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By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Clematis plants are known as the “queen vines” and can be divided into three groups: early flowering, late flowering and repeated bloomers. Clematis plants are hardy to USDA plant hardiness zone 3. Nothing adds elegance, beauty or charm to a garden like clematis vines.
Colors range from shades of pink, yellow, purple, burgundy, and white. Clematis plants are happy when their roots stay cool and their tops receive plenty of sunshine. Winter care of clematis plants includes deadheading and protection, depending on your climate. With a little care, your clematis in winter will do just fine and return with an abundance of blooms next season.
Clematis winter preparation starts with snipping off spent blooms, also known as deadheading. Using sharp and clean garden scissors, cut off old blooms where they meet the stem. Be sure to clean up and dispose of all cuttings.
Once the ground freezes or the air temperature drops to 25 F. (-3 C.), it is important to place a generous layer of mulch around the base of the clematis. Straw, hay, manure, leaf mold, grass clippings or commercial mulch is suitable. Pile the mulch up around the base of the clematis as well as the crown.
Overwintering clematis plants in pots is possible even in the coldest climates. If your container will not tolerate freezing temperatures, move it to a place where it will not freeze.
If the clematis is healthy and in a freeze-safe container that is at least 2 feet (5 cm.) in diameter, you do not have to provide mulch. However, if your plant is not particularly healthy or not planted in a freeze-safe container, it is best to provide mulch around the outside of the container.
Collect leaves from your yard in the fall and put them in bags. Place the bags around the pot to protect the plant. It’s important to wait until after the pot has frozen to place the mulch bags. Contrary to what some people may think, it is not the freezing that harms the plant but the freeze-thaw-freeze cycles.
Now that you know a little more about the winter care of clematis, you can put your mind at ease. The charming plants will sleep through the winter only to come back to life once warm temperatures return to fill the garden with beautiful blooms year after year.
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This vine gets its name from the small pure-white flowers that cover it like a sudden snow flurry.
“Snowdrift” evergreen clematis gets its name from the profusion of small pure-white flowers that cover it like a sudden snow flurry. (Richie Steffen)
What: The bold foliage and quick growth make Clematis armandii “Snowdrift” a very useful vine, but it really stands out in the garden when it is in full bloom from late winter to early spring. A profusion of small pure-white flowers cover the vine like a sudden snow flurry. Each flower is part of a larger cluster and has a sweet fragrance that perfumes the air. The leaves are fully evergreen and have a pleasant bronzy tone when they first emerge. The bronzy new growth looks great against the white flowers.
Where: This evergreen clematis is a large grower and requires plenty of space to spread. It will grow best in light to open shade or full sun, if the location is not a hot spot. Provide a site with rich, well-drained soil where it can be occasionally watered during dry weather.
Size: “Snowdrift” will grow to be 40 feet tall with a spread of 30 feet when mature.
Care: Plant “Snowdrift” vines that are well rooted and at least two years old. In our climate, planting too deeply can smother the roots. Set young plants at the same depth they were in their nursery pots. Clematis are heavy feeders and appreciate fertilizing in spring. This clematis blooms on one-year-old stems, so prune lightly in late winter, only removing congested or tangled growth, or if heavy pruning is required do it immediately after flowering in spring.
— Richie Steffen, Great Plant Picks
Hosta 'Praying Hands' is an excellent container perennial with upright stems and uniquely folded leaves
Before planting up your containers, decide where you want to place them in the yard. This will help you make wiser decisions on the types of plants to include in the pots. Consider where the primary viewing point will be from and design from that angle. Keep in mind that plants in windy locations or those exposed to the hotter afternoon sun will need to be watered more often than those placed in more sheltered, shadier locations.
Clematis is a climbing vine that offers an abundance of colorful flowers during the late spring and early summer. Clematis are grouped according to their pruning requirements with Pruning Group Two being the most ideal choice for indoor container gardening as these plants require the least amount of pruning. With the right amount of light, good soil and fertilization, your indoor clematis plants will grow beautifully year round.
Select a container to grow your clematis indoors that’s at least 18 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter. If you have room for a larger planter in your home, your clematis will appreciate the extra space. Make sure that the container drains well.
Add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the container. Fill the container with potting soil, up to within 8 inches from the rim.
Select a type of clematis that grows well in containers such as Sugar Candy, Madame Julia Correvon, Niobe or Snow Queen. The professionals at your local nursery can guide you in your selection.
Plant the rootball of your clematis plant in the center of the container and fill in over and around it with more potting soil, up to 3 inches from the top of the planter. Clematis roots like to remain cool, so make sure that the root ball is about 5 inches beneath the soil line in your planter.
Add the support pillar or teepee shaped structure to the inside edges of the container. If your clematis is very young, you may only need a small structure until it begins to grow. When your plant is long enough, wrap it around the support structure to help it get started. As it grows, continue to wrap the plant around the support.
Add a 2-inch layer of organic mulch to help the roots stay cool. Water the clematis well and place it in an area of your home that receives at least six hours of sun each day. You can substitute artificial grow lights for sunshine, just make sure that your plant receives enough light or the clematis will not bloom.
Water your clematis heavily during the spring and summer, keeping the soil moist. During the winter, do not water as much, just enough to keep the plant from drying out.
Fertilize your clematis with water soluble fertilizer in the spring every third watering, until the buds appear. Stop fertilizing until the flowering stops, and begin again through late summer.
Prune your clematis based on the recommendations of the particular pruning group your cultivar belongs to. Group One clematis require removing all of the dead and dying stems after the blooming period, Group Two needs very little pruning, just remove the dead wood as needed, and Group Three requires that the plant be pruned down to the ground at the end of winter or beginning of spring.
Below is the list of essential tools needed to prune any of the three clematis groups. Regular annual pruning helps reduce size and encourage a healthy growth habit and blossoms. The following links help narrow down the top-recommended products that are also available on Amazon: