Introduction to Clematis:
Clematis plants belong to the botanical family of
Ranunculacea. A family that consists mainly of the climbing vines
we associate with clematis, but there are two members of the species
that do not climb at all; C. heraclefolia and C. integrifolia. There
are over two hundred species world wide and a countless number of
hybrids and cultivars. Most gardeners grow clematis as ornamental
plants for their climbing habit and beautiful flowers. Flowers
can be as small as 1 inch or as large as 10 inches and while most
are single there are many that are fully double. Blooms are sweet
scented but not heavily perfumed. Colors of the flower will often
change as they age on the vine or according to how much sunlight
the flowers are exposed to. To grow clematis successfully the
gardener should be aware of the conditions and elements required
to produce healthy plants.
Selecting a site in the garden for Clematis is very
important. The vines can live for decades so they must be happy
with the site you provide. Most varieties prefer full sun or
at a minimum 6 hours of good bright sunshine. There are a few
varieties that tolerate light shade, but all will fail miserable
in full shade so don't even try it.. Plants like their heads in
the sun but their feet in the shade so placement can be tricky. Shading
of the roots can usually be accomplished by the shadow of the vine
itself or by tucking the root under established shrubs. The
soil needs to be heavily amended with organic matter such as compost
and rotted manure. When planting the Clematis root you need
to bury the entire stem (bare root clematis) 2 - 3 inches below
the soil line. This helps prevent clematis wilt which is a
common problem with the plants. Keep the soil constantly moist,
but not soggy, during the first growing season. Established plants
will only need to be watered during extended dry spells. Water plants
even if all the foliage is dried up as clematis vines will not tolerate
drought conditions. The stem of the newly planted clematis needs
to be handled carefully and attached to some type of support so
that the vine has something to climb. The flowering vines are very
heavy feeders and will benefit from a good organic feeding program.
When growth first starts to appear in spring top dress the soil
with 2 inches of rotted manure. Feed again after flowering has finished
with bone and blood meals. We also suggest that you drench the soil
once per month during the summer with a fish emulsion solution.
When mulching the garden always keep the mulch 6 - 8 inches away
from the plants stem to discourage fungus problems.
Specific Climate Requirements
Clematis do have one very important climate consideration.
For plants to really thrive they need a period of dormancy of around
six weeks. If you live in an area that is very mild and nights rarely
dip into the 40's we regrettably do not suggest you try growing
When to plant:
If the ground is workable you can plant clematis.
Plants will react properly to the season they are planted in. It
the vines are planted in summer of fall the plant spends it's energy
producing strong roots and storing up energy for future top growth
and flowers. If planted in the cool spring the plants will produce
up to three feet of top growth before even trying to establish a
permanent root system.