Clematis is a huge plant family, over 200 known species. Many of them are vines, but there are a few bushy upright forms and some sprawling ground covers also. Blooms range from delicate little star shapes in clusters to showy specimens larger than saucers that seem to float above the foliage. Many are decidious, but a few are evergreen.
Botanically, the colorful parts of the flowers are sepals, surrounding inconspicuous true blossoms at the center. This is only important to the plant, however, which forms fluffy clusters of seeds when flowering is finished. The blooms are gorgeous by any name.
Clematis want to be set with their roots in loose soil rich with organic matter, and with good drainage, preferably shaded to keep the roots cool. Keep soil moist and apply a complete fertilizer during the growing season.
The vines need to climb into sun or bright light for best blooming. Since most varieties do climb rather vigorously, plan a path for them, either a trellis of some sort or the option of climbing over nearby structures or plants. If you don’t want them to climb onto a shrub or tree, set them far enough apart to prevent this, and guide them if they stray. Stems are fragile, so tie up carefully.
Varieties that bloom in winter or early spring are blooming on the previous year’s growth. Prune after bloom to shape, and generally remove only dead stems. Those that bloom in summer or fall are blooming on new growth and can be cut severely back in fall or winter to remove ugly old growth and stimulate new. If you aren’t sure of the blooming season, observe for a year before serious pruning.
Linda Beutler, who knows more about clematis than most of us can imagine, will be sharing some of her knowledge, including how to start them from seed, at Connie Hansen Garden on Saturday, March 28th, at 10: AM. Come join us and whet your appetite for clematis.