The Q&A Archives: Clueless About Clematis

Question: We moved into our 1st new house late spring last year and didn't do much to the yard except a lot of clearing. We have chain link fence in the back with 3 different clematis plants. After clearing, I put the clematis on the fence in hopes to grow and add some privacy. By the end of the summer a good portion of the fence was covered but I saw no flowers. Do the clematis vines bloom in the spring and we just missed the bloom? All of the nice privacy green that we had is now dead and brown. Do I need to remove the vines from the fence and start over? Is there certain type of clematis that would grow better than others along the fence and stay green all year long?

Answer: There are both deciduous and evergreen types of clematis. Sounds like yours is deciduous.

Named varieties of hybrid clematis bloom in 2 different ways: some bloom on wood grown the previous year and some on wood grown in the same year. Clematis in the Jackman group of hybrids (such as jackmanii) bloom on new growth (wood grown in the same year). You'll have to watch where the blossoms occur to determine if they are on new or old wood. You can prune the Jackman clematis in spring as the buds swell or slightly before. You can prune to within 4-6" of the base if you wish.

If the clematis flowers on old wood, prune dead and broken growth in the spring. After flowering, a portion of old shoots should be cut back severely. Clematis enjoy a rich, humusy soil. Give them lots of organic matter such as compost or composted manure. Clematis prefer to have their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade, so mulch is helpful to keep roots cool and to keep competing weeds at bay.

Two evergreen types are:
Clematis armandii (Evergreen Clematis) 16-20 ft. White flower in spring. Sun/Light Shade. Hardy <15? F. Moderate water. A Large evergreen vine with fragrant flowers.

Clematis montana 'Rubens' 16-20 ft. Pink flower in spring. Sun/Light Shade. Hardy <15F. Moderate water.

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