Secrets to Growing a Beautiful Clematis

by Holly Boettcher

One of the most beautiful plants in my gardens is the clematis vine. A showstopper for sure! Spring is on the way, so this is a great time to shop for this beauty to add to your garden space. If you want to maximize the gorgeous display of deep purple, red, pink, or white, read on for a breakdown of successful blooming!

Type 1-2-3 or A-B-C

That’s right, there are three types of clematis. The best way to know what you have is to read the label when you purchase your clematis.

Using the Right Trellis

Clematis are like children; they love to climb. Since they grow up to 20 feet tall, it is important to support them. The vine itself does not “twine.” They climb by twisting their petioles, also called leaf stems. If spaces on your trellis are too wide, the leaf will not be able to wrap around and grasp. Tip: Use nylon fishing line and tie knots every 12 inches to keep from slipping!

Test the Soil

Clematis perform best with slightly alkaline soil of pH 7-7.5. If your test comes back on the acidic side, adjust by adding some lime.

Mulching a Must

They prefer cool feet, so keep at least a 4-inch layer of mulch around them.  DO NOT allow the mulch to touch the plant, and it is best to keep it at least eight inches from the base.

They are Hungry

I feed my clematis every two weeks with a flowering plant fertilizer that mixes with water.  


Timing is critical, so do not prune in the fall. Let your plant stay dormant until spring arrives. 

A:  Pruning group A needs the least amount of pruning and includes Clematis Armandii or dark pink Superba. As soon as visible, cut away damaged, woody stems. Once new leaf buds emerge, start at the top and trim carefully until you reach green, living stems.

B:  Henryi and Multi Blue are examples of pruning group B. Cut away broken branches to balance the look, and keep trimming dead stems back until you reach a strong set of new growth. Thin out overcrowded areas, and arrange the stems to fill in gaps.

C:  By far the easiest group to grow in your garden! One of the oldest cultivars are Jackmanii (pictured) and heavenly, fragrant Sweet Autumn (pictured) which can reach 20 feet tall, so it’s fun to allow it to ramble along as ground cover. Pictured, I’m cutting stems of my Jackmanii back to about 12 inches from the ground. I leave between two and four sets of buds on each stem. As this vine awakens from its dormancy, I will continue to train the new vines and space them apart so I can enjoy a more exotic show.

I hope I’ve coaxed you to drive to your local garden center to search for a new addition to your garden this spring. Enjoy!