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How to Grow Clematis

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Purple clematis

Maybe you've admired the brightly colored clematis vines twining around your neighbor's mailbox. Clematis generally has a bad reputation of being difficult to grow. In truth, preparing the soil in the correct location can make a clematis plant bloom repeatedly for over 20 years. Learning how to grow clematis involves choosing a healthy plant and a great location in the proper environment. Clematis offers over 250 species of this plant from the buttercup family. Colors range from white to red to vibrant purple with flower shapes similar to bells as well as flat-triangular blooms.

How to Grow Clematis

Find a location that provides full sun (six or more hours each day). The area should drain freely without any pooling. This location should also look acceptable with a supportive pole or trellis for this vine-like flowering perennial.

Prepare your planting bed by adding soil conditioner or compost to the garden plot. Unlike other plants, clematis requires deep levels of nutrients in the soil. Turn over or use a rototiller to work soil additives into the top 2 feet of soil.

Dig a hole about 1 1/2 times the size of the plant's root ball. Position the plant in the hole to the point where the first set of leaves lies below the surrounding surface soil. Add or remove soil from the hole as needed. Fill in around the plant and press the soil firmly.

Apply a 4-inch layer of mulch around the plant to discourage weed growth and retain moisture in the soil.

Water the plant to keep the soil moist. Make sure the soil doesn't dry out too much as the plant becomes established.

Train the vines onto a trellis or plant stakes with gardening wire strung between them. Thick trellises or arbors present difficulty for fine clematis vines to wrap around.

Prune most common clematis (Jackman variety) in the spring down to 6 inches of last year's growth. Clematis blooms on the current year's growth each year so even a late winter pruning won't harm the plant although it's not optimal to prune at this time. Research your particular type of clematis before attempt to prune. With 250 varieties, there's no blanket solution involving when and how to prune. Check your plant label for the exact name and growing instructions.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil conditioner
  • Spade
  • Rake
  • Mulch
  • Stakes or trellis