Should I Let my Plant Go to Seed?

All plants have one mission to their existence, to grow, bloom and set seed to perpetuate themselves if you will. We have all appreciated the late fall and winter ‘seed heads’ on clematis, which add a unique beauty to the landscape in the colder months. Your clematis seed heads are actually the fruit of the plant.
In the early season it is best to deadhead spent flowers from your clematis plants. Here’s why. If you do not, the plant slows down bloom production as it is feeling like it’s mission is close to being accomplished. By deadheading early to mid summer blooms, you encourage the plant to keep blooming.
At mid summer, encourage your clematis plant further by trimming or pruning the plant. Fertilize and continue to enjoy more blooms. Late summer  is good  time to allow the plant to ‘set seed’ from the late flowers. This way you have the abundant bloom span, and still get to enjoy some of the unique fruit that will last for months on the plants as you enter the winter season.

My Clematis Plants Are Going Dormant Early

Plant dormancy is stress as well as seasonally induced. Clematis plants have the capability to perform and look beautiful for a long season.
Hydration is important as the summer draws on and you may think leaving your garden to the rainfall takes care of all of the water the plant needs. Regular, deep watering will help your clematis plants achieve the full season the plant is capable of achieving.
After the main bloom period, pruning or at least deadheading and trimming back the plant, along with fertilizer and water will help the plant pause, then resume growing and support healthy, attractive foliage as well as subsequent blooms.
In hottest weather avoid applying fertilizer to the plant, and consider mixing the fertilizer at a weaker ratio in the summer. Watering before you apply fertilizer of any sort is a good practice also.
Be vigilant throughout the season about slugs also. Many insects do not bother clematis, another great reason to plant more clematis and take care of them throughout the growing season, but slugs can damage clematis throughout the season if not controlled.

Why Does my Clematis Have Only One Stem?

Some varieties of clematis have a tendency to fewer stems than others, but in many cases this is created by our pruning habits. Every type 1 and 2 clematis benefits from being pruned hard  at least 1, or even 2 times in the first year in your garden, semi permanent or permanent container. The time to do this is when growth seems to be stalled, or immediately after those long awaited first blooms. It is better to do this in the spring and early to mid summer. In the fall it is better to let the plant go into dormancy with the stem(s) left unpruned.

For clematis that continue to have one stem, even if they have been pruned as directed, it is important that as the first flush of blooms wane in the first few seasons to continue to re prune the plant. Remember to fertilize the plant after you prune.

For clematis that do not respond to your efforts, we suggest landscaping around the plant’s tendency.

Check our planting how tos and make sure that you are planting your new plants at the correct depth and angle to create health and more stems from the get go on new clematis additions.

Why Did a Whole Stem of my Clematis Plant Go Dark and Wither?

One of the main causes of stem collapse is damage from wind or slugs. If you inspect the withering stem you can often see the damaged point, which sometimes is traceable to the point where you secured the stem to a trellis or structure without enough flexibility to allow it to handle the wind.
If you look at the stem on the lowest part of the plant you may see the outer ‘bark’ stripped away. This indicates that slugs may have damaged the stem to the extent it could no longer function to support growth and it will wither away.
For either of the above issues (on a larger clematis), starting at the top, remove the stem in pieces, working your way down and cutting and removing sections. When you get to the bottom, cut the stem at or just slightly below the soil level and discard the stem vs. compost it. Usually the plant will replace the stem immediately with a fresh shoot; sometimes it does take a few weeks for the growth to initiate. If the clematis is containered and there no other stems, or few stems, monitor and do not over water in this stage while there is little to no vegetative growth.
Fungal issues are rare, and as plants build resistance to your garden ecology, there should be few issues. Consulting an expert at your garden store is always an option. Often rose formulas for a variety of issues work well, but always test them on one clematis before using them on all of your plants.

Harmonious and Contrasting Clematis and Rose Combinations

Clematis are a beautiful flower on their own, but can be absolutely stunning when paired with other flowers. Here is a list of clematis/rose combinations, paired in both harmonious and contrasting examples, that work very well.

