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Clematis: planting, care, pruning, growing

Clematis flowerClematis (lat. Clematis), or virgin’s bower is a genus in the buttercup family. It is a woody plant or herbaceous perennial, native to the temperate and subtropical zones of the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 300 species, and sometimes they differ greatly from each other. The Greek word “klema” means “any climbing plant”. In home floriculture mostly clematis-lianas are grown. They say that clematis is a plant that can replace a whole garden.

Description of clematis flowers

The species of clematis greatly differ from each other. There are sub-shrubs, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, but most of the species belong to the group of lianas. The root system can be of two types: the core system (the plants of this group are not easily transplanted) and fibrous root system. This years’ shoots of clematis are thin; if the species is herbaceous, these shoots are green and round; these shoots of woody species are faceted. Such shoots grow from the above-ground buds of old shoots or from the underground part of clematis. Leaves of clematis are simple or compound (consisting of three, five or seven leaves), conjugated, usually green, but the leaves of some species can be purple.

Bisexual clematis flowers can be solitary or collected in inflorescences of various forms (cyme, corymb, panicle). Petals that in fact are sepals can vary in number from four to eight, and double species have up to seventy petals. In the center of the flower of simple species there are a lot of stamens and pistils that make the center look like a hairy spider, often with a contrasting color. In general, the color scheme of clematis is very wide: from pale pink to dark red, from light blue to velvety blue and, of course, there are clematis of white and yellow hues. Each flower lives for two or three weeks, many varieties of clematis have an aroma that resembles fragrance of primrose, jasmine or almonds. The fruits of clematis are numerous achenes.

Species and varieties of clematis

There are several classifications of clematis: division of clematis into groups by Beskaravaynaya that takes into account the origin of the maternal species, the taxonomic system of M. Tamura, the classification of A. Raider, L. Bailey, W. Matthews and others. Amateurs and beginners prefer to use the simplest classification of clematis according to the size of their flowers: large-flowered, medium-flowered and small-flowered clematis. But international classification is the most convenient for florists:

  • Clematis that produces flowers on the last year's woods (group A);
  • Clematis that produce flowers both on the last and this year's woods (group B);
  • Clematis that produce flowers only on this years’ woods (group C).

Let's look at these groups and clematis varieties that relate to them.

1. Group A:

Alpine clematis (Alpina)

is a vine reaching a height of 10 ft, its leaves are leathery, large, small tubular blue flowers bloom in August. It is sometimes used as a border plant. The varieties are:

  • Atragena Frankie clematis has the height of 6.6-7.8 ft, flowers are bell-shaped, blue with white center, down-facing, it is frost-resistant;
  • Albina Plena is a white clematis, double, tall (up to 9 ft), it blooms from May to June;
  • Pamela Jackman clematis has the shoots 6.6-9.8 ft long, its drooping flowers are violet-blue, 2.4-2.7 inches long. It blooms from April to June, in the second half of summer it blooms for a second time, but not so profusely.

Asian clematis (clematis florida)

is a tall, woody vine, more than 9.8 ft long. Flowers are single, large, fragrant, mostly of light colors. There are bi-colored varieties of clematis. Popular varieties are:

  • clematis Vyvyan Pennell has the height up to 11.5 ft, its lilac double flowers are 4.7-6 inches in diameter;
  • Malysh has the height of 3.3 ft, cross-shaped flowers are light purple with a blue hue of 4-5.5 inches in diameter;
  • Jeanne d'Arc clematis has small pure-white fragrant double flowers that seem large against the background of a small plant. The plant is frost-resistant, it tolerates well the full sun, shade, and it is almost insusceptible to diseases.

