Every flower gardener should know the pleasure of growing clematis. If you already have one in your garden, you’re probably scheming about how to squeeze in another! New to clematis? Read on and discover how easy it is to be successful with the “queen of climbers.”
Selecting a Plant
Until fairly recently, only a handful of clematis cultivars were readily available in the U.S. Some of these traditional favorites include Jackmanii, General Sikorski, Henryi, and Comtesse de Bouchard. But clematis have become a hugely popular perennial, and today, the average local garden center offers dozens of different choices.
When selecting a clematis for your garden, you’ll want to think about a couple things, which include its mature height, flower form and color.
If you have room for a vigorous 10- or 20-foot clematis vine, there are many wonderful cultivars that will fit the bill. There are also more compact varieties that are perfectly happy growing in a small garden or even in a pot on the patio.
The standard clematis flower form is a large blossom with six or seven petals, measuring 5-6″ across. There are also cultivars with smaller blossoms, double blossoms, and lovely bell-like flowers. Colors range from white to wine red, lavender to deep purple, and there are even a few yellow ones.
It can take several years for a clematis vine to mature and begin flowering vigorously.
Where to Plant It
Hopefully you have a planting location in mind before you bring home your new clematis. Ideally it’s a sunny spot. Though some clematis cultivars will bloom in partial shade (such as Nellie Moser and Henryii), to reach their full potential they need at least six hours of sun each day.
Clematis prefer moist, well-drained soil that’s neutral to slightly alkaline in pH. If your soil tends to be acidic, you should sweeten it periodically with limestone or a little wood ash. Dig a good hole for your new clematis, working in lots of compost.
Be very gentle when settling the plant into its new home; the roots, crown and emerging vines of clematis can be easily broken. Position the plant slightly deeper than it was growing in the pot, so the first set of true leaves is just under the soil surface. Water weekly for the first season, to help the plant get established. If you can get your clematis through its first year, chances are good that it will continue to thrive. Mulching around the base of the plant will help conserve moisture, but keep the mulch several inches away from the crown, where the vines emerge from the soil.
Clematis are happiest with cool shade at their roots and warm sun on their foliage. Mulching around the roots will help keep the soil cool, as will the foliage of a low-growing perennial.
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