Written by Bill Bird

Blue Angel at a distanceFor those of you who doubt the addictive power of clematis, I suggest that you visit the clematis forum and read what addicts have to say about their favorite flowering vine. The way one really gets hooked is to buy the correct cultivars, and have fantastic success with your first several clematis. As with roses, clematis are available in so many different types and classifications that the subject can be confusing to many at the outset. This article will attempt to clear up many of the mysteries associated with growing clematis.

Let us start with some of the common mistakes made by the casual gardener. Gardeners are visual people and can be influenced by seductive photographs of clematis in mail-order catalogs or in a store display. Ignore the pictures and don't be seduced. Blekitny Aniol (Blue Angel)  A wonderful Polish variety Most general plant catalogs offer a few clematis varieties that will arrive as bare root, one year old plants made from cuttings. Another source are the 'Mart' type stores and garden centers associated with hardware stores. They sell very tiny inexpensive infants in plastic bags early in the year. Everybody likes a bargain, but these bargains will cost you time and convenience, if they survive. Mail order bare root plants vary in age and quality so buy from a reputable seller with guarantees. The first big mistake people make is to plant these young rooted hybrid cuttings directly into the garden. These young plants need to be nursed along in a pot to a decent size before planting in the garden. They should be planted in a 1 gallon pot and grown there for at least the first summer, and then planted out in the garden in September or October.Etoile Violette - a strong growing purple. This requires constant attention to watering and fertilizing all summer long. It is best to plant the crown two inches under the soil. For a quicker route to a mature vine, it is best to buy a plant that has been grown in the pot by a professional grower or nursery. To avoid buying an infant in a large pot, make sure you see roots poking out from the bottom of the pot before making your purchase. These can be planted directly into the garden after purchase.

The second biggest mistake we all make in the beginning is to purchase a cultivar that is not garden worthy. All Clematis are not created equal. A highly regarded rose expert, author, and horticultural teacher at the New York Botanical Gardens recently joked that roses are his favorite annuals. With both roses and clematis, some are great, but a great many are very poor garden plants. As with roses, Comtesse d'Bouchaud, Victoria, and Jan Pawl II - all three are wonderful growers.Clematis require several years to reach full maturity so I suggest everyone take the time to research the purchase of a new cultivar carefully in order to eliminate a waste of time and money in the long run. It is easy once you know what to buy. At the end of this article, there will be a handout that is given to fellow gardeners when they visit my garden. It lists some recommended varieties that would be an excellent starting place for those wanting early success with these beautiful vines. In this age of information explosion on the Web we can all do research quickly and easily. Forums like this make it very easy for us to read of other gardeners experiences and to ask experienced gardeners which cultivars are their best performers. Another great place to start learning about clematis is the International Clematis Society web site at clematisinternational.com. Perle d'Azur One of the world's most sought after clematis A favorite feature is the Clematis of the Month column written by American clematis scholar, Brewster Rogerson. It is archived with over 50 months on file. One can spend a long time poking around this site for a wealth of information including care and feeding of clematis, pruning, planting, propagation, and most important, links to over 50 other clematis related sites.

Among my favorite clematis are the strong growing viticella hybrids that bloom a little later than the group two clematis. I use the broadest definition of viticella hybrid that is a hybrid with viticella genes and growth habits similar to the wild viticella. These work well when grown through blooming shrubs and roses since they add flowers to these natural supports after the initial blooming of the host shrub has finished. Keep your shrubs blooming most of the summer. Another advantage offered by the viticellas is their resistance to clematis wilt. Pruning is a no brainer for these vigorous vines since they are simply pruned down to about 12 inches in February when they are still dormant. Vigorous new growth will grow rapidly to reach 12 to 16 feet and then bloom in June and July. This can be an important feature for those living in colder zones since winter die back is not a factor with viticellas.Another mix of group three clematis photographed in Poland  -  Polish mix

This article would turn into a book if I tried to cover all of my favorite types of clematis, so I will let you find out about the rest by visiting the 'Clematis in the Garden' forum. This will surely turn you into an addict. Pictured above are a few examples of some great carefree viticella hybrids for your garden.


In the clematis world there are many hybrid cultivars with a wide range of garden worthiness. Many, but not all, large flowered, early blooming, clematis belonging to group two are poor garden plants. There seems to be a genetic weakness in this group of clematis that causes many of them to repeatedly suffer from clematis wilt and poor stem development. I refer you to the article on clematis wilt on the I.Cl.S. web site. Http://www.clematisinternational.comPrince Charles - Reliable grower from New Zealand

Here is a list of reliable and vigorous, summer blooming Clematis varieties partially generated from Dr. John Howell's wonderful book, "Trouble Free Clematis - The Viticellas." The * varieties are considered some of the best and the **varieties are my favorite of the best (a difficult decision to make). These are “hard prune” varieties belonging to group three that bloom on new wood and should be pruned to about 12 inches every February when they are completely dormant. The Montana group is *not* a hard prune variety. If you are planning to plant only one clematis it should be Viola or Etoile Violette, in my humble opinion.

For detailed information concerning all aspects of growing clematis, go to the International Clematis Society web site and click on the “growing clematis” icon. http://www.clematisinternational.com

Here is a Star Magnolia with white blossoms.An extensive clematis database of more than 2800 cultivars, including pictures, can be found at www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/

Any question regarding clematis, no matter how trivial, will be answered by a fellow gardener at one of these clematis forums. Clematis forum at Gardenbuddies.com or Clematis forum at Gardenweb.