Mountain clematis (clematis montana)

is a giant climber with the shoots up to 29.5 ft long, the leaves are small, sharp, the flowers on long pedicels are collected in bundles of five pieces, the flower color is white, its diameter is 1.5-2 inches, the stamens are yellow. It does not tolerate cold winters. Its varieties are:

  • Rubens clematis is a fast-growing vine up to 19.6 m long, woody, leaves are ternate, pointed, oval, with bronze tint. Opened flowers are of red-pink color, up to 2.4 inches in diameter, collected by 3-5 pieces. It blooms vigorously and loves the full sun;
  • clematis Montana Grandiflora has 16.4 ft shoots, close ternate leaves are collected in bundles, flowers are of medium size up to 2 inches, opened, with a delicate fragrance, collected in bundles of several pieces, sepals are white or white-pink, anthers are light yellow. This variety blooms in May-June.

2. Group B:

Clematis lanuginosa

is a shrub climber up to 8.2. ft long, its beautiful single flowers are up to 8 inches in diameter and come in white, blue and pink colors. It is twice-flowering clematis: it blooms on the last year's woods in May-June, and it blooms again on new woods at the end of summer. Popular varieties are:

  • Madame le Coultre has the shoots 8.2-9.8 ft long, leaves are simple or ternate, lobed or with entire margin. Flowers are 5.5-8 inches in diameter, sepals are white, anthers are bright, it blooms in July. Winter hardiness is average;
  • Hybrida Sieboldii is a climber with the shoots up to 8.8 ft long, the flowers are 6.3 inches in diameter, sepals are light-lilac with dark margin, anthers are reddish-brown. It blooms from July till September;
  • Lawsoniana is a shrub climber, the length of shoots is up to 9.8 ft, the leaves are sometimes simple, mostly ternate, leaves are oval. Buds are upward-facing, fragrant flowers are up to 7 inches in diameter, sepals are lilac-violet with a dark stripe in the middle, anthers are purple. It blooms in May-June, sometimes it can start blooming again in autumn, but the flowering will be weaker.

Clematis patens

is a shrub climber reaching 11.5 ft in length, the flowers are large, up to 6 inches and more in diameter, come in various shades from white to dark blue, there are bicolored varieties. The flowers can be simple, star-shaped or double. It blooms in May-June on last year’s shoots, it can bloom again in autumn on young shoots. All varieties are afraid of strong cold.

  • Joan Pikton has 9.8 ft shoots, flowers are large (up to 8.6 inches), light lilac with a violet shade with a light stripe in the center of the petal. The edges of the petals are wavy. Anthers are red. It blooms very profusely;
  • Multi Blue clematis is a climber up to 8.2 ft high, blue-violet double flowers are 5.5 inches in diameter, located along the shoot in several layers. It blooms in June-August.

3. Group C:

Clematis of Jackmanii group

is a clematis obtained from the crossing of the clematis lanuginosa with the clematis viticella. It is mostly large shrubby climbers with the shoots up to 13-19.6 ft long and a well developed root system. Their leaves are pinnately compound, consisting of 3-5 large leaves, buds are elongated, flowers are single or collected in 3 pieces, opened, outward-facing, unscented, of all possible shades except white. The flowers of this group reach 8 inches in diameter, although there are varieties with flowers only 3 inches in diameter. The flowering of the varieties of this group is profuse and long-lasting. It produces flowers on this year’s shoots that are pruned to the level of the ground in winter or a shoot with three or five pairs of buds is left. Popular varieties are:

