All About Clematis

Clematis is known as the queen of climbers. Its vining stems will happily scramble up trellises, over arbors and through other plants, creating a tapestry of beautiful color. This carefree perennial blooms from early summer through fall, producing star-like blossoms that can be white, pink, red, blue or purple. It's easy to fall in love with clematis, and fun to find new ways to use them in your gardens and landscape.

Start with a Better Plant

When you compare two clematis plants side by side, it’s easy to see differences in quality. Longfield Gardens supplies grade #1 plants (shown on the far left) that have strong, well developed root systems. The bigger the plant, the faster it will settle into your garden and the sooner you'll be enjoying flowers.


Plan for Success 

Shade and Sun:  Clematis will grow in partial shade, but they flower best in full sun. Ideally, the top of the plant should be in sun and the root zone should be shaded by other plants.

Zone: Most clematis are hardy in zones 4-9. Not sure about your hardiness zone? Check the USDA zone map here.

When to Plant: Plant bareroot clematis in early spring while the plants are still dormant. Potted plants may be planted at any time during the growing season.

Clematis are long-lived and don’t like to be moved, so try to choose a permanent location. Plan ahead for how you will support the vine. Though clematis can be allowed to scramble through shrubs or along a stone wall, they perform best when trained up a trellis, tuteur, arbor or other structure.



Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12” and mix in about 6 cups of compost and ¼ to ½ cup of all-purpose granular fertilizer (follow package directions).

Dig a hole deeper than the root ball, and position the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem) about 2" below the soil line.

Refill the hole. If the plant has sprouted, the growing tips should be barely visible above the surface.


What to Expect

Like most perennials, a newly planted clematis vine needs some time to settle in. It typically takes two growing seasons for them to reach full blooming size.

During the first growing season, your new clematis should be watered whenever the weather is dry. Mulching around the base of the plant will help retain moisture and keep the roots cool. Sometimes clematis need a little help holding onto a trellis or structure. You can use soft twine, waxed string or even zip-ties to attach the vines and provide extra support.


Where to Plant Clematis 

Clematis flower at different times during the summer. Some varieties flower early, some late and others bloom on and off throughout the growing season. Growing two or more varieties next to each other will give you a longer season of bloom.

Since clematis vines grow up and not out, the plants occupy very little soil space in the garden. This makes it easy to find room for them -- even in a small garden. But since clematis vines can grow 6 to 15 feet tall, it's important to give them something to climb on or over. This can be a wooden or metal trellis, a garden structure, a small tree, a fence, wire or poly netting.

Though some clematis are ramblers and less inclined to climb, most have twining leaf stems that they use to attach themselves to trellises or other plants. Since these leaf stems are relatively short, a good clematis trellis will have narrow slats or a wire grid that's easy to grip.


Here are some popular ways to use clematis around your home and garden. Before selecting a new plant, make sure to check its mature size. Heights vary from 3-feet to 20-feet or more.

Entryways:  Planting clematis near an entryway to your home or garden will greet guests with a beautiful display of color.

Arbors :  Plant clematis where they can scramble up an arbor, pergola or gazebo to create a romantic retreat.

Bare Walls:  Mount a trellis against your house or garage and plant clematis to add texture and a splash of color.

Perennial Gardens:  Add vertical interest to a perennial garden by planting clematis on a freestanding trellis or tuteur.

Fencelines:  Train clematis along the top of a fence or wall to soften hard lines.

Cutting Gardens: Florists have discovered that clematis also make good cut flowers. A length of clematis vine, combined with other garden flowers and foliage, can turn an ordinary summer bouquet into something spectacular. Varieties that are especially good for cutting include Blue Light, Ramona, Niobe and Multi-Blue.


How to Care for Clematis 

After the flowers fade, some clematis develop decorative seed heads. These may be left in place throughout the growing season. Though it's not necessary, you can also cut off the seed heads to keep the plant looking neat. Some clematis varieties bloom again in late summer or early fall. If you think your clematis could be a rebloomer, remove only the spent flower heads and avoid cutting back the foliage.

Early spring is the best time to prune a clematis. There are two approaches to pruning. Some varieties produce new growth on last year’s vines, so they should only be pruned to shape the overall plant. Other varieties die back to the ground during winter, and all new growth comes from the base of the plant. With this type of clematis, all of the prior year's vines can be cut off in early spring. If you are unsure which type of clematis you have, just wait until the plant sprouts new growth and note where it's coming from. Then you can prune accordingly. 

Fertilize clematis in the spring when the first leaves start to unfurl. Follow package instructions, sprinkling approximately ¼ to ½ cup of all-purpose granular fertilizer around the base of the plant.


If your clematis outgrows its space, you can control the growth by cutting back the entire plant to a height of 5". This can be done in fall or early spring. Stray vines may also be trimmed back any time during the growing season.

Clematis are susceptible to "wilt", which is a fungal disease that enters the plant at the soil line. It causes some or all of the plant's leaves and stems to suddenly turn black. Though the disease damages the plant for the current growing season, in most cases the plant will return the next year. Learn more in this article from the Missouri Botanical Garden: Clematis Wilt.

See our entire selection of clematis HERE.

To learn more about growing clematis, you may be interested in reading:

6 Tips for Growing Clematis

10 Easy Perennials for Sunny Gardens


Learn More: