No matter how you pronounce it, Clematis is beautiful

  • By Martha Murdock For The Times

Martha Murdock is a Master Gardener with Penn State Extension – Beaver County.

You say to-MAH-toe, I say to-MAY-toe. You say cle-MA-tis, and I say CLE-ma-tis.

No matter how you pronounce it, this is one beautiful vine. Grow it by itself, with another variety or with a whole different climber and this plant makes a great addition to your garden.


Perfect gracing fences, twining up light poles, draping on a trellis or archway, clematis has stunning flowers that fade to interesting seed pods that last through fall and winter.

You’ll find clematis in white, red, blue, purple and pink. With more than 200 known species in the U.S., you can combine small and large flowers, lights and darks, single and double blooms. One beautiful double bloom is “Josephine.” “Sweet Autumn,” which likes shade and has tons of small, fragrant, white flowers that bloom in the fall, is a very popular choice.

When you mix varieties you can have bold color contrasts and extended bloom time. Grown with another vine, you can have an interesting mix of textures, shapes, colors and flowers that mix and match to your heart’s content.

There are even compact, bushy selections of clematis. Their arching stems from a mounded form can easily stand alone offering a blast of rich color. Bloom time varies depending on the plants you choose; some bloom in spring, some summer and others fall.


Clematis grows in zones from 4 to 9. Many gardeners fuss with this vine and become impatient, as it can take three to five years to have nice blooms. More leaves and fewer blooms might mean too much nitrogen. Fertilize with 5-10-10 or a similar balance to promote blooms. Fertilization is also recommended, early in spring and again mid-summer. Soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8 is ideal.

Clematis will tolerate shade, but it does need some sun. Either five to six hours of sun or even more hours of bright shade are good. Some gardeners insist it performs best when the roots are shaded, often placing a large rock at the base. Others use thick mulch to keep the root ball cool. Garden experts suggest reasonable moisture, good soil and shade for the roots.

While pruning may eliminate some flowers, it also strengthens the stems and roots. Some clematis bloom on old growth so fall or early spring pruning these varieties can remove flower buds, its best to prune these after blossoms die back. Others bloom on new growth, so fall, winter or early spring pruning is fine. You need to know your cultivar to determine when it is best to cut it back.

Clematis can be grown from seed but can take years to germinate and grow. Stem cuttings are the most popular propagation method used by professionals and amateurs. Layering is also effective. Clematis is often sold as bare roots or root balls.

If you want quick results, remember the bigger the root system the faster you’ll have blooms.

White Flower Farms calls clematis the “queen of flowering vines.” So no matter how you pronounce it, give it a try in your garden and I’m sure you will agree, it is one fabulous plant.


Article originally written by The Times Online at:


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