Easy-to-grow clematis come in 3 major types

BECKY LOCK/Sun-Gazette A pink-and-white striped clematis grows outside the photographer’s city home.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is written by members of the Lycoming County Master Gardeners.)

Q: I think clematises are beautiful. Are they hard to grow?

A: Clematises are not hard to grow and a real bonus is that they can live for 50 years or more.

There are hundreds of varieties of clematises that can be divided into three major types.

The early-blooming clematises generally have single or bell-shaped flowers and bloom on old wood. They should be pruned as soon as they are done blooming.

The second type of clematis is the early large-blooming hybrids and includes the popular “Nelly Moser” and “Barbara Jackman.” They bloom on old wood but don’t require pruning. They sometimes have a second blooming period or new growth.

The third type of clematis is the late-blooming varieties such as the dark purple “Jackmani,” which blooms in late summer into fall. They should be cut back to about 10 inches above the ground in late autumn.

When purchasing a clematis, read the information that is included in the pot to help you make your selection. It should indicate when the vine blooms and also describe the clematis’s growing habits. Some are very compact while others can grow 20 feet high.

It is also a good idea to buy a plant that is at least two years old as clematises take a few years to get blooming.

Clematises require three basic conditions to grow. First, they need six hours of sunlight on their stems and leaves. However, they like to have their roots cool and moist, which is the second basic condition. This can be achieved by mulching the clematis and planting low growing plants around the clematis’s roots.

The third thing clematises require is support so they can climb. These plants were born to climb and actually will not grow if they cannot climb.

When planting your clematis, give the roots lots of room to grow. You should dig a hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide and work in lots of compost. Be careful when positioning the plant in the hole as the roots and vines break easily.

Next, it is time to provide support for your plant. Choose a trellis or arbor that is appropriate for your clematis’s growing habits. Clematises do not twine around objects as do morning glories or pole beans.

Instead, they climb by wrapping their leaf stems around something. Anything that is more than a half-inch in diameter will not work.

The best things to use are twine, fishing line, wire or trellis netting. These should be well secured to the arbor or trellis.

As the season progresses, your plant may need some trussing to keep it on the support. This can be done with fishing wire or twine. Again, be careful when doing this as the vines break easily.

There are two ways clematises can be propagated. The first is by taking small cuttings from the plant’s base and rooting them in well drained potting mix. The other way is by layering. To do this, take a long stem and lay it on the ground. Next, cover it with soil and anchor it with a stone.

Train the rest of the vine back onto the trellis. New roots will eventually grow and the new plant can be cut and moved.

I am looking forward to adding a few more clematises to my gardens this summer.

Lehman, of South Williamsport, learned to love gardening from her mother, who was a passionate gardener.