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I love Clematis vines. It's become a hobby to collect and grow them.
Following is a list of my recommendations for Clematis varieties. I grow almost all of them, and a few are still on my wish list. Purchasing clematis from growers and reputable plant nurseries are the key to your success. Every one of my clematis vines has performed better than I expected, in all spots in my gardens.

"Bijou" is a low growing, mounding dwarf variety that I am growing as ground cover. 
It's about a foot tall, and it's pretty planted en masse at the bases of trees, and in pots.

The care isn't as complicated as you think, once you know when and how to prune them. I grow them on fences, around porch posts, up trellises and an arbor, and on ugly chain link fencing. All are growing in pots, so that I can move them, if needed, keep the growth and shaping controlled, and avoid dealing with weeds, bugs, and marauding rabbits. 
The photos do not do them justice. They look spectacular in person. They are very easy to grow, given the right conditions. These are hardy and easy-to-grow perennials.

There are early, mid-season, re-blooming, all-season and late varieties. If you plant all types, you will have flowers spring til frost on a rotating basis. There are several compact varieties for small spaces and focal points. All vines need staking or trellising, and Clematis will happily accept your training and guidance to grow where and how you wish. They play well with other vines, like honeysuckle, will joyfully climb on arbors, hide ugly structures like stumps, and climb at the base of trees, if that's what you wish.

There are several types that are dwarf enough to be used as ground covers, rather than staking, and many are happy tumbling from a hanging planter.

The recommended plants shown, are the colors I use in my decor, and they're chosen to match the trim and features of my home. There are lots of different colors available. I have a few themed seating area gardens, so I choose colors to match the colors in that theme. I have had great success pairing different varieties with similar characteristics to grow together and inter-twine in one large pot. Make sure the plants you are pairing are of similar colors, heights, and share the same bloom time and pruning care. They look beautiful in these combinations.

When choosing your clematis, be sure to check the USDA hardiness zone map to be sure the variety will make it through your winters. A healthy clematis will live a long time.

How To Love Your Clematis

The ideal location will have well drained soil that’s rich and loamy. Find a sunny or partly shady spot where the root zone will stay cool in the heat of the summer. Nearby plants help shade the soil. If the planting area is in the open, plan to mulch the soil. I use rubber mulch. It doesn't break down, weeds and bugs hate it. I also use decorative rock and gravel in pots for some of them. But that makes the pots much heavier to move, and weeds still crop up.

Where to plant your clematis

  • Against a wall 
  • Along a fence
  • Near a shrub or small tree (for free climbing support)
  • With another vine (such as a climbing roses) - Remember that it means you can't mess with the vine much if pairing with roses, because of the rose thorns. They do look lovely with other vines such as trumpets and honeysuckle.
  • Over an arbor or pergola - I use green twine to train mine up the panels.
  • Along the top of a stone wall
  • On a decorative free-standing trellis
  • On porch posts and railings.
  • Around a lamp post or mailbox - Wrap any pole-type supports you wish to cover with a wire mesh to give the clematis a climbing guide. I have not found it necessary on skinny posts or railings, because the vine grabs those easily. Wider/thicker structures should have the wire mesh for the clematis to grab onto in order to climb.
  • In a container or pretty pot
  • In hanging baskets - there are several dwarf varieties that are suitable. "Bijou" is one of them.
  • In front of any unsightly thing in your yard that you'd like to hide. There are gutter downspout wrap-around plant cages available for vines to scamper up and hide that particular ugly thing.

How To Plant

Clematis get crabby when they're moved, so if you're not planting in big, moveable pots, choose the planting site carefully. I plant mine in pots just for that reason. I always find a better idea to re-design my gardens. So moving the plants around is no biggie for the plant. The ideal in-ground location will have well-drained soil that’s rich and loamy. 

Find a spot where the root zone will stay cool. I mulch the root area of all of mine to keep them from roasting in our month-long summer heatwaves.

Use care in handling, because Clematis vines are quite fragile and can be easily broken. I've done it many times while training it. It'll break your heart if the vine is long and you accidentally snap a stem.

Use high quality, potting soil with good drainage, and add compost, if you wish.  Position the crown of the plant where the roots meet the stem 1" to 2” below the soil surface. 

Backfill the hole, press around the pot or tamp the ground to eliminate air pockets, and water deeply to settle the roots. 

Provide a trellis when you plant, because the vine will be ready to climb on whatever it can grab onto, and you want to stake it as it grows, and train it to climb on the support. I stake it, no matter how small it is. I just create bamboo stake teepees and plant that around the plants. Eventually, a stem will look for a place to grab, and the teepee gives it options. You can make teepees out of any kind of stakes. Just take 3, push them into the pot or the ground in teepee fashion over your plant, and tie the tops together. Mine are easy to stake because they're in pots, and the stakes won't fall over or move in the ground. I like the bamboo stakes because they're eco-friendly, thin and light and have a natural look. They also match my bamboo garden benches. They come in a lot of sizes. I use 4 ft. stakes in 16-inch pots, with a trellis behind it for when the plant gets taller than the stakes and looks for something to grab onto.

Water regularly in summer. Mine let me know right away if they were forgotten. They start to wilt right before my   eyes.. Fertilize every few weeks spring to fall, with a natural liquid fertilizer or epsom salts. I use epsom salts when i plant, then diluted fish emulsion every few weeks. The plants love it and do very well. They do not get chemical feedings.

If planted directly into the ground, protect the plant by wrapping it with wire mesh, which  will help protect it from hungry rodents, or you can put a small decorative fence with little or no holes in front of the bed they're living in. Mine are in big pots, and nothing bothers them. The only one I have in the ground and not in a pot, is covered with a tall, upside-down antique galvanized wire cage-type thing and it fills and covers it without input from me or animal damage.

Solving The Pruning Mystery

Pruning your clematis will strengthen the plant, and improve flower production. 
Officially, every clematis cultivar should be pruned according to a specific pruning time and style. For example, a label might list the plant as " Pruning Type 1", 2 or 3. Keeping track of which cultivar should be pruned when and how is confusing. I would have to read the specifics each season. And I'd have to pray that the plants didn't lose their name tags.

This is how I keep it simple....

A clematis vine does not always need to be pruned, except to cut out dead stuff, or to rein in it's outward growth.

You won’t need to do any pruning for the first year or two of the vine's life, so you’ll have time to see how the plant grows, how it flowers, and can then prune accordingly.

For clematis that produce most of their new growth on last year’s vines, (if you don't see it, your plant label or description tells you that), limit pruning to shaping and removing dead and weak stems. The best time to prune these plants is late summer, right after they bloom.

If your clematis sends up most of its new growth from the base of the plant, it's a type that sets flowers on the current year's vines. These plants can simply be cut back each year in early spring, to a height of 12-18".

I have adopted clematis vines, and really didn't know about the three types of pruning for the cultivars, or which ones I had, so I cut where and when it made sense, by seeing how it grows. It's best to cut properly and at the right times to be sure you're not preventing flowering. But I have not had any problems using a sensible approach, similar to when I prune my ornamentals. Clematis is tough. If you make an error in pruning, you'll figure it out soon enough, and do it differently next time. You're not going to kill it through haphazard pruning as you learn. In fact, my vines seem to appreciate a haircut, even if it's not at the right time.

It's best to use the detailed methods outlined by nurseries and arboretums, and you will know which type of pruning is done and when, as outlined on the label and descriptions. I have too many plants to always remember pruning dates. But it's not awful if you don't get it right the first time. I'm good with the "live and learn" process. Once I know it by doing, it's a piece of cake for me to remember it.

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