Taking care of Clematis vines, plants and flowers

Here's how you can take care of Clematis vines, plants and flowers 

Fertilization for Clematis plants

Clematis requires fertilizer annually for rapid growth during establishment. It should be fed with NPK (15-5-5) fertilizer along with bonemeal and compost. Although, fully grown plants may not require an annual fertigation but a handful of sulphate of potash during the month of April will improve the colour, size and quality of flowers. Fertilizer having high nitrogen content encourages huge vine growth at the expense of flower yield. Fertilizer should not be applied too close to the stem of plant. In pot growing clematis, fertilizer should be applied at the time of pruning by removing around two inches of soil from the top of the pot and replacing with fresh compost along with a single handful of bonemeal.

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Watering Clematis plants

Watering is very essential for good establishment of the new clematis. New plantings need about one inch of water per week during the first growing season. This will create a strong root system to support for several years of bloom. If clematis is planted in a hot, sunny position or in light soil having free draining properties, place some mulch around the base of the plant and water regularly.

Mulching

Clematis is shallow rooted plant. It requires its roots to be kept cool and evenly moist during dry spell. Therefore, organic mulch like composted bark, leaf or straw is provided around the base of the plant. Organic mulch decomposes easily, retains soil moisture and provides nourishment to the plant. Mulching should be done annually during the autumn.

Support for the Clematis vine

Clematis is a vine, so it requires some support to prevent it from breaking or scramble over walls, small tree, shrubs or beds. Considering the size and vigour of the vine, it can be trained on plastic and wooden trellis or on a plastic coated wire supported by nails or screws. Supporting poles can be used for smaller, less vigorous vines while arbors and pergolas are used for larger & more vigorous vines.

Pruning Clematis vines

The real purpose of pruning is to produce the maximum number of flowers and keep the entangled vines in a beautiful framework. Pruning will help young clematis to develop more roots & form a strong root system. This will increase the number of shoots emerging from the leaf axils below the ground level. Large no. of stems will ultimately promise more flowers on the vines. All newly planted clematis should be hard pruned during late winter or early spring to about 15-30 cm (6-12in) from ground level, cutting immediately above a pair of buds.

Requirement of pruning varies with species and cultivars. It can be divided into three groups:

Group A or Group 1: Early flowering species (Tidy up):

Species and hybrid in this group bloom from late winter to early spring, from buds produced during the previous year. Prune back these cultivars immediately or within a month after flowering. Cut away any surplus growth, old flowering shoots and dead or damaged wood so that ample space is created for the plant to spread. Tie in the new young shoots to a support on which the vine can produce next year’s blooms.

Group B or Group 2: Light prune: 

This group includes sp. and large flowered cultivars which produces large blooms in late spring/ early summer (May-June) on previous year’s growth and often again in early autumn/ late summer on new wood. They simply need light pruning during late winter or early spring (Feb-March) each year. When buds start to show, cut out all the dead wood & weak growth to a strong set of buds in the leaf joints. Take care not to cut back any shoot more than one third of its total length. Light pruning again in fall, immediately after blooming will help keep habit tidy. Plant in this group often become bare at their base, therefore hard pruning just 2-3 stems will encourage new growth and flowering from the soil level.
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Group C or Group 3: Hard prune

This includes late flowering species and cultivars, whose blooming period is from late summer up to autumn. They produce flowers from the new growth every year. Unlike Group B cultivars, they need hard pruning in late winter or early spring. The stems can be cut back to a leaf bud, approx. 2 feet above soil level. Partial pruning can also be done in late autumn i.e. after flowering time. Prune out dead or weak stem and some of the extra growth and tie the remaining vine to its support. This gives a neat & tidy look to the plant, prevents any damage from wind as well as prepares the plant for a hard prune in late winter/early spring.