Common name: Old man's beard

There are several thousand types of Clematis.

All the deciduous types are fully hardy in the UK, the evergreen varieties are less so, with some being borderline.

Double and semi-double flowered types need a sunny, warm sheltered site.

It is often said they should be grown with their heads in the sun and their toes in the shade.

Depending upon variety plants can grow to 12m (40ft) high / horizontally.


Clematis are split into three groups according to their flowering times and the pruning requirements.

Group 1:

The species that flower from January to May on the previous season's growths. e.g. armandii, and montana.

If pruning is necessary then it should be carried out only when frost danger has passed or immediately after flowering.

Cut back long shoots to healthy buds and remove any dead wood.

Old congested plants can be thinned by removing about one in three woody shoots.

If total renovation is needed they can be cut right back to the base, 150-300mm (6"-12") above the ground just after flowering - don't do this again for at least three years.

montana growing on fence
montana growing on leylandii hedge
Close up of montana flower

Group 2:

The species that flower on short lateral shoots on the previous season's growths from late May to July.

In some seasons, in the autumn,another flush of flowers may appear, but generally not in the same profusion as the first.

There are a great number of hybrids in this group and so actual flowering times and durations can vary enormously.

This group generally need little in the way of pruning.

If hard pruning is required, the spring flowers are usually lost, but the later flush in the first year will be much better, then the plant can get back to normal the year after.

Prune in late winter after all fear of frost has passed, or early spring before any new growth has emerged.

Cut backlong shoots to healthy buds and remove any dead wood.

Old congested plants can be thinned by removing about one in three woody shoots.

If total renovation is needed they can be cut right back to the base, 150-300mm (6"-12") above the ground just after flowering - don't do this again for at least three years.

hybrid variety
Growing up Trellis
hybrid variety

Group 3:

The species that flower in the leaf axils of the current season's stems from July onwards.

Well established plants should be pruned back hard or vigour and flowering performance will decline.

Another factor for pruning hard back is the flowering height.

If plants were allowed to grow on unhindered then the flowers would end up at the top of the plants well above the eyeline.

Prune in late winter or early spring when the buds are showing signs of growth and all fear of frost has passed.

Cut main stems back to a strong pair of buds 150-300mm (6"-12") above the ground.

If any stems have been damaged/killed cut them right out, back to ground level if necessary.

Each of these groups can be further split into;

Large-flowered hybrid varieties

Small-flowered species originating from the wild

Clematis viticella

This type have finely divided leaves and flower in summer / early autumn on the current year's growth

The bell-shaped flowers can be single (with four to six sepals), semi-double or double, and come in a wide range of colours, e.g. white, red, purple and blue.

Various varieties growing up Trellis framework

They are hardy, surviving to temperatures of -37 °C (-35 ° F) and will grow in most soils providing they are not too dry or too wet.

They flower more profusely in bright sun, but will tolerate dappled / partial shade.

Once established, they need little care and are reasonably drought tolerant.

However with regular watering and high potash feeding they will fare much better.

Mulching over the root system in autumn will set them up nicely for the following year.

Viticella are easily raised from freshly sown seed, but will not necessarily turn out to be the same as the parent plant, to ensure this, take softwood cuttings in early summer,

Layering is another easy method of producing more stock.

Ground cover herbaceous species:

These are treated in a similar manner to the large hybrids apart from the fact there is no need to erect any vertical support.

Please note that they can cover a similar area to that of their vertical growing cousins so you may find you have to keep the runners in check, otherwise they may smother any low growing plants that get in their way.

Similarly they may climb up any shrubbery in the growing area.

Ground cover variety
Close up of flower

Growing in Containers:

Many varieties are suited to growing in containers where because of the root restriction they are in effect 'bonsaied' and are not quite as rampant, all that is required is wigwam of canes or a wrought iron obelisk to support them.

Apart from more regular watering and feeding, they can be treated like any other hybrid clematis variety.

Replace the top 50mm of compost annually with new compost (equivalent of Ji2)

Re-pot fully every three to four yours or before if the roots are appearing out of the bottom of the container!

flora florida-pleno
growing up obelisk
flora florida-pleno
Princess Diana
growing up obelisk
Princess Diana

growing up obelisk
Young flower
Matured flower
growing up obelisk


As will be seen below, there are a number of ways to propagate Clematis, so care must be taken to ensure that you are using the method suited to each Clematis group!