Harmonious Rose and Clematis Combinations

  • Pink roses  and clematis ‘Ilka’
  • Red roses   and  clematis  ‘Minister’
  • Light yellow roses  and clematis ‘Pink Climador’
  • Cream roses  and  clematis ‘Hakuba’
  • White roses   and  clematis ‘Eyres Gift’
  • Pink roses  and  clematis ‘Piilu’
  • Deep pink roses  and clematis ‘Pink fantasy’
  • Deep pink roses  and clematis ‘snow queen’
  • Red roses  and  clematis ‘Phyllis’

Contrasting Rose and Clematis Combinations

  • White roses  and  clematis ‘Huvi’
  • Yellow roses  and  clematis ‘Silmakivi”
  • Orange roses  and  clematis ‘Reiman’
  • Red roses  and  clematis ‘Candida’
  • Pink roses  and  clematis ‘Fireworks’

Growing Clematis for Cut Flowers

Clematis make an ideal cut flower. The delicate look of the flowers is a contradiction to their suitability for cuts. Clematis stems are fibrous and not easily damaged. In addition, this allows them to rehydrate easily. Most cut clematis will open bloom from buds indoors, and flowers will stay fresh for up to 10 days or longer.

When growing clematis with an eye to being able to cut the flowers, it is good to keep this in mind as you train your stems in early spring. While naturalized, scrambling stems can be used for cuts in lower arrangements, a straighter stem is sometimes easier to work with.

Train the stems you are planning to use for cuts on thin, 5 or 6 ft.  bamboo canes. These are available at garden centers. Clip the stems to the canes,  tie the stem with something soft and secure like a strip of fabric, or horticultural velcro that can be cut to size works well. By keeping the stems separate and not tangled, it will be easier to harvest longer stems for cut flowers.

Both flowers and flower buds can be cut. Place them in water, and use a product to extend the life of cut flowers in the water of your arrangement.


Seasonal Care for Growing Clematis in Containers

Growing Clematis in Winter

Excessive moisture on a dormant clematis is something to avoid, so consider this when you decide what to do in the winter with your container grown clematis.

In winter, clematis containers can be moved to a more sheltered position against the house, behind a hedge or moved indoors to a garage in order to protect the flower from the elements. For heavy containers that are not suitable to move easily, bubble wrap can  be used around the container, and a burlap or horticultural fleece over the plant itself.

In many climates there is no need to move or protect the containers. Excessive moisture on a dormant clematis is something to avoid, so consider this when you decide what to do in the winter with your container grown clematis. In many climates, there is no need to move or protect the containers. For containers that you cover, in late winter, inspect the plant and if the soil is dry, you can water the plant lightly or layer some snow on the soil in the container.

Growing Clematis in Spring

In the spring, replenish the soil by removing the top 4 inches of soil and replacing it with the planting mixture that you prefer. Periodically (every year or two ) for clematis growing long term in containers, unpotting the plant and changing the soil is recommended. This is an opportunity to move the plant to a larger container if necessary.

Watering Your Clematis Flowers and Vines

Like most plants, clematis like to have even soil moisture without periods of excessive dryness or periods being waterlogged thru poor drainage. Clematis have proved themselves very adaptable in the garden, but being mindful of watering helps the plants establish and flourish.

Relying on mother nature can have its pitfalls as well, as some areas of the garden may not receive their fare share of rain due to tree branches or other vegetation blocking rain fall, or just the variance in how rain falls. Many gardeners use a simple rain gauge and check it after rain fall to see just how much rain the plants in their garden have gotten. Generally speaking, if the gauge has less than a half inch, the rain fall does not replace regular watering. Clematis that are well planted and receive an inch or more of water a week usually do well.

If you are making up the shortfall from rain, remember when daytime temps are in the low 70’s twice a week saturating the ground around the clematis is usually enough. When daytime temps increase to the high 70’s into the 80’s every other day watering is beneficial. Your good judgment as a gardener and knowledge of your climate is your best guide. When In doubt, a simple moisture meter can be used to see if your clematis plants are receiving adequate hydration.

Continue good watering practices throughout the growing season. Many times in late summers to early fall, we neglect the plants and this can cause early dormancy to onset and will deprive you of the long season that healthy clematis can provide

Fertilizing Your Clematis Flowers

Most clematis are vigorous, climbing vines. Sometimes referred to  as ‘heavy feeders”, most nutrition is provided by the soil that you plant your clematis in. Fertilizer helps growth and blooms but can not replace planting in good soil. As with most plants, soil, water and sunlight are the basic requirements, but look at fertilizer as an added ingredient that can work with the basics for faster growth and more blooms.

With all fertilizer, making a note of what and when used, as well as following mixing or application directions carefully helps ensure the results you are seeking.

