With the right steps, clematis can flourish

"I will give this most popular vine another go and to ensure better success, have reviewed instructions on how/where to plant and prune."

I’m always envious when I visit a garden that features a beautiful, rambling clematis. I’ve had no success in any of my gardens growing this lovely flowering vine. I gave up on clematis a few years ago but I need something to cover the unsightly chicken wire attached to the fence that keeps my puppies secure, so I will give this most popular vine another go and to ensure better success, have reviewed instructions on how/where to plant and prune.

Clematis don’t like to be moved and prefer a spot in the garden where the first three feet (1m) of the vine is shaded and the top growth gets at least four to six hours of sun.  The planting hole should be at least 18 inches deep and wide and the bottom covered with compost mixed with a handful of bone meal, then a layer of soil.

The well-watered clematis should be placed in the hole so about six inches of the stem is below the soil line.

Here’s the most important step (one that I’ve ignored in past): do not back fill with soil until the stem of the clematis has ripened. If there’s any question about when this happens, it’s best to leave the final filling of the hole until later in the season.

Clematis are divided into three groups according to pruning requirements. As a general rule, Group A (which are mostly Zone 6 evergreen varieties) bloom on old wood and should only be pruned immediately after flowering, no later than the end of July.

Most of the clematis we grow in our zone are part of Group B which flower in early summer on the previous seasons growth and then again later in the season on vines from the current seasons growth.  The flowers are usually scattered up and down the entire height of the vine.

With these, we should wait until the new growth starts to appear in April, remove all dead or weak stems and shorten the rest by about 10 inches to where there is a strong pair of leaf buds.

Group C clematis flowers mostly on new growth, so they most likely begin to bloom in late spring or early summer. If you don’t cut the old stems back for a year, the majority of new foliage and flowers will be at the top.

If we’re not sure what category your clematis belongs to, we’re told to look for remnants of last season’s blooms – if they are on the youngest, thinnest stems, the vine flowers on new growth (Group C); if they appear on thick, woody stems, it blooms on old wood (Group A).

Regardless of what the type though, every new clematis should be pruned to two strong sets of buds as close to ground level as possible.

I’ll be off to the garden centre soon to purchase a few of the new ‘Vancouver Series’ clematis, developed specifically for B.C. gardens by Clearview Horticultural in Abbotsford.  They are touted to be exceptional garden performers with outstanding disease resistance .

The identification tags accompanying the new plants for my garden usually get lost but I will make sure to keep the tags for my new clematis to remind myself in future seasons which Group they belong to. I’ll keep you posted on their progress!

Patty Siddall and Betty Drover operate a local garden business and will share their expertise in the Trail Times every other Friday. Contact Siddall Drover Garden Services at 250-364-1005