June 12, 2009

Growing and Propagating Clematis Vines

Among my list of favorite perennial vines, I put Clematis at the top. They are hardy, easy to care for once they are established and with the right varieties, they will provide a long season of blooms and most will rebloom in the fall.

I am writing this blog in the middle of June and I have had Clematis blooming in my yard since March. The show started with my favorite early bloomer “Dawn”. Just look how many flowers were on this ten year old vine that I have moved at least once (from one house to another). Don’t ever buy a house from me with out negotiating the plants! LOL! I left everything once and the new people turned a big dog out in the back yard and he totally destroyed all the plants – never again! I have moved my garden three times now. I hope this house is forever.

About the time Dawn is fading and making the powder puff seed heads, Lady Betty Balfour starts her show followed closely by my summer favorite Jackmanii! This one grows happily in lousy soil at the edge of my back drive – look what a spectacular sight this is! By the way, if you want more blooms, dead head as many of the seed heads as you can. This can be quite a chore on a prolific bloomer but it will encourage your Clematis to bloom more later.

Jackmanii below center

Right now the Earnest Markham is starting to bloom and my Nellie Mosier will soon follow. Of course, the doubles are beautiful although they usually bloom double in the spring and single flowered in the fall.

It takes about three years to establish a Clematis vine. They will bloom the first and second years but the third year will be the start of a full bloom. Trust me, it is worth the wait.

Try to give your Clematis at least 5 or 6 hours of sun a day, mulch them well or under plant with a low growing perennial. They like their heads in the sun and their roots in the shade. Water weekly in the hot dry summer and fertilize as you would any blooming perennial. They are not fussy – I throw some timed release fertilizer on in spring when I see new growth and again mid summer.

There are several schools of thought about pruning the vines. I generally cut mine down to about 18 inches tall after the first hard freeze. If I wait until spring and new growth is there, I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t prune my Jackmanii although lots of people do. I love the “umbrella" look I get from having all the flowers on top of my trellis.

When I had my greenhouse and an intermittent mist system, I had much success propagating Clematis from soft wood cuttings. It can be done without all that but is rather tricky. I prefer the following method for the average home Gardener who wants a few more plants.

I start with a mature plant. The one in the pictures is a Nellie Mosier. I select a nice long stem, pull it down carefully (they break easily) until it touches the ground. Select a vine long enough to have about three feet on the ground and still be attached to the mother plant. See the first photo below.

Now snip the leaves off where the plant will touch the ground and wound the underside of the vine, wounding means scraping the outer covering of the vine down to the green inside. Once again be careful not to cut through the vine. I use a sharp clean knife for this. You can dust a little rooting hormone on the wound if you wish. Now dig a little channel in the soil and lay your vine, wounded side down, in the channel and cover with soil. Put a stone, brick or anything heavy on top to hold the vine in place and help keep it from drying out. Now the hard part - wait one year - don't even think about moving that rock! After a year, lift the rock and you should have a nice rooted little plant ready to snip away from the original vine and pot up.

A couple of my favorite Clematis suppliers are Walters Gardens and White Flower Farm . A good site for general information on Clematis is Home of Clematis.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these tips! I planted some tiny clematis vines bought from a charity plant sale this spring, and was wondering how long they would take to flower and how to care for them!