N-P-K refers to the ratio of important elements in a fertilizer or soil amendment. N stands for nitrogen, which is responsible for strong stem and foliage growth. P is for phosphorus, which aids in healthy root growth and flower and seed production. K stands for potassium, which is responsible for improving overall health and disease resistance.

Fertilizing Clematis Flowers Growing in Containers

Container culture of clematis is easy. Because plants are drawing only from the soil in the container, regular feeding is recommended. Fertilizers that you mix in or dilute with water are a good  choice. These are sold in concentrated liquids or powder forms. Formulas with a higher P or phosphorus, such as a 10  30 20 ratio are an excellent choice as they encourage the right amount of stem and leaf growth and provide a boost to help bloom production.

More Tips

  • Fertilizing your containered clematis on a monthly basis is recommended.
  • Pre water the plant well, then water again with the diluted or dissolved fertilizer that you have mixed in a watering can. By pre watering you have allowed the plant to begin drinking and you also ensure a more even distribution of the fertilizer.
  • Spray washing off leaves if any fertilizer splashed on them is a good practice as sunny weather or dry conditions may cause the leaves that were splashed to discolor.
  • In the later summer or early fall when the plant is not preparing to bloom, a balanced formula such as 20 20 20 is a good choice.

Fertilizing Clematis Flowers Growing in the Ground

In-ground clematis have the benefit of drawing from nutrients carried through the soil from a wide area and usually need less fertilizer. Your amended soil is your first nutritional defense, no topical applications can make up for clematis planted in poor soil.

Periodically applying a top dressing of composted organic material is suggested, as well as fertilizing your clematis in the spring and in the fall.

More Tips

  • Time release formulas for perennial plants can be applied to direction, we recommend formulas that are releasing nutrients for 3 months vs. a longer duration time release. Apply to direction to the soil around the clematis and lightly turn into the soil.
  • Granular fertilizer may be applied to the soil and watered in to manufacturer instructions.
  • The basic guideline is a balanced fertilizer such as 10 10 10 or 20 20 20 in the summer to fall, and in the spring use a higher P,or phosphorus, ratio such as 10 30 20 , to encourage the best blooms possible.


How To: Pruning Your Clematis Flowers

Pruning Type 1 Clematis Flowers

Type 1 clematis are those that bloom the earliest in your garden or on your patio in containers. These clematis form buds in the previous season that are ready at the first signs of  warming temperatures and more daylight hours to burst into bloom when other clematis are just starting to grow.

You can consider these as ‘never prune’ plants, unless you need to keep the size in check. To keep the size in check, but still reap all of the early spring blooms, tidy up the plant, or reduce size, just after the plant blooms each year. This allows plenty of time for re growth and bud formation for the following spring. Your type 1 clematis may surprise you with late summer blooms, in that case do not prune the clematis after the late season blooms. Wait until the following spring after the main bloom period subsides.

Examples of type 1 clematis are atragene, montana, and evergreen clematis.

Pruning Type 2 Clematis Flowers

Type 2 clematis are generally larger flowered, spring to early summer blooming varieties that flower from new growth on the stems from the prior years growth. Most will bloom from new stems and older stems, so retaining some of the stems from prior years helps the plant produce the largest and most flowers possible.

Type 2 clematis need little more than a tidy up to remove damaged stems, or keep growth in check each year. In the early spring, if winter damaged stems need to be removed, by all means do so, taking care to remove only the damaged part. Start at the top of the stem and work your way down.

After your type 2 plants bloom, you can reduce the size or do other more severe pruning as your gardening style dictates. The earlier you do this after the plant ha had its main bloom period, the better. This allows the plant to grow fresh stems and length for the next season.

Examples of type 2 clematis are ‘doubles’ and the largest, earliest blooming clematis such as Niobe, Proteus, and Snow Queen.

Pruning Type 3 Clematis Flowers

Type 3 clematis produce flowers in late spring and summer on the current year’s growth. While nothing could be easier than simply tidying up the type 1 and 2 clematis, pruning type 3 clematis is considered by many to be the easiest. In early spring reduce the stems of the plant just above the lowest leaf axil or growth node from the ground. Starting at the ground, clip the stem just above the first node where the plant produces leaves.

To make this even easier, on a large clematis plant with many stems, gather a ‘pony tail’ of the stems about 2 feet from the ground and cut it off. Then look at each stem and cut it off above the lowest growth node as directed above.