  • clematis Rouge Cardinal is a climber with a length of shoots of 6.6-8.2 ft with ternate leaves, flowers are opened, up to 6 inches in diameter, cross-shapes. Velvety sepals are dark purple, anthers are light purple. It blooms in July-September. It is moderately winter-hardy. Rouge Cardinal clematis is the winner of many flower awards;
  • Star of India is a shrubby climber with shoots up to 9.8 ft long. Compound leaves consist of 3-5 entire or lobate oval-pointed small leaves. Flowers are open, up to 6 inches in diameter, diamond-shaped sepals are juicy-violet with purple strip along the middle, anthers are light. It blooms profusely in the second half of the summer;
  • Gipsy Queen is a shrubby climber, shoots of which reach 11.5 inches. There are about 15 shoots in the bush. The leaves are compound, the buds are upward-facing, the flowers are open up to 6 inches in diameter, the sepals are wide, velvety, bright-violet, almost do not lose its color in the sun, the anthers are maroon, the pollen is also colored. It blooms very profusely from the second half of the summer until the frosts. It tolerates shade. There are up to 20 flowers on each shoot. The variety is resistant to fungal diseases;
  • Bella has the shoots that are only up to 6.6 ft in length, star-shaped flowers are 4-6 inches in diameter, waxy, light yellow at first, then they turn snow-white. The variety is winter-hardy, resistant to fungi. It blooms from July to September.

Purple clematis (clematis viticella)

is the species that, as the name indicates, is represented by flowers of violet color of different intensity and shades. Flowers of this species are simple, sometimes drooping, from 4 to 8 inches in diameter. The shoots of these climbers reach 11.5 ft in length, and they grow rapidly. Clematis of this species blooms from June to September. Here are a few varieties of this species:

  • Ville de Lyon clematis is a shrubby climber with dark brown shoots up to 11.5 ft long, one bush has up to 15 of such shoots. The leaves are compound, consist of 3-5 entire or lobed small leaves that turn yellow at the base of the shoots and dry. The buds are upward-facing, the flowers are opened, 4-6 inches in diameter, the peduncles are long. Wide carmine-red sepals lose the color in summer sun, anthers are of bright yellow color. It blooms profusely with 15 flowers on each shoot;
  • Viola has the shoots that reach 8.2 ft in length, the leaves are ternate, it blooms vigorously and for a long time from July to October with disk-shaped opened, like a propeller, flowers 4-5.5 inches in diameter. Sepals are dark purple with lilac veins, anthers pale yellow;
  • Polish Spirit is a climber with the shoots that are up to 13 ft long. It is covered with lilac-lilac flowers 3 inches in diameter from the end of June until the frosts.

Solitary clematis (clematis integrifolia)

is a semi-shrubby climber that do not cling to the support. The height of these plants is not more than 8.2 ft, drooping bell-shaped flowers are red, pink, purple, blue and dark blue. Popular varieties are:

  • clematis Durandii (Durand’s clematis) is one of the most beautiful large-flowered species of a hybrid origin. A climber shrub is only 6.6 ft high, has brown shoots, one bush has 15 of such shoots. The leaves are oval, simple, entire, dense, tolerate the full sun. Flowers are drooping, up to 4.7 inches in diameter, sepals are bright purple or juicy blue, lose the color in the sun, anthers are pale yellow. On each shoot there are up to 15 flowers. This variety blooms from July to October;
  • Varava has the shoots that are not longer than 8.2 ft, star-shaped flowers are 4.7-6.3 inches in diameter, inside they are light-lilac with a purple stripe along the petal, the other side is pale-lilac with an even lighter median stripe. It blooms until winter;
  • Memory of the Heart is a shrub with 3.3-6.6 ft shoots, drooping bell-shaped flowers are 2-3.5 inches in diameter, it blooms vigorously from July until October.

Small-flowered clematis

is a climber with small white fragrant flowers, grows very quickly, with the shoots reaching up to 16.4 ft in length, leaves are compound, dark green, pinnate, cruciform flowers are collected in inflorescences. It blooms in July-August.

Tangutica group of clematis (golden clematis)

is a fast growing tall climber blooming with small yellow bell-shaped flowers. It produces seeds, does not require a cover in winter.

Here is a brief summary of the basic species of clematis that have served and still serve for breeding new varieties of these beautiful and functional plants.

Growing of clematis

Clematis grown from seeds

In the vast variety of species and varieties of clematis there is the temptation for gardeners to do breeding by oneself. For those who are interested in growing clematis from seeds, we are ready to provide the necessary information about this process.

