Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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The bounty of blooms on a clematis vine is appreciated wherever a vertical effect is wanted. Clematis grow well up a trellis, on other shrubs, or on a fence.

Clambering Clematis

Some plants we fall in love with immediately; others we grow to love over time. Growing up, there was always a Jackman clematis (Clematis Jackmanii) in my mother's garden at the end of the clothesline. All she did was trim it back to the ground every year, and it rewarded us with a blanket of purple flowers several months later. My mother's clematis was easy to grow, but I was intimidated for years from trying to grow other clematis species because of their reputation for being finicky. After a little trial and error, I'm over my fear, and now I have fences, arbors, and stumps filled with colorful clematis throughout the summer.

Clematis Basics

There are dozens and dozens of varieties and species of clematis, growing to varying heights and blooming at different times of the year in a glorious array of rich colors. Choose varieties for their bloom time and colors to fit your situation. The most important thing to know about growing clematis is that they do best with a cool root area and their tops in at least 5 to 6 hours of sun daily. In my garden this means that they're mulched well and have short plants in front.

Before you plant, amend the soil with compost. Set plants with their base several inches below the soil level. Be very careful when transplanting, as the stems are fragile and break easily. Leave the stake that often is in the pot on the clematis for the first year for support and to prevent breaking the stems.

Mulch, Fertilize, and More

Mulch with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic material, keeping it several inches away from the stem to avoid encouraging stem rot. If the weather turns dry in midsummer, water deeply once a week. Start fertilizing the plants when the buds are 2 inches long, using a water-soluble fertilizer. Continue feeding every 4 to 6 weeks until the end of September.

Pruning Clematis

The best solution for pruning clematis is to do a little research. The best and simplest guide on the subject is the chapter on pruning in the American Clematis Society's Guide to Growing Clematis in the United States.

With a little care you too can have these vines flowering all over your landscape.

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