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How to Winterize Clematis

Clematis are known as a climbing plant, perfect for pillars, a balcony or trellis, or even the entire side of a house. However, protecting that clematis during the winter months takes a little time and preparation. Learn about the variety of clematis you own to determine the best time for pruning, deadheading or mulching in preparation for winter.

"Deadhead" to prepare the clematis for winter. Deadheading is a gardening term that means removing dead or spent blooms or flowers on a plant. Deadheading can be performed by snipping or snapping dead blooms or flowers off the stem at the base of the flower. For harder woods, like roses, you may need a shears to remove dead blooms. Be advised that timing of pruning will depend on the type of clematis you have. Some varieties that bloom in spring are pruned after flowering and others that bloom in summer and fall are pruned in the early spring. The clematis will create new wood and blooms where it has been pruned, so the extent of pruning is up to individual gardeners. Cut back to about 12 inches above the soil line.

Mulch around the plants once ground freezes or outside temperatures reach about 25 degrees. Much can be created out of straw, hay, bark, manure, leaf mold, grass clippings, or commercial mulch purchased at the nursery. Don't be afraid to pile up mulch around the base or root and crown of the clematis. Pile up and gently pat a small mound of mulch around the base and covering the crown (part of the root portion that grows out of the ground and creates branches) of the clematis.

Propagate if desired by taking cuttings from the clematis or by root division. However, the easiest way to propagate clematis is through stem cuttings in late spring. Leaf bud cuttings taken in the summer can be rooted indoors or out, taking care to keep soil moist when new root growth appears. To take stem cuttings, cut a main stem approximately two inches below a leaf joint. You should have a roughly "T-shaped" cutting at this point. Then, cut away stem or leaf growth from one side of the "T" so that only one 'branch' or pair of leaves is left on the stem. This will reduce water loss while roots grow. Gently place the cutting into container filled with potting soil or compost. The main stem should be covered, with only the top of the stem and remaining leaves exposed. Water from the base of the container for best results.

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