CLEMATIS FAQs

My clematis looks dead at the bottom, all the leaves are brown, is it dying?

No. Your clematis is alive and well and is probably flowering quite happily at the top. The dead leaves are simply those first early leaves that have done their job and are now naturally dying. Plenty of water and good feeding will keep them green a little longer, but with certain plants, especially the pink and red varieties, this happens every summer. The dead leaves can be cut off or you could grow something in front to hide them.

Do clematis need a limey soil?

No, this is a fallacy that has grown up over the years since it was first realised that our native clematis only grows on chalky soils. Clematis will grow in practically any soil so long as they are provided with plenty of water and plenty of nutrients in the form of a top-dressing of manure in the autumn and a good soaking once a week with a general liquid fertiliser during the growing season, especially where the soils are hot, dry and hungry.

Can two clematis be grown in the same spot?

Yes, two varieties of contrasting colour look most effective but make sure that they are both of the same pruning habit, in the spring Nelly Moser and Lasurstern look well together, also Henryi and William Kennett. A good summer-flowering pair would be Jackmanii and Madame Edouard Andre or Perle d’Azur and Comtesse de Bouchaud, and in the autumn Rouge Cardinal and Gipsy Queen.

Will clematis grow in the north of Scotland?

Of course they will. Clematis are extremely hardy in spite of their exotic-looking appearance. They grow well in Norway and Sweden and so should be quite happy anywhere in the British Isles.

My clematis has been in over a year and hasn’t moved yet, what can I do?

Some varieties will stand still for a complete season, but there is nothing to worry about. As soon as the roots have established themselves the plant will grow. You can help it by giving it a good soaking of any general fertiliser every week during the growing season.

My plant has grown well this year but not a single flower. Why is this?

In some seasons a plant will go ‘blind’ for no apparent reason. Those varieties that flower in the summer can sometimes be persuaded to bloom by cutting back the young wood about half-way. This will encourage side shoots to break which will flower later in the season. Regular feeding with a fertiliser which has a high potash content will help.

My flowers are green this year, how should I treat them?

A handful of sulphate of potash will soon remedy this, the early-flowering varieties such as Nelly Moser, Barbara Dibley, Lasurstern and Mrs. Cholmondeley are the worst offenders, but if one has been feeding regularly then your flowers should never go green.

Are there any scented clematis?

Yes.

C. armandii and most of the montanas are scented, especially

C. montana Elizabeth and C. montana Wilsonii. The other montanas have scent in varying degrees. Later-flowering varieties such as C. davidiana, C. flammula, C. rehderiana and C. recta all have strong perfumes.

Will clematis grow indoors?

Not very successfully, they are essentially a plant of the open air and to try to keep them indoors is difficult and almost impossible. What one could do would be to grow them in tubs outside, and then just as the flowers start to open bring them indoors for as long as the flowers last.

Can I move a well-established plant?

Yes, but the plant will probably sulk for the following year. The best time to move them is in November. They will have settled in by the following spring, but from then on keep them well watered and fed with liquid manure.

I have a small walled garden with 6-foot-high walls, what varieties can I grow?

There are several varieties that do not grow much above 6 feet and can be easily trained to fit this height. They are

C. alpina, C. macropetala, Elsie Frost, Barbara Dibley, Barbara Jackman, Comtesse de Bouchaud, Hagley Hybrid, Haku Ookan, Lady Northcliffe, Madame Edouard Andre, Maureen, Miss Bateman, Mrs. N. Thompson, C. texensts Gravetye Beauty, The President, Xerxes.

My evergreen

C. calycina has never bloomed, it has been in three years, will it ever flower?

This variety does take some time to establish itself, but it should be flowering in its third or fourth year. A high potash content fertiliser will help.

My plant looked dead on arrival this autumn, is it all right?

Most clematis are deciduous and in the autumn many will have lost their leaves and consequently look dead. It is alive and in the spring will be shooting into new growth.

The flowers on my clematis are getting smaller every year, how can I get them back to their normal size?

Clematis produce a thick mass of roots, and in time the ground below becomes very dry as well as losing all its goodness. This is usually the cause of small flowers. Drive a pipe down to below the roots in the spring and pour several gallons of water down to soak the bone-dry soil. Keep well watered during the summer and give a good soak of a liquid fertiliser every week. Your flowers will soon resume their normal size.

Are there any clematis that will grow on north-facing walls?

Several. The best ones are the alpina, macropetala and montana varieties, and amongst the large-flowering hybrids the following varieties: Henryi, Jackmanii, Madame le Coultre, Mrs. Cholmondeley, Nelly Moser, Victoria and William Kennett.

Can clematis be grown in tubs?

Certainly, provided the tub is large enough. Clematis roots go down 2 feet or more in the garden, so a deep tub or large pot is essential, at least 18 inches. Some good soil must also be used, such as John Innes No. 3, and good drainage provided at the bottom of the tub, some well-rotted manure should be placed over the top of the drainage. Clematis in tubs must be kept moist at all times, once a tub has dried out it is difficult to get it moist again, except by soaking it in a tank of water. Regular feeding must also be the rule, as the roots are naturally restricted. Feed at least once a week, twice if possible, with a general liquid fertiliser.

