How to Plant and Grow Clematis

This perennial vine comes in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes.

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Purple Clematis Eloile Viole Tte
Photo:

David McDonald

Clematis is one of the best perennial vines for your garden. These plants dress up any kind of structure they climb with their flowers that come in an array of shapes and colors. Bloom time ranges from late spring to fall, depending on the type and variety. With a little planning, it’s possible to have clematis blooms in your garden throughout the growing season. You can even plant these vigorous vines alongside sturdy woody plants such as roses, trees, or shrubs to act as a living trellis.

Whether it's a summer-blooming variety with large, showy blooms, or a fall-blooming type of clematis with hundreds of smaller flowers, these vines make a stunning statement. The most common clematis are the open-face blooms that reach as large as 7 inches across. Blooms also come in small, bell-shaped blossoms with outer petals that dangle like little lanterns. Some blooms have a pleasant fragrance. The swirling masses of fluffy seeds add textural interest, too.

Bloom time of clematis vines varies, depending on the species. Many new varieties are rebloomers, but most of the older types will only bloom for one season. However, even after blooming, clematis flowers add interest. As the seed heads mature, they expand to become fluffy balls that look especially pretty in dried floral arrangements.

Clematis Overview

Genus Name Clematis
Common Name Clematis
Plant Type Perennial, Vine
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 3 to 20 feet
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings

Toxic Plant

Clematis is toxic to people but the leaves have a bitter taste, which helps deter much sampling. If you suspect your child has eaten clematis, call the doctor. The plant is also known to be toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Where to Plant Clematis

Clematis is a perennial vine that grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9. It thrives in the garden or planted in containers. Although most clematis plants are vining types, there are some shrubby clematis varieties available.

Invasive Plant

Some clematis varieties can become invasive, so deadhead blooms to prevent their spread.

Clematis Care Tips

Clematis is an easily grown perennial vine, as long as you keep a few things in mind.

Light

In general, clematis prefers full sun, but a few varieties can manage to grow in partial shade.

An important thing to note: Although the leaves of the plant thrive in the warm sunlight, clematis prefers to have cool roots, so plant it at the base of another plant that will provide shade over the base of the plants.

Soil and Water

A clematis prefers well-drained soil and consistent moisture. Certain species are more drought-resistant and can handle dry soils better than others.

Fertilizer

Clematis has a reputation as a heavy feeder, so don't neglect regular fertilization. Begin in the spring after the buds form and use a low nitrogen fertilizer (5-10-10). Continue to feed the plant every four weeks or so throughout the season using a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Pruning

Pruning clematis vines is quite simple. There are three main classes when it comes to pruning, numbered accordingly. The group numbers indicate how to prune. To start, no matter which group number vine you have, it's always a good idea to give plants in their first year a good spring pruning.

Group 1 plants will bloom on old wood (growth from previous seasons), so if needed, prune them right after blooming. Clean up these vines lightly in early spring, but be aware that any live growth you remove is, in fact, a potential flower you've just cut. Try to only cut off dead wood.

Group 2 vines bloom on both new and old growth. Typically, most of their blooms will appear in spring, but they'll also put on another floral show on new growth in the fall. With this group of clematis, you can do some mild pruning in early spring, especially removing dead wood. Any major work should be done just after the primary bloom in spring.

Group 3 vines all bloom only on new wood. These types of clematis vines are easy to grow and can be cut back every spring to about 8-12 inches above the ground. If you don't cut Group 3 back each spring, plants can become overgrown and unruly.

How to Propagate Clematis

You can propagate clematis with seeds by planting them in a flat of seed-starting mix and keeping it moist, but it can take several months before you see any results.

Taking softwood stem cuttings from a healthy plant in April or May is a better method for propagating clematis. The cutting must contain a leaf bud. Press the cuttings into a small pot filled with compost or seed-starting mix, water, and cover with a plastic bag. When they root, transfer them to separate containers. It can take as long as a year for the seedlings to be robust enough to be planted outdoors.

Types of Clematis

'Alba Luxurians' Clematis

Clematis viticella Alba Luxurians
Kritsada Panichgul

Clematis viticella 'Alba Luxurians' blooms from midsummer to fall, bearing white flowers with green petal tips. It's quite vigorous, climbing to 12 feet. Zones 5–9

Alpine Clematis

Purple Clematis alpina tree
Peter Krumhardt

Clematis alpina blooms in spring and early summer in shades of blue, lavender, and white. Its fluffy seed heads look great in the summer and fall. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 5–9

'Avant Garde' Clematis

Clematis Avant Garde
Marty Baldwin

Clematis 'Avant Garde' offers unique burgundy flowers that are graced with a frilly pink center. Blooming begins in the summer and continues through autumn. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–8

'Bee's Jubilee' Clematis

Clematis Bees Jubilee
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Bee's Jubilee' is a compact selection with deep pink flowers banded with red. It blooms in late spring and early summer and climbs to 8 feet tall. Zones 4–9