I've given the color of the flower and its size with the ultimate growing height of the plant. Clematis will grow to the top of the support supplied and will then start growing sideways or back down again. One does not have to provide a support for the ultimate height of the plant. Blooming times are for the British climate and can vary with different growing conditions in the USA. The blooming times are reduced by hot weather and very sunny conditions. Constant deadheading will extend the blooming times.

The Viticellas - wilt resistant clematis
*Abundance - pinkie mauve, 3.5 inches, end of June to mid autumn, 20 feet
Alba Luxurians - white with green, 3 inches, mid June to mid autumn, 16 feet
**Betty Corning - pale velvet bell shape, 2.5 inches, early summer to mid autumn, 10 feet
**Blekitny Aniol (Blue Angel) light blue, early summer to early autumn, 4 inches, 13 feet
Blue Belle - dark purple, 4 inches, late summer, 20 feet
*Emilia Plater - violet blue, 4 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 12 feet
**Etoile Violet - dark purple, 5.5 inches, mid-late June to early autumn, 15 feet
Gypsy Queen - Deep Purple. July, 12 feet
*Hagley Hybrid - Mauve Pink, June. July, 6 feet
*Huldine - white (tinged with violet), 4 inches, mid summer to late autumn, 15 feet
*Kermesina - red, 4 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 20 feet
Little Nell - white (pinkie violet edges), 2.5 inches, early summer to mid autumn, 20 feet
*Madame Julia Correvon - red, 5 inches, Late June to early autumn, 12 feet
Margaret Hunt - rosy-pink, 4 inches, early summer to mid autumn, 12 feet
**Margot Koster - pink, 4 inches, early summer to mid autumn, 10 feet
Minuet - white with red edges, 3.25 inches, summer, 10 feet
Mrs. T. Lundell - white with mauve edges, 4.5 inches, late June to early autumn, 12 feet
*Polish Spirit - rich purple with rosy bar, 3.5 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 15 feet
**Prince Charles - light blue, 4 inches, early summer to early autumn, 12 feet
Purpurea Plena Elegans - double purple, 2.5 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 12 feet
Royal Velours - very dark red, 3.5 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 12 feet
*Sodertalje - dark purple-red, 4 inches, early summer to early autumn, 16 feet
*Tango - cherry red with white bars, 2 inches, mid summer to early autumn. 10 feet
**Venosa Violacea - purple with white bars, 4.5 inches, early summer, 10 feet
**Ville de Lyon - carmine red with darker tips, 4 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 10 feet
Warsaw Nike - Deep velvet purple, 5 inches, June, July 9 feet

Late large flowered hybrids with some (possible) Viticella parentage - very wilt resistant
Ascotiensis - purple, late autumn, 12 feet
**Perle d'Azur - light blue, 6 inches, late June, 16 feet
Voluceau - red-purple, 7 inches, mid summer to mid autumn, 12 feet

Estonian Viticella crosses - Not widely available yet - wilt resistant
*Entel, Miikla, *Romantika, *Teksa, **Tentel, and **Viola

Jackmanii Group - wilt resistant
*Comtesse de Bouchaud, *Hagley Hybrid, *Jackmanii, *Jackmanii Superba, Madame Edwouard Andre, *Victoria, Madame Baron Veillard

Texensis Group - wilt proof
**Dutchess of Albany, Gravetye Beauty, Ladybird Johnson, Sir Trevor Lawrence, Princess Diana, *Etoile Rose

The Integrifolia hybrids such as **Durandii, *Arabella, *Juuli, *Petit Falcon, *Roguchi, *Pamiat Serdtsa, *Alionushka, *Blue Boy, *Integrifolia species and others. These grow from three to six feet. All, except Roguchi, are non clinging. They are herbaceous and die to the ground every winter, emerging fresh and new next spring. They can be grown in the border with minimum or no support, and will bloom continuously all summer long as long as they are deadheaded. Highly recommended!

The Montana (Zone 6 and warmer only) and Tangutica hybrids are also extremely wilt resistant.

Species clematis naturally occurring in nature are very wilt resistant, and most are wilt proof. They have benefited from *natural* selection.

If you prefer the early large blooming group two clematis, you can try these cultivars that have done well for me. Nelly Moser, Lasurstern, Niobe, The President, Rouge Cardinal, Multi Blue, Ramona, and General Sikorsky.

Hope this helps you grow great clematis. The secret to successful clematis growing is choosing the right varieties.

Mail order clematis sellers with large selection of cultivars. Joy Creek Nursery (retail only) - sells well established plants in one gallon pots 20300N.W. Watson Rd., Scappoose, OR 97056 (503)543-7474

Completely Clematis Speciality Nursery (retail) - sells small plants that should be grown in one gallon pots for a year. 217 Argrilla Rd., Ipswitch, MA 01938-2617

Chalk Hill Clematis (retail only) - sells well established plants in one gallon pots

Donahue's Clematis (wholesale, some retail) sells small plants that should be grown in one gallon pots for a year.

Heronswood Nursery (retail only)- sells small plants that should be grown in one gallon pots for a year.

Brushwood Nursery - Internet sales only - sells well established medium size plants in one quart pots. Free Shipping

Collectors Nursery 16804 NE 102nd AVE, Battle Ground, Washington 98604

Spring Valley Greenhouse, Inc. - strictly wholesale 3242 Daansen Rd., P.O.Box 552 Walworth, NY 14568-0552