Planting and growing Clematis Plants

Preparing the site for Clematis

Clematis plants will grow in all soil types but they do best in deep and fertile ground that is well drained. Your new Clematis should be around to give many years of flowering pleasure and so it is worth spending a little time to prepare the soil. Add plenty of well-rotted leaf mould or manure, especially if your soil is heavy (add some grit as well) or light (it will help retain moisture by putting some ‘body’ into the soil). Whatever you choose to add, it should be thoroughly mixed in with the surrounding topsoil. If you are planting Clematis…….against a wall, prepare the planting hole 30-40cm away so that the crown of the plant is not under the ‘rain shadow’. You may need to provide one or two bamboo canes to begin with, supporting the young plant while it reaches the permanent support.

If you choose to grow your Clematis up a large shrub or tree, again plant well away from the base or trunk, otherwise the established plant will take all the light, water and nutrients. Again use bamboo canes (or wires) so that the young plant can get a ‘foothold’ onto your chosen tree or shrub. Its worth planting the Clematis on the windward side, that way strong winds will blow the Clematis onto the tree or shrub, not away from it.

How to plant young Clematis plants

Our young Clematis plants are strongly rooted small plants in 7cm pots. After receipt they should be unpacked immediately, if you cannot plant them straight away, they can be stood somewhere sheltered until you are ready, keeping an eye on watering. At planting time you may like to add a sparing amount of bone meal or general slow release fertiliser (well mixed) to the planting hole. Remove the pot and add some rootgrow, planting so that the crown of the plant is just below soil level, then backfill with the well prepared soil, firming it gently and watering well after and for the first season until well established.

Left to their own devices, young Clematis plants will often produce just one or two very long stems with flowers at the tips. For best results and the most flowers in years to come, pinch out the tips of the young plants early on to make them bushy as they grow. Aim to get at least 3 or 4 main shoots from close to the base and train them, spaced evenly onto your supports.

Pruning Clematis.

Clematis are grouped according to their pruning needs, the shortened version is like this:

Group 1 – early flowering and evergreen types – dont really need pruning except to tidy them up.

Group 2 – large flowered Clematis – prune back to a framework in early Spring, dont be too savage.

Group 3 – later flowering types – chop them off at 15-30cm high in early Spring.

Please do read on for more detailed pruning information:

Group 1

Group 1 for aftercare and pruning is the simplest and easiest group! These Clematis flower early in the season on shoots that grew during the previous growing season. As a matter of course, routine pruning is not required although it may be useful to prune back excessively long shoots or to give the plant a tidy up, which should be carried out immediately after flowering in early spring. When cutting the plants back always prune to a pair of strong healthy buds for the best results.

An extra note for Clematis montana, these tough plants will also easily take a trim with shears or even a hedge trimmer, immediately after flowering.

Group 2

Group 2 are the large flowered Clematis that flower in early Summer on young shoots emerging from last season’s growth. Prune in early Spring before growth starts, remove any weak or congested stems. Then trim the strong shoots back to a healthy pair of buds but leave a framework of branches, try not to be too brutal or the flowers will be lost for that season!

To keep your Clematis plants strong and healthy, it pays to apply a general fertiliser and a generous mulch at the same time, this will maximise growth and flowering next season.

Large flowered Clematis may also be pruned again after flowering, cut them back to a healthy pair of buds. This will encourage a second display of flowers later in the same season.

Excessively large or top heavy Clematis can be renovated buy cutting them back further, doing it gradually over 2 or 3 seasons after flowering each year so that some framework of branches is left. Aim to reduce the framework a little more each time, this way the plants will still flower, albeit only once until a more gentle pruning regime can be resumed.

Group 3

Group 3 clematis plants are the later season varieties, these late season Clematis flower on stems produced during the current season. Pruning these lovely plants is blissfully simple – in early spring before growth commences simply cut all the stems back to the lowest pair of buds. (this is usually withing 15-30cm of the ground).

If left unpruned, Late flowering Clematis will simply resume new growth each spring where it stopped the previous season resulting in a tall and ungainly plant that is very bare at the base, with the flowers high up and out of sight.