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Clematis

Grow clematis for its beautiful and vibrant flowers, ability to add vertical interest, and its versatility in climbing walls, fences, and trellises.

Clematis

With their impressive climbing abilities, Clematis plants offer an unparalleled display of long-lasting blooms in various shapes and colors. They are adaptable to different climates and can be grown in containers or trained to embrace trees. It’s no surprise that Clematis is a beloved choice for gardeners, providing year-round floral beauty.

Members of the Ranunculaceae family, Clematis include more than 300 species and hundreds of hybrids. They are divided into 12 main groups, each with consistent flower size, blooming season, pruning, and garden use characteristics.

Native: Most Clematis species are native to Asia, but they are also native to various regions across the Northern Hemisphere, including North America and Europe.

Description: Clematis plants are climbing vines with a wide variety of flower shapes, sizes, and colors. The flowers can be small or large, single or double, and come in many colors, including white, pink, red, blue, purple, and bicolors.

Growth Habit: Clematis plants have a diverse range of growth habits, including climbers, scramblers, and herbaceous perennials. Climbing varieties use their leafstalks to twine around structures for support. Scrambling types have a more relaxed growth habit and can sprawl or clamber over nearby plants. Herbaceous clematis forms bushy clumps and doesn’t climb or scramble.

Size: Varies significantly by species and variety, from smaller types that grow 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) tall, to larger varieties that can reach up to 20 feet (6 meters) or more in height.

Flowers: The flowers are prized for their stunning beauty and wide variety. They come in a range of shapes, including bell-shaped, star-shaped, and large showy blooms. They display an array of colors, from vibrant purples, pinks, and blues to soft pastels and crisp whites. Their exquisite flowers add charm and elegance to any garden.

Foliage: The leaves are usually compound with several leaflets, and they are arranged alternately along the stem.

Blooming Season: Depending on the species, Clematis can bloom at any time from spring through fall.

Hardiness: Hardiness varies by species, but many are hardy in USDA Zones 4-11.

Uses: Clematis are popular in the landscape as climbers on trellises, fences, and walls, but they can also be grown as ground covers or through shrubbery.

Pollinators: Attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, serving as a food source for these beneficial insects and birds.

Toxicity: Clematis plants are toxic if ingested and can cause skin irritation.

Deer and Rabbit: Clematis are usually not the first choice for deer, but if food is scarce, deer may nibble on them. Rabbits can eat young shoots.

Invasiveness: Some species can be invasive in certain areas, such as Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata), but most cultivated varieties are not generally considered invasive. f you love the spectacular beauty of Sweet Autumn Clematis, find here beautiful native plant alternatives.

Key Facts: Clematis prefer cool roots and warm heads, meaning that they like their roots in the shade and their vine in the sun. Mulching around the base of the plant can help keep the roots cool.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 11
Plant Type Climbers
Genus Clematis
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Clematis ‘Doctor Ruppel’ (Early Large-Flowered Clematis)
Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ (Early Large-Flowered Clematis)
Clematis ‘Diamantina’ (Early Large-Flowered Clematis)

Main Types of Clematis

Clematis species and hybrids are usually classified into three main groups based on their flowering habits and pruning needs.

Group 1 or Early-Flowering Clematis: This group consists of species and varieties that bloom in early spring, typically on old wood (last year’s growth). They include species like Clematis alpina, Clematis macropetala, and Clematis Montana. These types require minimal pruning, mainly to shape the plant or remove dead wood.

Group 2 or Large-Flowered Hybrids: These varieties bloom twice, first in late spring or early summer on old wood, then again in late summer or early fall on new growth. Examples include Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, Clematis ‘Henryi’, and Clematis ‘Niobe’.. These types require light pruning to remove dead wood and encourage new growth.

Group 3 or Late-Flowering Clematis:  This group flowers from midsummer to fall, producing blooms on the current season’s growth. They require more extensive pruning in late winter or early spring as they develop flowers on new growth. Pruning back to a pair of strong buds encourages vigorous growth and abundant blooms. Examples of Type 3 clematis include Clematis viticella, Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis), and Clematis texensis.

It’s worth mentioning that there are also non-vining, herbaceous clematis species, like Clematis recta and Clematis integrifolia, that behave more like perennials. Their growth habit differs from the climbing types and they require different care.

There are many species and cultivars of clematis: Find which one could be yours.

Clematis Main Types

Clematis – Viticella Group
Clematis – Late Large-Flowered Group
Clematis – Atragene Group
Clematis – Montana Group
Clematis – Evergreen Group
Clematis – Herbaceous Group
Clematis – Orientalis Group
Clematis – Early Large-Flowered Group

Garden Design with Clematis

Clematis is a versatile vine that can bring vertical interest, vibrant color, and a wide variety of forms to any garden design. Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate this ravishing plant into your garden:

Climbing Structures: Utilize clematis’s climbing nature by letting it cover fences, trellises, pergolas, or archways. It can transform these plain structures into stunning floral displays.