My plant is in a hopeless tangle, what can I do?

In this case it is best to cut it down to the ground, or back to the old wood if it is a montana or a very old hybrid variety. This can be done quite safely during the winter. It can then be trained properly during the following season.

Are clematis any good as cut flowers?

Yes, but some varieties will not hold up very long. They can be revived by floating them in deep water during the night. Some of the large-flowering hybrids will keep in water for up to three weeks. Experiments will soon find out which are the best varieties. One attractive method is to float a number of flower-heads in a large flat bowl, or even one in a saucer with foliage makes an unusual table decoration.

How long do clematis live?

There are some records of the variety Jackmanii living for over fifty years. The montana varieties will live for much longer than that. Some of the montanas planted by William Robinson at Gravetye Manor in Sussex, where there was once a famous clematis garden, are still going strong, and in his book on how he made the garden in 1893 there is an entry ‘Planted montanas’. So* they are almost a hundred years old if they are still the same varieties, and I think they must be.

Are there any evergreen clematis?

Yes, the best one being

C. armandii, which is the hardiest of several of large-leaved evergreen; most of the other varieties are not hardy in England. Two very hardy varieties are the small-leaved

C. calycina and C. cirrhosa.

What is eating the leaves and flowers of my clematis?

Earwigs, most probably. These night-feeders attack the leaves and flowers during the hours of darkness, which is why you cannot see anything in daylight. Take a torch well into the night and shine on your plants; you will find them covered in earwigs having their midnight feast. Spray the whole plant, flowers as well, at dusk with Sybol or Dipterex 80 preparation. This leaves a deposit on the plant which kills the earwigs, repeat as necessary. If you can spray at night so much the better, you will catch the culprits on the job!

Are grafted plants more liable to wilt than plants on their own roots?

No, definitely not. The root-stock

C. vitalba, the Old Man’s Beard, is merely used to give the grafted variety a good start in life and is grafted well down on to the root so no suckers can appear. By the time the plant is sold, the scion has developed its own roots and the stock dies naturally. Most clematis nowadays are raised from cuttings, anyway.

Can I plant a new clematis in a spot where one has wilted?

Yes. Clematis Wilt is a failure of the stem and not the roots, but to be on the safe side the soil can be changed.

I want a succession of flower from May to October with about ten varieties, what would you suggest?

The following would be a good selection of different forms, colours and times of flowering starting in May:

C. montana Pink Perfection, Nelly Moser, H. F. Young, Henryi, Mrs. Cholmondeley, Jackmanii, Comtesse de Bouchaud, Rouge Cardinal, C. tangutica, Ernest Markham.

Will clematis grow in sandy soil?

Yes, but do not grow as well as on a heavier loam. During the summer too they are vulnerable to drought, so the need in such soil is to add moisture-holding matter such as manure, vegetable refuse, hop manure, peat or leaf mould. This should be forked into the soil where it will help to absorb the rain instead of it draining straight through.

What is the ideal soil for clematis?

A rich, well-drained, moist loam with a pH scale of 7.0 or above. This is the scale which measures the acid-alkaline balance of the soil. Below 7.0 the soil increases in acidity and anything below pH 5.0 should have lime added to the soil. Soil-testing kits can tell you the pH of your soil, but clematis are very adaptable and as long as they are fed and watered will grow anywhere.

Why does my clematis only bloom at the top?

Why can’t I get my clematis to bloom low down?

These two questions are linked, as clematis that only flower at the top are the Jackmanii varieties. These flower only on the young wood and must make a certain amount of growth before they flower, they will never bloom at the base of the plant. If you want plants that will bloom lower down to the ground, then you must choose early-flowering varieties.

Should I remove the seedheads after flowering?

For the first year, yes. But after that they can be left on the plant. They can make very effective indoor decorations for the winter.

How far apart should clematis be planted?

A general answer would be 5 feet, but it all depends on the variety. The montanas, for instance, will cover 30 feet or more, and varieties such as Hagley Hybrid and Madame Edouard Andre only make plants 2 to 3 feet across.

My plant is covered with a grey mould, what is it and what is the cure?

This is mildew, which in certain seasons attacks some of the Jackmanii varieties, notably the red ones. The attack is fortunately not carried from one year to the next. At the first signs, usually at the end of June, spray with Karathene and repeat at intervals as necessary.

Why are the leaves of my evergreen

C. armandii going brown?

These are probably the old leaves, for although a plant is termed an evergreen, this does not mean that its leaves last for ever. New leaves are produced every year and old ones go brown, die and fall off. New growth will eventually cover the dead and dying leaves. Wind can cause damage to young leaves, however, by bruising them against a wall for instance and making them go brown.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.