Clematis Vine Growing Tips & Care

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 plant in bloom

Updated and revised: March 2021.

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 flower clematis vine on lightpost

Clematis Plant Varieties

I actually have 2 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, attached to my neighbor’s fence (pictured below.) The purple variety on the fence 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. 

See: Sweet Autumn Fall Blooming Beauty

purple clematis vine on wood fence

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 the 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!

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. 

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 year. After that, the plant should thrive and bloom.
  • Sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Vines,” clematis can grow high and wide with masses of huge, colorful blooms.

Other interesting clematis flower varieties:

  • ‘Diana’s Delight’
  • ‘Carnaby’
  • ‘Josephine’
  • ‘Franziska Maria’

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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. 

pink clematis flower clematis vine

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!
  • Clematis vine that does not get an occasional proper pruning can get top-heavy with blooms. 
  • 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!
For more information on pruning in general, click here: Garden Pruning Guide.
pink clematis flower in bloom
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 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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