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What Are the Best Tips for Growing Clematis?

L. Whitaker
L. Whitaker

The keys to growing clematis successfully include giving it sufficient sunlight, keeping roots cool and moist, feeding the plant with fertilizer, and providing adequate support for the vines to climb naturally. Many types of clematis need full sun, with the exception of certain sensitive cultivars. This plant is said to do best with direct sun on the foliage while sheltering the root system. An alternating schedule of fertilizers helps nourish the plant as it grows. As a climbing vine, clematis will appreciate plenty of support for growing upward.

When growing clematis, keep in mind that most kinds of this plant prefer at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Certain cultivars could suffer from bloom-fading with too much sun, so these types are best placed in a partly shaded area. For areas that are exposed to wind, Clematis alpina or Clematis macropetala are especially hardy and low maintenance.

Proper fertilizer use can benefit clematis.
Proper fertilizer use can benefit clematis.

Clematis roots prefer a moist and cool environment, in contrast to this plant's sun-loving foliage. Light mulch can be used to keep the roots cool. The ideal soil for growing clematis has a neutral pH and drains well. One means of balancing soil that is too acidic for growing clematis is to occasionally add wood ash or limestone.

Fertilizer is a key to success when growing clematis. In the spring, provide a fertilizer with a low nitrogen mix. Approximately every six weeks, alternate low nitrogen with a more balanced fertilizer, continuing through to the end of the plant's growing season.

Clematis likes to climb and will not thrive if there is no support for it to grasp. Any type of fence, trellis, or plastic netting will be adequate for growing clematis. The leaf stems can most easily hold onto items that have a diameter of less than 0.5 inches (1.27 cm), such as dowels, wire, or fishing line. Some types of clematis might do well as a sprawling ground cover or draped over an object, such as a woodpile. If attempting to cover a large area or wall, the species Clematis montana would be a good choice.

There are about 250 different species of clematis, with more than 400 cultivars available in a wide variety of colors, heights, and types of blooms. Clematis is part of the Ranunculaceae family that also includes peonies, buttercups, and anemones. This flowering vine originated in colder regions, making it hardy in less temperate climates. Many varieties of clematis are appropriate for USDA Hardiness Zone 3. Some specimens of this perennial have been known to survive more than 20 years.

Discussion Comments


I have a tall bird feeder that I wanted to spruce up with a pretty plant. Two years ago, I planted clematis around it to see if it would vine. Last year, the feeder looked fabulous with the clematis vines and blooms covering it.

This is a great idea for gardeners who also love to watch birds, and enjoying bringing the two together. It also brightens up any yard decor, and is beautiful to observe each day when placed near a window.


New clematis plants often need a little help to begin growing up a trellis or fence. By placing small plants near the object that you want them to vine upon, you will increase the likelihood that they will begin to vine. Check them daily when they are in this early stage to make sure that they begin to vine, and continue to place the plants upwards toward the trellis or fence to ensure that they will eventually take hold of the object.

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    • Proper fertilizer use can benefit clematis.
      By: Sinisa Botas
      Proper fertilizer use can benefit clematis.