Thursday, May 27, 2010

Growing clematis

When it comes to vines, I've had my share of learning experiences. Flowering vines are a beautiful addition to a garden, but care should be given to choosing the right one for your needs. When we moved into our 100-plus-year-old home, the yard was rich with established plants. The first spring, we found the back fence line covered with wisteria. By year five, we were constantly fighting to keep it under control. It went up trees, across the yard and started new vines with wild abandon. We also had an abundance of star jasmine that was equally invasive. I've been fighting both vines for 20 years.

When LOML (Love of my Life) Joel built us some new, small arbors, I planted moon vine (which was spectacular until it died) and a Peggy Martin rose, which is looking promising. This week, I added clematis, which my Aunt Shirley loves but I've never planted. I bought a vivid purple and a pastel lavender. I'm still debating where to plant them. I have at least three choices.

Here are some guidelines for growing clematis, taken from the American Clematis Society(

Light: at least 5 to 6 hours of sun (pastel varieties will not fade as badly if given some afternoon shade)
Site: Critical to long-lived clematis. Dig a hole 24 x 24 and fill with quality topsoil that has been amended if needed. Cut the container to avoid damaging the plant. Sink the base of the plant's stems 3" to 5" below soil level. Keep the stake in place the first year to give support.
Mulch: 3" to 4" of soil amendments or peat moss over root zone. Keep mulch 8" away from the stem to avoid stem rot.
Feed: Clematis are heavy feeders. When spring buds reach 2" long, feed with Gro-Power Flower 'n' Bloom. Alternate feedings every 4 to 6 weeks with Gro-Power All Purpose Plus. Use 2 tablespoons per plant every feeding until the end of September.
Water: Water regularly, thoroughly and deeply during hot summer months. Don't keep too wet, especially in dormant winter months.
Support: They will climb on an arbor, a trellis, other shrubs, a fence, or other structures.
Disease: Susceptible to stem rot or wilt, but it's not usually fatal. Cut off all diseased parts and discard in trash bag. Don't forget to disinfect clippers after use. The ACS recommends Physan 20.

1 comment:

  1. One of my Clematis vines looked like it had died over the winter. Then I noticed a new sprouting piece of vine. I put in a bamboo stake and it took off again. As it grew I tied it up to keep it upright. I think it is best to stick with the more common varieties. They seem to come back from the dead. As for wisteria, cut it out when you see it. It is a tree killer, and very hard to dig out completely. The blossoms are beautiful to fool you into allowing it to live on, but take care. I pl;anted a vine that I saw at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum on the south shore of L.I. It grows on the side of the large shingled house there. Now it is growing on an old stump that is on my side garden, and it is hardy in zone 7.