In climates with a long growing season, doing this again after the first blooming of the plant, will provide a second bloom period. Alternatively, deadheading or removing one or two growth nodes from the ends of the stems may also encourage a secondary flush of blooms from the plant.

Examples of type 3 clematis are the Viticellas and other smaller flowered clematis such as Sweet Autumn and Golden Tiara.


Digging a Planting Hole for Clematis Flowers

When your clematis plants are ready to be planted outside, start by selecting a location in an area that has good drainage.

digging-a-hole-to-plant-your-clematisNext dig a hole as large as 18 inches deep and 12- 15 inches wide for each clematis that you are planting. When planting two or three clematis together, enlarge the circumference of the hole by 3 inches for each additional plant. Loosen the soil on the sides and bottom of the planting hole. Fill the hole with water to check the drainage, it should drain slowly but steadily. This helps hydrate the area around the planting hole in addition to allowing you to check the drainage. If your clematis plants are densely rooted, soak the root ball so that you can gently tease the outer roots loose, which helps them establish faster.

Fill the bottom of the hole with your amended soil mixture, and measure the remaining distance so that when you place the clematis ( type 2 and 3) in the hole, spreading the roots out like you would in planting a rose,  and fill the soil in around it, they will be planted 2 to 4 inches deeper than they were planted at in the container. For type 1 clematis, plant to the depth of the container the plant was at.

Place your clematis in the hole on a slight angle with the stems going toward the direction you want it to grow in. this is important as the angle of the crown will help the plant produce new stems and eventually new crowns.

Backfill the soil,  pinching off the leaves on the stem that will be covered with soil with the new depth you are planting it in.

Water the plant well, and prune off some top growth of the plant ( see pruning how to)

Planting Soil for Clematis Flowers

best-growing-soil-for-clematis-plantsSoil rich with organic matter and chunky grit such as sharp gravel or horticultural sand is the optimum outdoor planting medium because immature clematis roots find it easier to reach out and grow. Whereas dense soils like clay or rocky soils don’t allow the roots much space to take hold. Native soil that is sandy, as well as clay based soils that are amended, are perfect for growing clematis.

For garden soil that is less than optimum, amend your soil to create a better planting medium.

Clematis tolerate a range of Ph and are quite adaptable to a variety of soil types.

For planting outdoors, amendments for your native soil include: proprietary bagged compost for flower gardens, leaf-mould, decomposed grass clippings, sharp gravel or sand, oyster shell ( sold at feed stores as poultry grit in many areas), composed pine fines or mushroom compost.

For planting in containers, amendments for traditional bagged ‘potting soil’ include composted pine fines, oyster shell, extra perlite, and bagged compost for flower gardens. Alternate bullet point, For planting in containers, use a proprietary bagged planting mix that lists Canadian peat as the first ingredient.

Learn about fertilizing your clematis


Why are the Leaves of My Clematis Flowers Turning Yellow and Brown?

In mid to late summer, browning lower leaves can be a sign of dehydration, so it is important to keep up watering through the entire growing season. When a plant does not need a leaf any more, the leaf does tend to be shed by the plant and the first part of that is a browning or yellowing off. Simply remove the discolored leaves with a pinch or a small pair of garden nippers.

Earlier in the season, yellowing or browning leaves that the plant is discarding can be from a variety of natural causes. These include temperature extremes that may have damaged the leaves in question, and water extremes such as heavy rainfall or periods of dryness.

Other leaf discolorations may indicate a problem with the plant’s uptake of nutrients from the soil, or very rarely , a bacterial or fungal condition.

Usually the plant works through minor issues naturally and all we can do as gardeners is make sure that water and nutrition are good, and remove unsightly leaves. In more serious issues, the entire stem or stems is affected. If the plant is growing well above the disfiguration, remove the leaves and watch it to monitor the over all health of the plant.


Bare-Bottomed Clematis Flowers? Two Ways to Fix

Do you have clematis that are bare on the bottom of the plant? 

Bare bottoms are more likely on clematis that have not been hard pruned. In some cases this is because the gardener does chooses not to hard prune in the spring, or it can be a result of retaining the stems from the prior year on type 2 clematis.

There are two approaches to this.

  1. You can work with the bare bottom of your clematis plant by planting a taller shrub in front of the clematis, or a shorter perennial flowering plant that will provide some coverage of the base.
  2. In a mature plant with many stems, try hard pruning some stems to the ground vs. the first growth node. This encourages fresh new stems to emerge which will often have more lower foliage.