The Q&A Archives: companion planting

Question: My clematis gets good sun, but did not do well last year. I only had a few flowers on it. I recently read that although the plant itself likes sun, the base of the plant (roots) likes shade. Can you suggest something, perhaps a companion plant, that Icould put in around the base, that would not interfere or hinder the clematis?

Answer: Clematis really love to climb through trees. When they are grown this way they can stretch through the branches to get sunlight, yet their roots are cooled by the trees foliage. It is probably too late for that, sounds like yours maybe growing on a trellis or similar support. Planting any type of small shrub suitable to your area nearby would help, this shouldn't interfere at all with the clematis. You can also achieve pretty much the same effect by mulching at the base of the clematis. Mulch helps to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. A mulch such as cypress would be great. How old is your clematis? Keep in mind that it does take a clematis several seasons to really establish it's self and put on a show. This could be the probleminstead of the lack of shade. Be sure to top dress the area your clematis is growing in with organic matter such as compost in the spring. This will help gently nourish the plant. You can also fertilize with a 5-10-10 fertilizer in the spring if you like, be careful to follow package instructions.

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