Clematis

I wish that I could say that my garden includes a large number of Clematis plants, that they bloom wildly all over the yard. Unfortunately, every time I have tried to grow Clematis, it has ended in disaster. Everyone says they are fairly easy to grow, as long as they get at least 6 hours of sun, maybe a little shade in the hottest part of the day, and plenty of air movement. Oh, and also a rich, well drained soil with a neutral pH, and moist shade for their roots. Easy? Doesn’t sound that way to me! Three times that I can recall, I have planted Clematis outside. Two of them didn’t make it through the first winter. The last one, in a different spot, survived several years, but I was lucky to see 2 flowers each year. Obviously, I have not found the right location yet.

Clematis is a genus of the family Ranunculaceae, consisting of more than 200 species, mostly woody climbing vines. They grow in zones 4-11, and commonly live for 25 years or more. Besides full sun on the top, shade on the roots and neutral pH, they also would like a spot that does not contain roots from large trees, as the trees tend to win. Along with their other demands, Clematis need to have something to climb on that is very thin, such as wire. The leaf stalks, or petioles, actually twist around the support and they cannot grasp anything too thick. Of course, you can skip the support and just let the Clematis sprawl across the ground.

Propagation is accomplished by taking cuttings and rooting them in May or June, or by layering in the fall. Layering involves burying a living section of a branch, and waiting for it to form roots of its own. Once it does, it can be removed from the parent and relocated. This is apparently an easy project, unless you are impatient, as it may take a year for the roots to grow enough.

Almost everyone is familiar with big showy Clematis flowers, but in reality, the large colored portion is not the actual flower. The true flower is quite small, surrounded by the colored parts, which are called sepals.  In a lot of plants, the sepals are green, it’s just that the Clematis sepals are colorful. Regardless of what you call them, Clematis blooms are beautiful, and there is nothing more awesome than a mature vine covered with masses of flowers. Just don’t look for one in my garden!

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2 Responses to “Clematis”

  1. Aunt Mary Says:

    Every year I look at you mother’s clematis and decide I am going to grow it. I also have tried probably three or four times and failed. My neighbor, however, has two absolutely stunning plants on the fence between our houses so I get to enjoy it as if it is my own. I know she does absolutely nothing to it. I trim back the wandering branches as they block the walkway on the side of my house. The best part is that they are right outside of the window that I sit next to when I am using my computer. They really are lovely.

  2. Kem Says:

    Another interesting article! The clematis on my front yard light grows like mad, and I have to admit that I have no clue as to why it does well. A woman who used to live down the road from us put oyster shells around hers (we have acidic soil) and that seemed to work for her. My front yard gets afternoon sun, so that probably helps too. But I don’t fuss with mine much at all. I need to prune it this summer after it booms (assuming it blooms, you never know!).

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