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Tips for Clematis Growers

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Everyone loves the large bright flowers of Clematis, but very few know that in days past the climber was called "beggar's herb" because the leaves of some species of Clematis cause a bad skin reaction when rubbed on the skin.  Beggars used this fact to their advantage to help instill pity by those who walked past. Here are a few tips that we have gained over the years for growing, caring for and propagating Clematis.

Planting:

* Always submerge the rootball of a newly purchased Clematis in a pail of lukewarm water until all air bubbles escape. Soak the bottom of the planting hole.  Plant, back fill and water thoroughly again. This helps the Clematis to get established quickly.

*Always plant Clematis about a foot away from it's future climbing structure, this allows for better ventilation and helps prevent pest problems in the future.

*Always plant where the Clematis has it's head in the sun and feet (roots) in the shade. Protecting the roots with a thick layer of damp peat moss and straw, or a nice organic mulch is very important for healthy growth. You can also protect them by surrounding the the plant just over the roots with pieces of flat tile or slate, or use a low growing, shallow rooted ground cover to help those feet stay cool.

*Try planting 2 different varieties in the same hole for a vibrant display, or 2 plants that bloom at different times together to prolong the blooming season.

Support:

*The best supports are thin and made of natural material like bamboo, twigs, or wood.  You can also use coated-wire or plastic.  Do not use a trellis or lattice with wide lathe because it can not climb with it's tendrils and you will need to tie the vine to the trellis

*If using a wire support, it is always best to find wire that is plastic coated.  Plain wire heats up and burn the Clematis plant during the hot days of summer.

Pruning: 

*Clematis that bloom in the spring flower on the previous years wood and only need light pruning.  Late season Clematis flower on new wood and need a hard annual pruning in late winter or early spring before it breaks dormancy.

Propagating:

*To grow Clematis from seed, the seed needs cold stratification. So either plant seed in flats in autumn 1/8" deep, or freeze seed for 3 weeks in spring.  Place seeds outdoors when temps hit 70-75ºF and keep moist in a shady location. Transplant seedlings as they appear.  Seed germination time varies greatly, it can take 30 to 365 days to germinate.

*Propagate by cutting a half ripe branch from the middle part of a shoot in summer. Cut below the bud and pull off the lower leaves and lower bark. Dip the end in rooting hormone (no rooting hormone, no problem, you get the same results from cinnamon!) and stick the cutting in damp rooting medium.  Keep shaded and moist until roots form.  

Problems:

*If your plant begins to wither and die, and you discover a girdling stem canker near the soil line, your plant has a common disease called Clematis Wilt.  Remove the diseased stem cutting a good distance below the canker and burn the stem. Never compost it.  Plant new Clematis in a different location.

 

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