Tree Accents: Clematis can be grown up and through small trees or large shrubs, which can provide the necessary support and shade for the plant. The vine’s flowers will pop against the tree’s foliage for a striking contrast.

Mixed Borders: Clematis works well in mixed borders along with other perennials, shrubs, and annuals. The varying heights and textures can create an appealing and dynamic landscape.

Containers: Certain varieties are well-suited to container growing, which allows them to be featured on patios, balconies, or entryways. Pair with other container-friendly plants for a multi-dimensional display.

Companion Plants: Plant with companions that like similar conditions. Roses are classic partners, but clematis also pairs well with other climbers or wall shrubs, such as wisteria or pyracantha.

Remember that clematis prefers its “head in the sun and feet in the shade”. Planting low-growing shrubs or perennials around the base of the plant can provide the necessary shade for its roots while the vine itself climbs towards the sun.

Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ (Viticella Group)
Clematis ‘Josephine’ (Early Large-Flowered Clematis)
Clematis ‘Henryi’ (Early Large-Flowered Clematis)

Companion Plants

Clematis pairs beautifully with a variety of plants that can provide support, share similar growing conditions, and complement the vine’s striking flowers. Here are some excellent companion plants:

Roses: Pairing clematis with roses creates a romantic, cottage-garden feel. Choose varieties with similar growing requirements and complementary colors. Plant the clematis about 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) away from the rose, allowing them to grow together and cover the support structure. This combination can also help extend the bloom season, as many varieties bloom before or after the roses.

Perennials: Salvia, peonies, delphiniums, daylilies, irises, and hostas.

Shrubs: Hydrangeas, lilacs, and viburnums.

Annuals: Sweet peas, morning glories, and climbing nasturtiums.

Ground cover: Plant with low-growing ground cover plants to keep their roots cool and shaded, which is essential for their success. Suitable ground cover plants include creeping thyme, sedum, and ajuga.

When selecting companion plants, it’s crucial to consider bloom times, color combinations, sunlight requirements, and water needs to ensure a successful pairing.

Companion Plants for Clematis

Hardy Geraniums (Cranesbill)
Rosa (Rose)
Salvia (Sage)
Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea)
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Paeonia (Peonies)
Hemerocallis (Daylilies)
Iris germanica (Bearded Iris)

Growing Tips

Growing clematis can be a rewarding experience, but they require some attention and care to thrive.

Choose the Right Location:  Clematis should be planted in a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. However, they also benefit from having their roots shaded and cool. You can achieve this by planting them near a fence, wall, or among other plants with a low, dense growth habit.

Prepare the Soil: Clematis prefers neutral to slightly alkaline, well-drained soil. If your soil is very acidic, you might need to add some garden lime to raise the pH (6.5-7.5). The soil should be well-composted.

Planting: The best time to plant clematis is during the cooler months of spring or fall. Dig a hole twice the diameter and depth of the root ball of your plant. Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) below the soil surface. This can help protect the plant from diseases like clematis wilt. Backfill the hole with a mix of soil and compost.

Support: Since clematis is a vine, it will need something to climb on. A trellis, arbor, or fence works well. The plant uses leaf stems to twine around its support.

Watering:  Plants prefer consistently moist but well-draining soil. During the first growing season, water regularly to establish a strong root system. In subsequent years, water as needed, especially during periods of drought or hot weather. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.

Feeding:  Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring to promote vigorous growth and flowering. You can also top-dress with compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can encourage excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds. Keep the mulch away from the plant’s stems to prevent rot.

Pruning: The pruning needs depend on the type and variety of the plant. Some need hard pruning in late winter, while others only need light pruning to remove dead or weak stems.

Winter protection: In colder climates, provide winter protection for your plants by applying a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant in late fall. This helps insulate the roots from freezing temperatures. You can also wrap the stems of less hardy varieties with burlap or frost cloth to protect them from extreme cold.

Remember that clematis can take a couple of years to become well-established, so don’t be discouraged if growth is slow initially. With a little patience and care, you will be rewarded with a beautiful flowering vine.

Garden Examples

A Cheerful Border Idea with Monarda, Clematis and Artemisia
A Super Climbing Trio with Clematis and Roses
A Super Climbing Duo with Clematis ‘The President’
A Super Climbing Duo with Clematis ‘Viola’
A Super Climbing Duo with Clematis montana and Wisteria
A Super Climbing Duo with Crimson Roses and Purple Clematis
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Clematis
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 11
Plant Type Climbers
Genus Clematis
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Compare All Clematis
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Clematis
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Clematis

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Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

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