Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




How to get the best out of your Clematis

THE most popular climbers come in hundreds of different varieties these days. from hybrids with flowers the size of dinner plates to wild species such as the tiny white flowered but intensely fragrant Clematis Flammula.

Most people buy Clematis in the spring, when the plants are looking at their most appealing in the garden centre. They are easy to grow. but respond especially to certain cultural practices.

When buying, look first at their root system. Even if the top part of the plant is massed with bloom, do not buy unless the pot is filled with healthy roots. If the supporting stick makes it awkward to carry home simply remove the stick and let the plant flop over.

Even if the plant breaks right off, no harm is done. the roots are what matters. Plant deeply enough to bury the plant roots plus a few buds of the stem. These will develop roots of their own and ensure a multi-stemmed plant. Plant in good soil, as cool as possible but not exposed.


As aftercare, water frequently during the first season and feed from time to time. Mulch to keep the roots cool. People are often confused about when and whether to prune. Rule one is don't worry! Even if you prune the wrong sort you'll do no permanent damage.

The simple guide is this: if the Clematis flowers before the longest day, don't prune, except to tidy and even then, only immediately after flowering. If it flowers after the longest day, you can prune hard every winter.

To get the best out of your Clematis and other climbers, they need to be trained. Walls, fences and trellis work should be equipped with stout wires to which climbing stems can be trained. Different climbers have different needs and wall plants such as Pyracantha or Chaenomeles make ideal host plants for other lax climbers to grow through.

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