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How to plant a clematis
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
Every gardener should have the opportunity to grow clematis. If you already have one in your garden no doubt you are looking for a chance to put more anywhere you have room. There are not many plants that can really compete with the amazing beauty of clematis and the wide range of colour they come in. The first step in growing clematis successfully is by ensuring you plant it in the correct way to give it the best chance of thriving. A few planting tips such as planting slightly deeper, 6 inches below the surface has always worked well for us and helps prevent clematis wilt.
Clematis planting guide
When you are growing a clematis the first thing you have to consider is which plant to choose. There were recently some changes that presented multiple hybrids to the marketplace and as the plant has become more popular there are dozens of different choices. You want to keep in mind the colour of the flowers, the height at full maturity, and the form.
For example, the vigorous clematis vine will reach between 3 and 10 meters in height but there are also compact varieties that will fit smaller gardens if that’s what you have. For those who are growing on a small patio or in a pot, the shorter versions are obviously the better option, you can also get some that grow better in shadier areas of the garden.
The standard flower ranges in its bloom size from six or seven petals across but there are some bell-like flowers out there and some double blossoms. The quintessential colour is purple in all varieties but you can find lavender, white, red wine, even a handful of yellow flower options such as clematis tangutica.
It might take several years for your clematis to reach full maturity and start to flower with regularity. That said if you are purchasing from a nursery it is in your best interest to find one that is already a few years old so that you can shorten the waiting time with which you must contend, usually clematis sold in 2 or 3-litre pots are perfect. It can already take at least one season for the roots to establish themselves in the ground or in a pot which means you won’t get flowers right off the bat although you often do. Look for one that has strong, vigorous growth in terms of the branches and the stems.
Once you have decided on growing clematis you need to figure out where to plant it in your home. Ideally, you want a very sunny spot. Some varieties bloom in the shade but most of them need at least six hours of sun each day in order to reach their full potential. They prefer moist, moist well-drained soil which is slightly alkaline or neutral. If the soil you have is already acidic you can add some garden lime periodically or some wood ash to sweeten it a bit.
Preparing the planting hole
When you are ready to plant, dig a large hole that is slightly bigger than the size of the pot in which the clematis arrives. Add compost to the whole as well as some fertiliser such as bonemeal and mix it in thoroughly in preparation for planting clematis, never put a handful of bonemeal in the hole and place the roots on top, this will burn the roots, mix in well with the surrounding soil.
Plant 2-3 inches deeper than it was in the original pot
When you set the plant inside its new home be very gentle. Whether you are placing it in a pot or in the ground the roots and the crown can become broken easily so you want to make sure for that significantly larger plant, you have someone there to help you if needed. It should be buried slightly deeper than it was already growing in the pot, remove any leaves that would be under the soil, usually planting around 2-3 inches deeper works well and helps prevent clematis wilt.
Water well and mulch to conserve moisture
Once you have planted it, it is time to water. Water it weekly during the first season so that the roots get established and thereafter you can likely reduce the amount of watering that is required. If we have very warm weather, yes we do sometimes get good weather in the UK, you may need to water it daily. To help conserve moisture mulch around the base of the plant but do not mulch immediately against the crown where the vines start to emerge.
Clematis are happiest when they are placed in cool shade for the roots but warm sun for their foliage which is why mulching around the roots will help to keep that soil level cooler but still allow your perennial to access full sunlight without overheating.
How to support your clematis
Once you have decided on the location and planted your clematis you need to be cognizant of how you will support it. There different types of clematis which require a climbing wall or material of some sort. They will look for something to grab onto and if there isn’t anything present, they will turn into a tangled heap. So, it will climb by wrapping its leaf stems around something. These leaf stems are not very large so the easiest thing that it clings to is wires placed horizontally, plastic netting as pictured below fastened to a fence or trellis work. Most trellises if they have large gaps, can even do with some added wire in between. Again the more options you have for your plant, the better it will thrive.
After you have planted your clematis and established a structure against which it can climb, keep it healthy by feeding it regularly, adding compost and fertilizer in early spring and then once again during the growing season. Most clematis will grow well left unpruned except for the off prune to keep it within the framework. However you get the best flowering show if you prune to its pruning group, some just need pruning lightly while another benefit from a hard pruning to just above ground level. You can read about pruning group here
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