Clematis vines are one of the most commonly grown vines in the home landscape. As a genus, it is very large with over 300 different species and hundreds of hybrid cultivars. The size of flowers can vary from over six inches to less than an inch in diameter. Some are bell shaped while others are in the form of stars or are tubular. Blooms may face upward toward the sun or hang downward toward the ground.

These vines climb by using stems or leaf petioles that twin around objects. That is why they need some sort of trellis or wires to climb. Unlike ivies, they do not have aerial roots and cannot climb up a brick wall. Some people like to just let the vines crawl along the ground in their beds and borders for a different effect.

The old saying about clematis is that they "like their head in the sun and their feet in the shade". This means that the vines will do best when exposed to bright sunlight while the roots like to stay cool in the soil.

Although they do best in the sun, many clematis will also grow in a shaded situation. However, they will take more growing seasons to establish themselves and will produce fewer flowers. But, in a shaded location, even a few of these large, bright flowers can make quite a display.

Since they have a relatively small root zone, you can help to upgrade the soil with some organic amendments in an area about a couple of feet in diameter and 6 to 8 inches deeper than the root ball.

Of course, you need to plant the clematis close to whatever you are using as a support system. If you must plant more than a few inches away, you might need to anchor a string near the transplant leading to the support. The clematis can climb up the string and begin going up the trellis.

In order to keep the roots cool, clematis are often planted with a "mother plant" nearby to provide shade to the roots. A small shrub or groundcovers may be used for this purpose.

Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged for the coming season or two. Clematis fall into the category of plants that "creep, crawl and run" meaning that the first year, there may be little growth. The second year, the vine will begin to spread out and in the third year, it will be off and running.

There is often a confusion over how to prune clematis vines. Generally, they are divided into one of three groups according to the season and way in which you need (or may) prune clematis vines. For more...

A light fertilization at the beginning of the season may help encourage new vine growth. Generally avoid fertilizing during the blooming season.

Although most ornamental plants can benefit from deadheading the spent blooms, clematis may be an exception. Many of them produce interesting, showy seed heads which people like to leave on the vines. It takes a little energy for the plant to produce these but it doesn't seem to hurt the plant's vigor or winter survival rate.

Probably the main problem associated with clematis is a disease called clematis wilt.

Deer may chew on clematis vines although, those on trellis near the house seem to be less bothered.

If the plant is hardy for your specific USDA Hardiness Zone, there should be no need for any extra over winter care.


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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