December 23, 2009 at 2:27 p.m.

All about raising clematis

All about raising clematis
All about raising clematis

In garden magazines and even in the garden places of newspaper gardeners are encouraged to plan ahead for the coming growing season. Each winter I say to myself that I am going to cut down raising certain fruits and vegetables, but each spring I plant too many plants that are high maintenance. My hips have made the decision for me to cut down and plant according to what I enjoy doing.

I have long been envious of those who have success with growing clematis, so I'm going to try it. They are no different than any other plants in that, in order to be successful, it must be on their terms. Clematis are probably the most popular flowering vine in the world and one of the most beautiful, as long as you remember that they take care.

The clematis need a minimum of six hours of full sun every day. If they don't have full sun you will have fewer blooms and the health of the plant will be affected. They also like rich organic soil that is heavily amended with compost. They will not do well in hot sandy soils or heavy clay as I have.

I will dig a hole two feet deep and two feet wide, much as I dig when I plant my blueberries. Amend the soil by putting one shovel of compost with two shovels of the original soil. The difference with the blueberries is that I amended the soil with peat moss since they like an acid soil.

When you plant the clematis, the objective is to minimize root damage. Carefully take the plant out of its pot and cut away fiber pots or slide the plant carefully out of plastic pots. Put the root ball into the hole so the original soil line is approximately three to five inches below your garden soil line. This puts the bud down three to five inches. It is important to know that if the plant is dormant and the buds are not swelling or showing green, you can backfill the hole to the original soil level.

However, if the plant has any active growth or bud swelling that will be covered over by backfilling to the garden soil depth, you cannot cover active growth. In this case only backfill to the original pot soil line. Even though they will be in a hollow for the summer, you can finish backfilling after the plant has gone dormant.

When you buy your clematis it should come with a stake in the pot. Don't remove the stake on newly planted until the fall when you do your cleanup. The stake keeps the vine from flopping in the wind or even worse, to be broken off.

Protecting the roots of the clematis isn't any different from other young trees or shrubs. Add three to four inches of organic mulch around the base of the plant to keep the roots cool and evenly moist. Keep the mulch eight to twelve inches away from the base of the vines to avoid any rot or mouse damage. Organic mulch is used because it provides nourishment and decomposes.

The clematis needs deep watering and check to see that it is moist under the mulch during the summer heat. Do not plant the vines where the ground is wet and they could rot off during the winter. The vines are heavy feeders, especially in the spring. When the new vines are about three inches long they are given a boost with fish food emulsion. Once they are well started they will climb on anything near enough, so a support or trellis will help to control them. Some raise their clematis in a patio container or hanging basket with no trouble.

The main problem with the clematis is a fungi that causes it to wilt and the stems and leaves turn black. Since there is no spray to help this condition, the key is to plant them deep and grow with large amounts of compost. If your plant shows signs of wilting, cut off the wilting vines and remove them from your garden. Disinfect the clippers with alcohol to keep the wilt from spreading, especially to other clematis.

Since the planting season is a few months away, I will file this article away for a while. When I bring it out next spring, I hope I will have courage enough to plant clematis for the first time.


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