Commit to Clematis – A Happily Ever After Marriage!

Clematis are probably the most striking and beautiful flowering vines we can grow on the prairies.

Clematis are  probably the most striking and beautiful flowering vines  we can grow on the prairies.  For years I had a Jackmanii Clematis growing by my front door and would have total strangers knock and ask me what it was. This season, Floral Acres is offering more Clematis varieties than ever before!  

There are many flower forms, colors and bloom seasons to pick from.  You will find it hard to choose just one!  Surprisingly not all clematis are climbing vines.  Clematis integrifolia varieties are more shrub-like in form.  Clematis integrifolia ‘Fascination’ is a large bushy clematis with a 4-6 ft. mature height.  It has small bell shaped lavender flowers which bloom in July and August.  A large tomato cage put in place at planting is a good idea to help support this sprawling clematis.  It belongs to Pruning Group C (more about pruning later!).  Clematis integrifolia ‘Rooguchi’ is large as well but has striking black flower stems.  The flowers are purple and bell shaped with silver purple margins.  Bloom time is June to September and also belongs to Pruning Group C.

Photo: Fasination (Cearview)

A happy clematis will grow for 20-30 years in the same location so take some time to choose the right planting spot.  They require a sunny location of 6 plus hours per day, with their head in the sun and their feet in the shade.  I have found there are many deciduous shrubs that  top out at three feet and are just perfect for planting in front of a clematis.  You can also use perennials and annuals to provide root shade as well.  

Clematis need something to climb on.  A very sturdy trellis, arbor or fence is the best.    At maturity a clematis vine can be very strong and you must have a solid support.  In our Saskatoon climate they do very well next to a home foundation but should be mulched to keep the soil cool over the roots.  The mulch should not touch the crown of the plant where the stems come out of the ground.

Photo: Ville-de-lyon (Clearview)

The location must also have good air flow (but out of the wind), rich well-drained soil and a planting area that has good drainage as well.  

Dig a hole that is roughly three times the diameter of the root ball in the pot.  I prefer the 1 gallon pot size as it has a very good root system that has a good start already.  Amend the backfill soil and soil around the hole with compost.  Clematis are heavy feeders and benefit from a yearly or twice yearly top dressing of compost.  Plant the root ball so that the soil level in the container is below the level of your soil.  Fill the space around the root ball about half way up with the backfill soil and water.  Fill in the remaining space with the rest of the backfill soil.  Mulch with a 2 in. layer of compost and water again.  Clematis need about 1 in. of water weekly but will need more during dry spells.  

This is where the hard part comes in and requires patience!  It can take clematis a few years to mature!  The first season is spent putting out roots and is so important.  Without a great root system the top growth will suffer.

Photo: Jackmanii Superva (Clearview)

As your clematis vine grows, support the vine as it needs help to attach itself to the trellis.  Organic fertilizers such as the compost are best but you can also use a water soluble organic fertilizer three times a year instead.  

The pruning requirements of clematis are varied and fall into three categories.  The type of vine grown will dictate when it should be pruned.  The tag you find attached to the clematis pot or stake should indicate which pruning group your plant belongs to.  If you have the name of your clematis you can also look up the pruning group online.

Pruning Group A – early spring bloomers

Prune only dead or weakened branches off after flowering and before July. New buds are formed on the previous year’s new growth.

Pruning Group B – mid spring bloomers

Blooms on new growth in May, June or July.  Prune to strong buds in April.

Pruning Group C – late bloomers

These clematis send up shoots from ground level each spring.  Prune old growth in late winter or early spring.

The majority of the clematis sold by Floral Acres this spring are Pruning Group C.  They are the hardiest for our climate and produce outstanding floral displays.

Pruning Group A:

  • Alpine Helsingborg.  Small purple flowers
  • Joe Zary – Violet bell-shaped flowers.

Pruning Group B:

  • Elsa Spath – violet purple flowers with a pink hue.
  • Hagley Hybrid – shell pink

Pruning Group C:

  • Ernest Markham - magenta red
  • My Angel – 1-2 in. bronze yellow flowers with dark bronze center.  Unusual flower form.
  • Negritjanka – deep purple – vigorous flowering vine.
  • Perle d’Azur – light violet fading to sky blue.
  • Pink Fantasy – shell pink (Canadian cultivar – very hardy)
  • Rouge Cardinal – burgundy red.
  • Star of India – purple petals with a carmine red bar down the middle of each one.
  • Victoria – rosy purple flowers
  • Ville de Lyon – Carmine red
  • Minuet – white flowers with red veins
  • Polish Spirit – deep purple – looks stunning with a Gold Flame Spirea shrub!
  • Purpurea plena elegans – double rosy purple blooms
  • Venosa Violacea – velvet purple flowers with prominent white stripe and purple stamens
  • Gypsy Queen – Velvety plum purple- beautiful rich color.
  • Jackmanii Superba Deep purple flowers.  Improved branching and disease resistance.

The above lists are for information only and do not reflect stock availability at any given time.

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