Our expert tells you how to pick and care for popular clematis blooms.
If you’ve never grown clematis (say KLEM-uh-tis), you’ll be surprised by the diversity of this plant. There are vigorous climbers
and ground-hugging sprawlers. Some clematis have blooms as big as dinner plates, while others feature delicate bell-shaped
flowers that look like fairy hats. Some are even evergreen, like Armand clematis (Clematis armandii) whose foliage is more significant than its flower. If grown correctly clematis add romance and color to the garden, but
in our climate, they can be temperamental. Which is why we turned to clematis expert Lyndy Broder for her secrets to success
with this favorite vine.
The container pictured holds ‘H. F. Young’ clematis (Group II), ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, torenia, and variegated ivy.
Lyndy’s passion for clematis began with the desire to add more blue to her garden. Sure, hydrangeas, agapanthus, irises, and
balloon flowers happily find homes within her borders, but Lyndy found herself drawn to the romantic rambler 10 years ago.
Today, this Stockbridge, Georgia, gardener is a leading international authority on clematis.
“Because there are early-, mid-, and late-blooming clematis, I have something flowering almost year-round,” she says. “One of my favorites is ‘Arabella’ (pictured), which makes a wonderful ground cover.”
When looking to buy your own clemantis, shop locally first, but some varieties might be hard to find. Good mail-order sources are gardenvines.com and joycreek.com.
Clematis are divided into three groups that reflect bloom and pruning times. Group I includes early (spring) bloomers, such as this Armand clematis. These are extremely vigorous and bloom on old wood (the prior year’s shoots). Flowers are usually small and generally white. This group requires little pruning: Remove dead wood and then shape where necessary right after flowering.
Early and midseason bloomers that often repeat fall into Group II, like these ‘Yaichi’ clematis. Group II predominately flower
on old wood, but some varieties will also flower on new wood (shoots that emerge that year). The group features larger flowers
and requires more pruning than Group I. Once leaves begin to open, remove dead wood and shape.
Group III blooms, such as the sweet autumn clematis Lyndy is chopping pruning (pictured on left), are late (summer and fall)
bloomers and are the best for the South. Floriferous and showy, they take the heat of the day and tolerate warm nights. This
group blooms only on new wood. They also require the most pruning, but it is the easiest: Cut back all of the previous year’s
stems to within 8 inches of the ground as Lyndy does with her must-have pruners, Felco #2s.
Note: If you are unsure which group you have, try this: Cut three to five stems back so that they are 2 feet long. Cut the rest back to 12 inches.