June plant of the month

June plant of the month

Brightly blooming clematis

The colourful climbing clematis can quickly add vertical interest to any garden as it weaves its way up trellises, through shrubs and around arbours. There are lots of varieties to choose from, and most will flower throughout the summer months, either showcasing bold and dramatic blooms or smaller more delicate bells - for blooms that go well into autumn try a Viticella.

They usually thrive in a sunny spot, but some types, like the white-flowered Alabast, enjoy partial shade. They can grow prolifically so make sure you choose a spot where it has lots of space, or keep it pruned and under control. Alternatively potted patio varieties are perfect for adding colour to a smaller space. 

Hardiness:

Mostly fully hardy.

Soil:

Clematis needs moisture-retentive but well-drained soil.

Size:

Clematis grows to a height of between 15cm and 9m and has a spread of between 25cm and 3m.

Positioning:

Clematis grows best in full sun or partial shade. You can grow it through, or over, trees and shrubs to extend their seasonal interest. When you’re using clematis to cover walls, fences or pergolas, provide a form of support such as a trellis or mesh for the clematis to twine around. Shrubby and herbaceous types need tying in to their supports.

Watering:

Water regularly during periods of dry weather in the first few seasons after planting. Watering to soak the root zone requires at least four watering cans per square metre.

Flowers:

Clematis plants produce masses of spectacular flowers, which appear from late winter to summer (depending on whether the plant is a group one, two or three variety of clematis).

Planting:

It’s best to plant clematis in spring or early autumn.

Pruning:

Newly planted clematis needs cutting back to 15 to 30cm from ground level, in February or March, cutting just above the bud. This avoids the development of a straggly single stem and encourages branching lower down. Pinch out developing young shoots once or twice to promote further branching.

Going forward regular pruning of clematis encourages strong growth and flowering and keeps the growth in check. Left unpruned, clematis can turn into a mass of tangled stems with a bare base and flowers well above eye level.

Clematis varieties that flower early in the year (group one) should be pruned after flowering in mid to late spring.

Large-flowered hybrids that flower in May to June (group two) need pruning in late winter or early spring and after the first flush of flowers in summer.

Clematis that flower in late summer, on growth made in that season (group three), should be pruned in late winter or early spring. This method is suitable for herbaceous clematis.

Feeding:

Clematis benefits from a mulch of manure or compost during the autumn and spring. This keeps the soil warm in the autumn to prolong root growth and will hold in moisture in the spring, preventing the clematis from drying out and providing nutrients. If you’re growing clematis in containers apply a general purpose liquid fertiliser monthly during spring and summer. Replace the top 2.5 to 5cm layer of compost each spring with fresh potting compost.

Companion plants:

Grow clematis alongside these plants to create an interesting display:

  • Roses
  • Honeysuckle
  • Golden Hop
  • Golden Jasmine
  • Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’
  • Wisteria

Shrubs that work well with clematis include:

  • Camellia
  • Conifers including yew and junipers
  • Holly
  • Japanese maples

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Top tips:

  • Clematis plants generally like to keep their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade so keep that in mind when you’re choosing a spot for your plant.
  • Keep the roots of your plant moist by spreading mulch or bark over the soil after planting.
  • Summer-flowering clematis like to be planted with the top of the root ball sitting around 7-10cm below the surface. Bury the base of the stems with soil.
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