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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
There are many different types of Clematis. Below are just a few of my favorites.
- ‘Diana’s Delight’
- ‘Franziska Maria’
- ‘Nelly Moser’
- ‘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.
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!