I.Cl.S. - Growing Queries

The following information are examples of typical queries that many people have with Clematis, I hope that they will help you. You should also read the planting page above.

Bill Bird, USA

My Clematis is not Growing

Clematis can take several years to reach maturity and that length of time depends on the age of the plant when it is planted.

A bare root infant can take 3-4 years to reach maturity. It is best to nurse your mail order plant in a one gallon pot for the first summer and plant it in a permanent location in October. Above ground growth the first year is usually pathetic while most of the growth is taking place under ground. A good root system is critical for a vigorous vine. Be sure to fertilize and water, water, water your clematis as they require lots of each. This will create a strong root system and a good foundation for years of beautiful blooms. Tomato fertilizer, rose food, or 5-10-10 are all acceptable fertilizers for clematis.

It is best to buy a well rooted plant from a garden center or nursery if you want a faster growing plant. Be sure to check the drain holes and make sure the roots are visible. Plant the clematis about three inches lower in the hole than the pot level.

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My Clematis is not Blooming

Be sure you use a low nitrogen fertilizer on your clematis since too much nitrogen can cause all vine and no flowers. I fertilize all my clematis with organic, slow release fertilizers in the winter when I prune my group three clematis, usually in late February or early March. I like to use Rose Tone (Bulb Tone is also good) and dehydrated cow manure on both, but 5-10-10 or tomato fertilizer work also. A second dose of fertilizer is recommended in June. At our 2000 conference I learned that a leading Polish clematis breeder and nurseryman uses Osmocote on his clematis with great results.

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Why does my Clematis have Brown leaves at the bottom?

This often happens with clematis in the heat of the summer after blooming. It is unsightly, but is usually not an indication that the plant is dying. Make sure the plant has plenty of water and new sprouts should appear when the weather gets cooler. If the brown leaves appear along the entire length of the vine, it might have suffered wilt. If this is the case, I usually follow the shoot at least halfway down to the ground, grab it firmly, and give a good yank upward to remove the dead section.

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How can I avoid Wilt?

New The Society would like to suggest that you try one of the clematis in our Recommended Clematis. These clematis have been selected by Members as being generally reliable and easy to grow.

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Moving a Clematis

The best time of year to move your clematis is in late winter while the plant is still dormant. At this time of year the plant's energy is stored in the root system. Prune back the top growth to about 12 to 18 inches and dig least a 12 inch diameter root ball as deep as possible. Mature clematis roots can reach 4 feet down into the ground so the more roots you can save, the better. It is best to dig and prepare your new location before you dig up the plant to be transplanted. Dig a large hole, and dig it deeper than needed to make some room for compost or rotted manure in the bottom. You will also want to plant the clematis deeper than the old level. I use a post hole digger tool to get a nice deep hole.

Before you place the plant into the new hole, throw in a handful of bone meal. Mix the bone meal with compost in the bottom of the hole, fill the hole with water, and place the new plant in it's new home. Remember to plant it 2 to 4 inches deeper than the last planting. Fill in around the plant with the best compost or enriched top soil you can find, and water it in.

Keep the plant well watered the first few years until a new deep root system that is capable of supporting the plant through dry times has had time to develop. It is best to mulch a large area around the base of the plant to keep the soil moist and reduce evaporation. Watering your plant is critical to its survival!

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Growing Clematis in Shade

The old rule that tells one to shade clematis roots to keep them cool is misunderstood by most gardeners not familiar with clematis. Clematis are water lovers and will grow best if the roots are kept moist. Shaded areas are usually moist, but plants that compete with the clematis for moisture and provide shade are not recommended. The best way to keep your clematis roots moist is a heavy layer of organic mulch that will keep the soil moist and protect the soil from the drying sun. Clematis roots will eventually reach down into the ground up to four feet in search of water. It is best to water your new clematis often until it matures in about three to four years.

Varieties to Try to Grow in Shade:

All the alpinas and macropetalas
Barbara Jackman
Bees Jubilee
Comtesse de Bouchaud
Dr. Ruppel
Fairy Queen
General Sikorski
Guernsey Cream
Hagley Hybrid
H.F. Young
Jackmanii (not J. Rubra or Alba)
Lanuginosa Candida
Lincoln Star
Margaret Hunt
Miss Bateman
montana rubens
Mrs. Cholmondeley
Nelly Moser
Perle d'Azur
Silver Moon
Snow Queen
The President
Wada's Primrose
Will Goodwin
William Kennett

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Planting Clematis through Shrubs

Every shrub and large rose bush in my yard has at least one clematis planted under it. The shrub will act as natural trellis and you can get a second and third display of bloom from your shrubs when the clematis bloom. My flowering stella magnolia blooms 4 to 5 times a year with the help of three clematis planted under it. Try it, you will like it!

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@ K.Woolfenden

All information contained at this site is personal to Ken Woolfenden and
does not represent the official view of the International Clematis Society.