As climbers, Clematis are unsurpassed in their long flowering presence, their rich diversity of flower shapes, their wide array of colors and tolerances in terms of exposure and climate. It is no wonder they are so popular! From tree huggers to container varieties, there is a Clematis for every garden and flowers for almost every month of the year!
Members of the Ranunculaceae family, Clematis include more than 300 species, hundreds of hybrids and are divided into 12 main groups, each with consistent flower size, blooming season, pruning and garden use characteristics.
The earliest Clematis to flower, the Evergreen group includes small-flowering clematis which provide gardeners with some of the greatest pleasures in winter. Blooming from midwinter onward, these very early flowering Clematis transform boundary walls and fences into leaving leafy screens and reward us with profuse flowering at a time when the garden has little to offer. Their evergreen foliage remains handsome year-round and provides multiseason interest.
The 2 main species that belong to this group are Clematis cirrhosa and the delightfully fragrant Clematis armandii.
- These evergreen clematis produce an abundance of small, single flowers, mostly in creamy-white or white shades.
- They bloom profusely from mid winter onwards, starting with Clematis cirrhosa (January) and followed by Clematis armandii (March-April). The flowers of Clematis cirrhosa give way to very ornamental, fluffy, silky seedheads, which remain on the plant, adding further interest.
- Quick-growing, these clematis are big plants that can reach up to 20-40 ft. (6-12 m). They need ample support as they become heavy with age.
- These clematis require well-drained soils and are ideally suited to growing in sun or partial shade. Adding coarse grit into a large planting hole is a great way to avoid waterlogging during winter.
- These clematis are quite versatile. They can be trained over trellises, arbors, pergolas, arches or fences. Careful: these clematis are not good companion plants. Their thick foliage cuts off light to any host plant, killing it by starvation. If planted into a large broadleaf evergreen, they might kill it via strangulation.
- Since they bloom on the previous season's wood, they belong to the pruning group 1. No regular pruning required. Just clean them up after flowering.