Trailing vines create such a beautiful effect in our gardens. Depending on how we set them up, they can create a lush backdrop against a fence or draw the eye upward with their draping effect. One of our favorite plants for creating beautiful vine features is the clematis vine, a gorgeous perennial and expert climber.

Clematis, also known as Leather Flower, features dense, green foliage and blooms with fireworks of color in the summertime. There’s an enormous amount of diversity between clematis varieties, so it’s easy to find a variety to suit any garden design. Here’s how to plant clematis vines, and how to keep them looking healthy year after year:

how to plant and prune clematis

Planting Clematis

Clematis can be planted from seed, but if your goal is to experience their blooming period sooner rather than later, it’s best to purchase a 2-year-old clematis vine and plant instead of growing from seed. At the garden center, you’ll notice there are several very different-looking vines that all fall within the clematis family. There’s no need to let this variety overwhelm you, though! The most important thing to remember, besides choosing the variety that suits your taste, is the blooming period of your clematis vine.

  • Spring-flowering clematis is a, naturally, early bloomer that set its buds on old wood.
  • Late-flowering clematis begins blooming in summer, with some varieties blooming continuously through fall. These varieties set their buds on the new growth that emerges during the spring.

The variety you choose will determine when you prune, and when you’ll be treated to your clematis’ floral display. You may even wish to bring home one of each for continuous flowering from early spring to late fall.

All clematis varieties are just as happy either in containers or planted directly into your garden. They are much more particular about the amount of sunlight they get than where they set their roots. Clematis need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to begin blooming, so a spot in full sun suits them best.

how to plant and prune clematis

Test your soil to ensure it has a pH that is slightly alkaline to neutral. Clematis loves rich soils, but they tend to prefer much less acidity than most of the plants in the garden. Ensure their close neighbors are a good fit for their pH needs and amend the soil with wood ash or limestone if the acidity is a little too high. Be certain the soil drains well to keep the roots from succumbing to mold or rot.

Clematis blooms are quite delicate but they need a fair amount of space to establish over the years. Gently plant them in a hole that’s deep enough to provide a sound foundation for the plant and space out the plant at least a foot apart to allow them to breathe and spread their roots.

How to Prune Clematis Plants

Pruning clematis properly will depend on the specific varieties you have, so don’t hesitate to ask a garden specialist at our Market for precise pruning instructions. As a rule of thumb, however, the blooming period of the vine will dictate the right time for pruning clematis.

Prune spring-blooming clematis immediately after their blooming period has faded. When the last flowers die, use a pair of disinfected garden shears to shape the plant and cut back any vines that have grown unruly. These varieties set their buds for the next year as early as July, so acting quickly will ensure you don’t accidentally clip off next year’s flowers.

Prune summer- and fall-blooming clematis around the time of the last frost. The plants are still dormant at this stage and shaping and cleaning them now will prevent them from wasting resources on new growth in undesirable places.

Some clematis varieties, like large-flowering hybrids, have several blooming periods and can bloom on both new and old wood. With these varieties, you’re bound to cut off a few buds no matter when you prune. In this case, you may choose to cut them back every other year, and simply cut off more when you do prune to keep them from taking over.

how to plant and prune clematis

How to Care for Clematis Plants

Clematis care isn’t too complicated once the vines have established. Weekly watering during the growing season, with a few extra during the hottest days of summer, should do it. You can mulch them at the roots to help them conserve water and reduce weed competition, or simply plant ground cover plants to help keep the area humid and looking lush.

As the clematis is a vine, you’ll want to make sure they’ve got something nice to climb. Trellises, archways, fencing, and retaining walls are all great options. Wherever you let them grow, ensure the plant has sufficient support to keep it from toppling over. The vines do not wrap around larger objects, so some gardeners use twine or fishing line to keep them in place along with their climbing structures.

No matter which clematis variety you prefer, these vines make a big statement. Take special care while introducing them into your garden and they’ll reward you with their unique flowers and graceful draping foliage. When properly maintained, the vines create a gorgeous lived-in effect in your garden that looks better every year.

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