According to the size of seeds and the duration of their germination clematis are divided into three groups:

  • clematis with large seeds that germinate for a very long time and unevenly – from one and a half to eight months, and even longer ( Durand’s and Jackman clematis, purple clematis, lanuginosa clematis, etc.);
  • clematis with medium-sized seeds germinating within one and a half to six months (solitary clematis, clematis mandshurica, сlematis hexapetala, sugar bowl clematis, clematis chinensis, etc.);
  • clematis with small seeds germinating quickly and evenly – from two weeks and no more than four months (golden clematis, clematis vitalba, etc.).

Clematis seeds that were collected this year are the best to sprout, but if you store the seed material in paper bags at a temperature of 64-73 ºF, it will retain its germination capacity for four years. As to the sowing time, it is as follows: small seeds are sown in March-April, medium seeds are sown after New Year holidays, and large ones are sown immediately after harvest, in autumn or early in winter. To accelerate germination, seeds should be soaked in water for ten days, changing water 4-5 times a day. Then put a substrate in the container, consisting of equal parts of soil, sand and peat, moisten it, sprinkle the seeds in one layer, cover them with a layer of sand with a thickness of 2-3 diameters of the seed and, slightly compact it and cover with a fine mesh or glass. The best temperature for germination of clematis is 77-86°F. From time to time bottom watering is carried out not to wash the seeds out. The emerging weeds should be removed.

Clematis seeds

Clematis seedlings

When the shoots appear, provide them with a sufficient light and protection from direct sunlight. When the first true leaf appears on the seedlings, they are pricked out into separate pots and grown indoors until the last frosts pass. Then the seedlings are transplanted on a shady area with light soil, 6-8 inches apart. From time to time, pinch the plants for them to increase their root mass and branch more heavily. In autumn, cover your seedlings, and in spring again transplant them into a furrow 2-2.7 inches deep, 20 inches apart. Shorten the shoots, leaving a few nodes on them. In 2-3 years, when the seedlings have at least three elastic roots 4-6 inches long, they will be ready to be transferred to a permanent place.

Clematis planting

How to plant clematis

To succeed in growing of clematis, first you should find out where and when to plant it. The planting spot must be in full sun and protected from drafts with shade at noon time. The soil should be weakly alkaline, loamy, fertile, well-fertilized and drained. The best place for clematis is a mound or a specially made hill that will not allow the root of an adult plant reaching 3.3 ft in length to rot caused by the proximity of groundwater. Do not use either fresh manure or sour peat as a fertilizer – the plants do not like it. Do not plant clematis close to the wall of the house (the water flowing down from the roof should not fall on the clematis) or the fence, keep a distance of at least 11.8 inches.

As for the time, the clematis planting is carried out both in spring and in autumn. If the purchased clematis seedlings are in a container, then they can be planted at any time of the year, except winter. But if you do not plant clematis in autumn, keep it in a cool (not warmer than 41 °F) room, sprinkling the roots with a damp, loose substrate (sawdust with sand), pinching off the sprouts from time to time to stop their growing until spring. If you find that the clematis roots have dried up, before planting soak them in cold water for several hours for swelling.

Planting of clematis in spring

In areas with a cool climate, clematis is usually planted in spring, late April or early May. A spring seedling should have at least one shoot. Dig a planting hole 2x2x2 ft, put 4-6 inch layer of rubble, broken brick or perlite on the bottom for drainage. If soil on the site is infertile, change it to fertile, adding 2-3 buckets of compost, one bucket of sand and peat, 14 oz of dolomite flour and 5.3 oz of superphosphate (mix thoroughly, it is preferably to do this a year before planting). Install removable or dig 8.2 ft stationary pegs into the ground for shoot support, they will support the vines if there is a strong wind. On the drainage layer, put a mound of prepared soil, place a seedling on it, spread the roots carefully and fill the hole with the prepared soil so that the clematis root collar is 2-4 inches under the ground level and the stem of the shoot under the first internode is also covered with the soil. Do not fill the hole with soil to the level of the surface, leave 3-4 inches. Pour the plant with a bucket of water and mulch the hollow around clematis with peat. During the spring-summer season the hollow is gradually filled with soil. The distance between shrubs should be at least 3.3 ft.

