Caring for your Clematis

There aren’t many climbing plants quite as versatile as the ever popular clematis. Most varieties are more than happy to scramble up a trellis, pergolas or even into large shrubs and trees. If you look after your clematis properly, then you can expect years and years of amazing colour.

Where to plant your Clematis

A clematis likes to have its growth in the sun and its roots in shade, in deep, fertile soil. You might want to consider a few companion plants to provide that ground cover. I’d recommend lavender or an annual like Sweet alyssum. The alyssum won’t take too much moisture out of the soil as clematis does prefer damper ground. You could also try using a thick bark or compost mulch, or even broken pottery to keep the roots from the heat of the sun.

Before planting, ensure that you have soaked the rootball of your clematis for an hour or two and pour plenty of water into the hole.

If you are planning on planting more than one clematis, ensure you leave at least a metre between each plant. This will minimise the spread of any diseases associated with clematis.

Tip: Put a short length of drain pipe or plastic bottle with both ends cut away around the base of your clematis. This will help train your plant’s climbing habits towards your supporting surface and help prevent rodent damage to young stems.

Feeding Clematis

Treat your clematis in the same way as you would roses. Feed mostly during spring; Plenty of manure around the roots will encourage lots of vigorous growth. They will perform well with rose or tomato feed. I’d also recommend a sprinkling of bonemeal. I’d avoid fertilisers with lots of nitrogen as this will encourage plenty of green growth, but not much in the way of flowers.

Clematis Diseases

The most common disease to affect clematis is ‘Clematis Wilt’ (Phoma clematidina); a fungal disease which causes the leaves and stems to die off. Larger-flower hybrids tend to be more susceptible than the smaller flowered varieties such as Clematis montana and Clematis orientalis.

The best treatment for a plant infected by Clematis Wilt is to prune out all diseased growth and any old dead growth. This will ensure good air circulation around your clematis. Again, ensure plenty of mulch over the root system as this will reduce root stress and result in a tougher, more resilient plant.

Pruning Tips

  • Group 1: Early bloomers, with flowers from previous years growth. Prune from late spring once flowers have ended and after any risk of frost.
  • Group 2: Large flower varieties that flower in early summer from previous years growth. Prune during early spring and once again after flowering in summer.
  • Group 3: Flowers from mid to late summer on this year’s growth. Prune in early spring.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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