but in fact there are many varieties that tolerate some amounts of shade. There are low growing “shrub” type clematis, clematis that bloom early spring, in the summer and several varieties that bloom in the fall. Most clematis have large, even huge, blooms and some with smaller, more dainty, bell-shaped blooms. Clearly, there is a clematis out there with your name on it.

What throws people off is how to prune it. Most plants are pretty forgiving with how we prune them, the worst that will happen is that you will accidently prune off this year’s buds and you won’t get any flowers for a year. So don’t be nervous… just follow these simple instructions:
Clematis can be divided into three types of plants: those that bloom in the spring, those that bloom in the summer/early fall and those that bloom twice, once in early summer and again in late summer (truth be told I have never had one of my twice blooming plants actually bloom the second time).

Group 1 plants bloom on old wood and should be pruned only after they have flowered for the year. These plants bloom early in the spring. Remove all the dead and weak stems immediately after flowering.
Group2 plants bloom on new and old wood so they bloom both in the early summer and then later on in the summer (maybe). Watch for swelling buds and carefully remove all dead stems above the swelling buds.
Group 3 clematis flowers only on new growth. These are the plants that flower in the early summer. These types of clematis can be pruned hard in February or March.

Here are a few other facts about clematis care:
Clematis prefer cool roots. Dig the hole about 2 feet deep and amend with organic matter. Set the clematis with the crown of the plant about 1 inch below the top of the hole. Back fill with the amended soil and water in thoroughly.
Clematis stems are very brittle. Tie the clematis to the trellis or what ever you want it to grow up and be sure to protect the base of the plant with screening material to prevent animals from damaging the stems.
Apply a layer of mulch over the winter months.

Here's another interesting thought when selecting clematis: you can plant several varieties together as shown in the picture on the right. You can select plants that bloom at the same time but in different colors or you can plant ones that bloom at different times so you always have something blooming. If you want to learn more about clematis, visit the greenhouse staff at Countryside.

Here are some varieties to try for shadier areas:

Alabast: Creamy white 5-6” flowers. Blooms May, June and August
Clair de Lune: 6-7” white blooms that turn to pale lavender. Blooms June, July and late August.
Elsa Spath- Rich lavender blooms, free flowering
Nelly Moser- pale pink with a red bar down the middle, blooms June and September
Lemon Chiffon- pale yellow cream
Viticella varieties: smaller 4-5” flowers, blooms profusely in July and August

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