Clematis planting in autumn

In the southern, warmer regions, clematis is usually planted in autumn, September-October, provided that clematis to be planted has developed vegetative buds. Autumn planting is carried out by the same way as the spring planting, only planting hole is completely covered with soil. The planting site is mulched with a layer of dry leaves and covered with lutrasil or something else. In spring the soil around these seedlings is taken out to the same depth (3-4 inches), but during summer this hollow is gradually filled with soil until the levels coincide. This is done in order to facilitate the getting of the shoots to the surface.

Care of clematis

Clematis in the garden

Сaring for clematis is within the power any gardener, even for beginner. Clematis loves moisture, so it needs good watering at least once a week, and in hot summer – 2-3 times a week. Young plants takes 2.2-4.4 gallons of water at a time, more mature plants consume 2.2-8.8 gallons of water each. Dig in a few pots with a hole in the bottom around the clematis bushes, and the water that fills them during irrigation will slowly penetrate deep into the soil and moisten the layer in which the thirsty roots of adult clematis are. If you do not mulch the soil in spring, then you will have to occasionally loosen it a day after watering with removing the weeds. Mulch retains moisture in the soil and prevents the appearance of weeds, so do not neglect the advice and mulch the soil with peat, moss or humus.

Clematis seedlings

Fertilizing of clematis

As for the use of fertilizers, in the first year be careful not to overuse fertilizers that can lead to rotting of a weak plant. During the period of active growth feed clematis with nitrogen fertilizers, during budding apply potassium fertilizers, after flowering use phosphorus fertilizers, and after summer pruning feed the plant with combined mineral fertilizer at the rate of 0.7 oz per bucket of water and copper solution. Each spring clematis should be poured with lime milk (chalk and dolomite flour). Do not feed clematis during flowering, otherwise it will lose its strength. In the rainy summer, lower part of stem should be covered with wood ash to avoid root decaying.

Staking of clematis

To support the climbers, there are such types of stakes as arches, fan designs and pyramids. Choose what you like most of all, but remember that the diameter of the part to which a climber will cling should be no more than 0.4-0.5 inch. Take into account the fact that clematis grow larger and become heavy, especially after the rain, so the strength of the material of the stakes is of great importance. A good idea is to drive a cylinder made of a thin metal mesh into the ground – it will be a lacy “pipe with legs”, inside of which there will be clematis that will subsequently cover a metal mesh with its leaves and flowers.

Propagation of clematis

We have already described how to grow clematis from seeds. In addition to the seed method of reproduction in cultivation there are also such ways of clematis propagation as by autumn and summer layers, and bush division. Division of the bush is carried out if the plants are not older than 6 years, it is very difficult to combat the powerful root system of an older plant. The bush is carefully dug out, the root is cleared from the soil and divided by a pruner so that each section has buds on the root collar.

Clematis seedlings

In order to prepare the layers, cut off the leaves from the shoots in October, separate the faded part to the first developed bud, weave them into a bundle and put the clematis layers in the grooves with a layer of peat, fix them, and sprinkle the shoots with peat, then cover it with soil and compact it. Cover the plant with fir twigs or dry foliage for winter. When spring comes, water the planting site frequently and heavily and, as soon as the shoots appear, cover the surface around them with peat or humus. By autumn, many of the young plants will be ready for a permanent transplanting. Dig out the sprouts with a pitchfork carefully not to damage the roots. You can prepare the layers in summer, but then it will be difficult to keep shoots alive in winter.

