Clematis Vine Growing Tips & Care

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Do you need easy and straightforward clematis vine growing tips & care advice? You are in the right place! Some aspects about growing a clematis plant are confusing, but I’ve broken it down into easy-to-understand sections. Get information about clematis flowers, trellis choices, and pruning.

pink clematis flower in bloom

Author’s note: This post features my garden and clematis plants at our house on Sutton Place. I don’t have any clematis at our current home, but I hope to change that very soon! FYI: we live in hardiness zone 6. Affiliate links included. See my disclosure statement.

Clematis is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest flowering plants ever. There are a couple of confusing things about it though…but once you have them figured out, growing clematis is easy and rewarding. The first confusing thing about this show-stopping perennial is the way the word is pronounced.

  • KLEM-ah-tis is the Martha Stewart preferred pronunciation with the accent on the first syllable.
  • kle-MAT-is, with the accent on the second syllable, is the way we say it here in Ohio.

No matter how you happen to pronounce it, the clematis plant is a dependable, beautiful, and hardy perennial.

pink clematis on lamp post 2023

Clematis Plant Varieties

I actually have 2 clematis plants of my own. One is in the front yard around my light post (pictured above) and the other is in the backyard growing on a trellis that’s tied with twine to my neighbor’s fence (pictured below.) The purple variety on the fence blooms in midsummer, and is called ‘Viola.’

I also enjoy my neighbor’s ‘Sweet Autumn’ variety, which she tosses over the fence, so it cascades over on my side. Foliage appears in early summer, and tiny white flowers bloom in late summer or early fall.

pink clematis plant in bloom

I planted the variety ‘Kakio’ (the pink one) around my light post in spring of 2010. That following winter was cold and snowy, and in the spring of 2011, I was sure the clematis plant was dead. (Remember, I was a clematis novice!) Then all of a sudden in late spring, almost overnight, green started popping out on the brown, brittle vines. The buds start to appear after the leaves. I would have never thought that those amazing pink blooms could come from what looked like a pile of sticks!

pink clematis flower clematis vine

The Clematis Flower

Every spring since then, except once when I pruned at the wrong time, the loveliest pink blooms appear in May, and it is truly one of the prettiest sites I have ever seen. Each flower has 8 pointed petals. The furry little center stays even after the petals have fallen. I have to say that of everything I have ever planted, this one is my favorite. 

purple clematis vine on wood fence

Clematis flower facts

  • Although the roots like to be cool, the vines needs at least six hours of sun per day to fully bloom. Mulch around the base of the plant and water weekly for the first growing season. After that, the plant should thrive and bloom.
  • Sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Climbers,” clematis can grow high and wide with masses of huge, colorful blooms.
  • Clematis benefits from fertilizer applied in the spring, a layer of compost over the roots, well-drained soil, and full sun.
  • Clematis plants are loved by bees and butterflies.

Pruning Clematis Vine

Now about pruning, which can also be a bit confusing. Pruning clematis has two purposes. First, it’s vital for size control. Second, it coaxes growth at the base of the plant. Knowing when your clematis plant blooms is the secret to knowing when to prune. A good way to remember is to learn this little saying:

If it blooms before June, do not prune!

If you have a mature clematis vine that blooms in the spring, like my pink plant around the light pole, that means it’s blooming on old wood. It’s safe to prune this variety soon after flowering, when the blooms have faded. This is the time to shape the plant, and remove any dead wood.

Clematis that blooms in the summer or fall, like my purple plant in the backyard garden, blooms on new wood, and can be pruned when the plant is dormant. This dormant period begins in the fall, and continues until late winter or very early spring. If you have a summer or fall bloomer that has become unruly, it’s safe to cut it down almost to the ground at this time, before new growth begins. Cut back to just above a fresh, healthy bud, removing all dead wood.

A good rule of thumb is to look out for small buds…if you see them, DO NOT PRUNE!

No matter when your clematis blooms, don’t be afraid to prune. It’s VERY hard to kill a clematis! The worst that will happen is that your plant will have no blooms (or very few) the next growing season. This has personally happened to me, and I lived through it!

Clematis Varieties

There are many different types of Clematis. Below are just a few of my favorites.

  • ‘Diana’s Delight’
  • ‘Carnaby’
  • ‘Josephine’
  • ‘Franziska Maria’
  • ‘Nelly Moser’
  • ‘Henryi’
  • ‘Ernest Markham’

Choosing the proper trellis

Climbing plants have unique characteristics, and each variety attaches itself to a trellis differently. Clematis climbs and attaches using its leaf stems, much like a pea vine. The leaf stems are short, so make sure whatever they are attaching to is small in diameter. If you want to use a panel trellis with thicker climbing parts, just wrap and intertwine the vines around the trellis bars, and the leaf stems will naturally attach themselves. 

clematis in garden with shed 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

Do clematis come back every year?

Yes! If pruned properly and planted in the sun, a clematis that is a hardy variety will survive the winter.

Where is the best place to plant clematis?

Clematis loves a sunny spot, and needs to attach itself to a trellis, fence, chicken wire, or very thin branches.

How many years does a clematis last?

Some hardy varieties have been know to last for up to 50 years!

What does a clematis symbolize?

The word “clematis” comes from Greek word “klema,” which means “twig,” “shoot,” or “branch.” It’s known for symbolizing ingenuity and artiface…this is because it has the uncanny ability to wrap itself around branches and trellises.