Blue Light Clematis

Clematis Vanso
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Vanso' is an exquisite selection with double lavender-purple flowers in spring and again in fall. It climbs to 8 feet. Zones 4–8

'Betty Corning' Clematis

Clematis Betty Corning
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Betty Corning' produces faintly scented lavender-blue flowers throughout the summer. It has good disease resistance and climbs to 10 feet. Zones 5–9

'Blue Ravine' Clematis

Clematis Blue Ravine
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Blue Ravine' produces large lilac-blue flowers blushed with pink in spring and again in late summer. It climbs to 12 feet tall. Zones 4–9

'Daniel Deronda' Clematis

Clematis Daniel Deronda
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Daniel Deronda' bears starry, dark purple-blue flowers in spring, then again in summer through fall. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Duchess of Albany' Clematis

Clematis Duchess of Albany
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Duchess of Albany' offers tulip-shaped pink flowers from summer to fall. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Duchess of Edinburgh' Clematis

Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Duchess of Edinburgh' puts on a show in early summer with double white flowers, with a repeat performance in late summer. This heirloom variety grows 8 feet tall. Zones 4–9

'Hagley Hybrid' Clematis

Clematis Hagley Hybrid
Kim Cornelison

Clematis 'Hagley Hybrid' bears single pinkish-purple blooms throughout the summer. It climbs to 6 feet. Zones 4–9

'Gillian Blades' Clematis

Clematis Gillian Blades
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Gillian Blades' is a stunning selection, producing ruffled white blooms in late spring and early summer, then again in late summer and early fall. It climbs to 8 feet tall. Zones 5–8

Josephine Clematis

Clematis josephine
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Evijohill' bears unusual double lilac-pink flowers through summer and into early fall. It climbs to 7 feet. Zones 4–9

Jackmanii Clematis

Clematis Jackmanii
Marty Baldwin

Clematis 'Jackmanii' is one of the most common—and popular—varieties. It bears dark purple flowers throughout the summer and climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Henryi' Clematis

Clematis Henryi
Peter Krumhardt

Clematis 'Henryi' bears huge white flowers throughout the summer. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Mme. Julia Correvon' Clematis

Clematis Mme Julia Correvon
Bob Stefko

Clematis 'Mme. Julia Correvon' bears bright magenta-red flowers all summer and fall. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 5–9

'Nelly Moser' Clematis

Clematis Nelly Moser
Mark Kane

Clematis 'Nelly Moser' has creamy-pink flowers with a bright pink stripe down each petal. It blooms in early summer and again in late summer. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Niobe' Clematis

Clematis Niobe
Marilyn Stouffer

Clematis 'Niobe' bears deep red flowers in summer. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

'Rhapsody' Clematis

Clematis Rhapsody
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Rhapsody' produces a plethora of sapphire-blue flowers from early summer to early autumn. It climbs to 10 feet tall. Zones 5–8

'Princess Diana' Clematis

Clematis Princess Diana
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Princess Diana' produces stunningly rich pink, tulip-like flowers all summer and fall. It climbs to 12 feet tall. Zones 4–9

Pink Anemone Clematis

Pink Anemone Clematis
Mary Carolyn Pindar

Clematis montana var. rubens bears pink flowers in late spring and early summer on vigorous vines that climb to 30 feet. Zones 6–9

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet Autumn Clematis
Peter Krumhardt

Clematis terniflora blooms well even in shade, producing masses of starry white flowers with a strong fragrance in late summer and autumn. It climbs to 20 feet. Zones 4–9

'Silver Moon' Clematis

Clematis Silver Moon
Stephen Cridland

Clematis 'Silver Moon' bears silvery-lilac flowers from summer to early fall. It climbs to 10 feet. Zones 4–9

Russian Clematis

Clematis tangutica
Matthew Benson

Clematis tangutica offers unusual bell-shaped golden flowers from midsummer to fall. It climbs to 20 feet. Zones 6–9

'Veronica's Choice' Clematis

Clematis Veronicas Choice
Matthew Benson

Clematis 'Veronica's Choice' bears large, semidouble lavender-pink flowers that fade to nearly white. It blooms from early to late summer and climbs to 10 feet. Zones 5–8

Garden Plans for Clematis

Foolproof Foundation Garden Plan

garden path along house
Rick Taylor

Dress up the front of your home with this interesting combination of plants.

Soften a Fence With This Lush Border Garden Plan

Garden Plan to Soften a Fence
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use clematis blooms in a flower arrangement?

    Yes, although the vining types are difficult to work with; use those trailing from the bottom of an arrangement. Choose the blooms of shrubby or herbaceous types of clematis for your arrangements if possible because their stems are rigid and easier to work with.

  • Does clematis attract pests or have diseases?

    Clematis wilt is a fungus that affects some large-flowered clematis plants. The plant is also susceptible to common garden pests, such as aphids, scale, spider mites, and slugs.

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