In spring it is better to pin the shoots to prepare spring layers: last year's shoots at the node are pinned in pots with loose soil and peat, the pots should be dug in the ground below the surface level so that water does not flow out during watering. As the seedlings grow into the pot, the soil is added into the pot forming a hill, and by autumn you will have excellent clematis seedlings grown from the shoots.

Pests and diseases of clematis

Clematis mostly suffer from such a fungal disease as wilting. Plants lose the elasticity of tissues, wither and dry. There are several pathogens with such symptoms, but they all live in the soil and affect primarily the root system. Therefore, it is very important to comply with agrotechnical requirements, especially since it is possible to notice the first signs of the disease in the early spring. In May, remove the affected areas and pour clematis under the root with a 2% solution of a fungicide. Strongly affected plants should be taken away together with a clod of soil, and the place where they grew should be disinfected with the same drugs. Fungicides also struggle with such diseases as gray mold and powdery mildew.

Clematis can get affected by rust, also a fungal disease, manifested by orange spots on the leaves and shoots in the spring. As a result of the development of the disease, the leaves become brown, dry, the shoots are deformed. To control rust the plant is sprayed with 1-2% Bordeaux mixture, as well as with a fungicide or copper chloride. At the end of summer, dark gray necrosis may appear on the leaves and shoots making them velvety and changing their color. In the middle of summer, clematis can get ascochyta-leaf spot causing necrotic spots of irregular shape on the leaves, or a fungal diseases caused by Cylindrosporium that covers the leaves with bright yellow spots. All these diseases can be controlled by drugs containing copper – 1% solution of copper sulfate, for example.

Diseases of clematis

Clematis is resistant to viral diseases, but sucking pests can infect the plant with yellow mosaic of leaves that is not cured, so the diseased plants must be destroyed. In the future, do not plant clematis next to plants that are susceptible to yellow mosaic – hosta, sweet peas, delphinium, aquilegia, phlox and peony. Sometimes clematis suffer from a gall eelworms or leaf nematodes. Removing the decayed plants, look at the condition of the plant roots, and if you find the nodes on the roots, do not plant clematis on this spot for several years.

Clematis pruning

Pruning of clematis is also performed during the growth of the plant, if necessary, to prolong the flowering period until winter. If you remember, there are three groups of clematis:

  • the first group of clematis (group A). Clematis of this group produces flowers on last year's shoots, so only weak shoots are cut off. Do this after flowering in June. Before winter clematis is highly earthed up;
  • the second group of clematis (group B) produces flowers both on last year's shoots and this year’s shoots. Pruning is carried out at a level of 20-40 inches, leaving 2-5 pairs of buds, and weak shoots are cut off to the ground. Vine is taken away from the support, folded and neatly put on the roots;
  • the third group of clematis (group C) produces flowers only on new young shoots, clematis of this group is pruned several times during the vegetative period. In autumn all shoots are cut to the ground level or slightly higher.

Clematis after flowering

When autumn comes, you need to think how your clematis will live in winter. On the eve of winter in dry weather pour a bucket of humus in the center of the bush, previously removing all the leaves and treating the root collar of the plant with a 2% solution of copper sulfate. Then you need to earth up clematis to a height of 4-6 inches with sand and ash (8.8 oz of ash per bucket of sand). If needed clematis is covered in a dry way: shoots are bent or twisted and put on the ground, covered with dry leaves (fir twigs, use even crushed foam plastic), then covered with a wooden box allowing access to ventilation, put on a box rooting paper, roofing felt or any other waterproof material that is fixed by stones or brick along the edges not to be blown away by wind, and all this is covered with an 8-10 inch layer of soil or peat.

In spring, first remove soil and foil; fir twigs or leaves are removed only when the threat of frost passes. Shoots are gently lifted, spread and fixed on the stakes.

References and links

  1. Clematis
  2. Family Ranunculaceae
  3. List of all species on The Plant List
  4. More information at World Flora Online
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