Himeles, D. 2017, July 21. What is the Meaning of the Clematis? Garden Guides. https://www.gardenguides.com/12273227-what-is-the-meaning-of-the-clematis.html

If you have never tried growing a clematis plant, I highly recommend it. Depending on your growing zone, they can be found at garden centers or your local nursery from April until August. It won’t do much the first season that it’s planted but after that, with very little maintenance, you will be rewarded with blooms that will take your breath away. I just wish they lasted all summer!

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22 Comments

  1. Melissa Long says:

    I live in zone 8b and my clematis is beautiful until late April to early May. The sun seems to burn the plant to where it appears to die. It does come back every year but doesn’t seen to be able to take our southern heat and humidity. Any advise

  2. Charlene Morrison says:

    I have a Jackmanii which blooms on new wood. Can I prune it as it grown to get it to spread out and flower lower on my trellis?

  3. Hi Ann, thanks so much for this post. When we bought our house, we had a beautiful clematis growing up the front light post. After a few years, I got tired of it (I thought) and had my husband take it out. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I’ve tried a couple others but never seem to have any luck. So with your instructions, I’m going to give it another try this summer! Wish me luck!

  4. Pamela Newberry says:

    I have the pink one. It was planted 15 years ago around my light pole. Once it blooms and all the flowers are gone, I cut it back again. It grows and flowers all over again. In the fall, I cut it back almost to the ground and in Spring it grows again. I put a tomato cage over the light post for it to grow on. Also use twine to hold up some of the vines. It is full and beautiful.
    Pam Newberry, Virginia

  5. Thank you for this post! I had a beautiful white clematis at my former house. I think it’s high time I added one to my garden at this house! Thanks for the reminder and tips.

    1. Joe cabral says:

      Getting holes in he leaves, what should I do?

  6. Good morning Ann from Northern California! Thank you for the tips on clematis. I especially liked the pruning tip — “if it blooms before June, do not prune”.

  7. Janie Keller says:

    Ann,
    Love your Clematis but really need your bird house!! Would you share the source?
    Your blog and emails are a peaceful spot in my chaotic days.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Janie! I linked to the birdhouse in the caption of the image. But here’s the link again: https://amzn.to/3ZlM4m5 I wish I could have brought the birdhouse to our new home, but it was put in the ground with cement! Hope you get one…Ann

  8. Thank you so much for this post and information! We recently moved from Southern California to NE Indiana, and like you, are in Zone 6. Our new home out here has a light post in the front yard, which faces south. We have been talking about planting a little bed AROUND it so DH doesn’t have to maneuver it around it with the lawn tractor. It never even occurred to me to plant a vine of any kind that would wrap around the light post, but your post is such a clear and helpful idea, I can’t wait not to plant a clematis!

  9. Hello! Loved your article. I am looking for a Clematis named “Vicki”. My sister, Vicki, passed away May 2022 and I want to plant this Clematis in her honor. I ordered one last year, but thought it had died. I cannot remember who I ordered it from. After reading your article, I now wonder if it died or just appeared that way. I am desperate to find this Clematis. Hope you can help me.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Sandee…I replied via email. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam. XO

  10. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for sharing your info on the Clematis, however I’m not sure which one I have but based on the information you provided the purple one you have sounds like what I have . I’ve had it for at least 6yrs.or longer and I must say it’s a stunning plant 🪴 just wished it bloomed All Summer ! I’ve never even fertilized it and it still performs. I decided to prune it back today it had gotten VERY TOP HEAVY.

  11. Charmaine says:

    I can attest to the hardiness of clematis from my own experience! I planted a clematis vine to grow along the awning posts of my patio around 1987. Several years later, we covered the patio with a raised deck, but the work was done before I could move the plant to another location. The next summer, it worked it’s way under the deck and over the rails where it continued to thrive until three years ago when we built a new , larger deck. I was able to move enough of the plant to a new location, but lo and behold, little clematis shoots still find their way through the deck boards every summer!

  12. Mabel Goddard says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! Clematis is a beautiful plant. Thank you so much for the information. I have Princess Diana, is not performing where it is, too much shade. I will be moving it to a sunnier spot.
    Thank you always💕

  13. I have a Jackmani (sp?). I love it. I have tried to find another one but I think I will have to try to do a clipping and see if I can get it to root. Interesting article.

  14. Hi Ann
    I have grown them for years! I tried to grow a particular white variety(of course the name eludes me)but with no success. And as far as pruning I never get a chance. My dreaded rabbits eat them to the ground every winter but thankfully they come up every year! They are definetly worth growing.

  15. Dear Ann,
    Thanks once again for timely and informative information!

  16. I have long admired clematis in other gardens, but have never had one in mine. Maybe this will be the year that I will go on that adventure! Yours is very lovely.

  17. Ann I really enjoyed your post on Clematis. I’m a fellow Ohioan. I am about 30 miles north of Cincinnati.. I want to tell you about a clematis i have had for 30=40 years! Yes the same plant. It is the Betty Corning ! I LOVE it. I got it years ago from Wayside Gardens it is so different from regular blooms. It’s blooms are little bells. They are so beautiful and it has survived these cold frigid winters and heat and drought and comes back faithfully every year! Do check it out! Thank you also for the really pretty monthly phone wallpapers. I love them.
    Elaine

  18. Looks beautiful around your light pole.

  19. Jan Fusco says:

    I’m so glad you’ll be posting about gardening. Some of my favorite pins on Pinterest are from you.