Week 3:

Take hardwood cuttings of c. montana by making the first cut just above a leaf joint, (node) and make the second cut about 100mm (4") below the leaf joint. (inter-nodal).

Remove a 25mm (1”) long sliver of rind from the base of the cutting, dip cutting into rooting compound, then insert cuttings into gritty compost, place containers in a cold frame to root.

Hardwood cutting example

Week 10:

Sow seeds sown in pots/pans or trays of seed compost and keep in warm location for two weeks.

Then place them in a cool location for 4-6 weeks e.g. cold frame at a temperature of around 2°- 4°C (35°-40°F)

Increase temperature slowly until seeds germinate.

Prick out the seedlings singly into 75mm (3") pots potting compost when large enough to handle and grow on in a cold frame until planting out time.

Seedheads forming
Close up of Seedhead

Week 13:

Take new layers and or sever layers placed last year (if rooted) and replant where required.

Clematis that are being grown for ground cover can now be propagated by pegging down suitable shoots.

Typical layering set up

Prune Group 2 and 3 as necessary and check group 1 varieties for winter damage and trim.

Plant out new stock if ground and weather conditions allow.

Train new shoots to suit there location.

Week 18:

(the following year) Pot up cuttings into 125mm (5") pots, and grow on in a coldframe until planting out time.

Week 23:

As plants grow, train the new shoots in the right direction, by tying them into supports.

Week 27:

Take stem cuttings 100-150mm (4"-6") long of half-ripened wood, trim to leave two buds at the base.

Insert in pots/trays containing a mixture of equal parts (by volume) peat and sand and place on a hot bed set to give bottom heat of 18°C (65°F).

When rooted cutting pot into 75mm (3") 3 in. pots of potting compost.

Stem cutting

Overwinter in a frost-free coldframe or greenhouse.

Take more layers if required.

Feed mature plants with an organic fertilizer(but not when in flower) and mulch with compost to keep soil moist.

Check for mildew and treat as necessary.

Week 38:

Prepare planting site by digging in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or compost to the soil.

Rake in bone meal at a rate of 100gms (4oz) per sq.metre.

Week 40:

Plant out 1200mm (4ft) apart in any well drained humus rich soil, in a sunny or partially shaded position.

Alternatively, plant out in early spring, when conditions allow.

See below for additional information on planting out!

Planting out:

Plants with pale or two-tone coloured petals are best planted in a semi shaded position to prevent colour fading.

Evergreens and winter flowering species should be given a sheltered position avoiding cold easterly winds.

There are some who would advocate that the best method of planting should be to plant the plant more deeply than it was in the container, for example: with about 150mm (6") of soil over the root joint.

It is said this this method will reduce the possibility of clematis wilt,

Others will say that the base of the plant should be level with the soil, that is it should be planted at the same level as it was in the container,the choice is yours!

With bare root plants, trim back the shoots to about 300mm (12") to encourage new ones.

Which ever method you use add bone meal and plenty of well-rotted farm­yard manure or compost to the soil.

Gently water in the plant and then continue to water only as necessary.

Once planted secure the plant to a support stake for initial support.

As the plant develops tie it in to your chosen method of support e.g. trellis,obelisk or tree.

Those grown through shrubs usually twine around them without extra help.

If growing through a tree choose only healthy living trees for support, as dead ones may rot and collapse.

When growing plants against a building ensure that the roots are at least 300mm (12") away from the wall as this area can be prone to drying out.

Keep the roots shaded with a thick mulch or with low growing plants.

General rules:

A good start can set them up for life.

They benefit from feeding, especially in their formative years.

Similarly from applications of well rotted manure applied in autumn or early spring.

For a more instant fix to a weak plant, apply liquid seaweed fertiliser or one formulated for tomatoes throughout the growing season.


Give high potash feeds during the growing season before flowering, but don't feed when in flower.

Once established clematis need minimal care, in fact, a little restraint on the feeding front may temper their vigour.

They like a lot of water during the growing season - up to a gallon a day in hot weather, this is particularly so for containerised plants.

Once established plants grown in the border are reasonably drought tolerant.

Always provide a support for the clematis at planting time, plastic mesh or trellis will do.

If you are growing up a wall or solid fence, fix the trellis / mesh to horizontal wooden battens spaced about 600mm(2ft) apart.

The young growths may need tying in from time to time.

Wall trained plants: it is important to get bushy growth well down at the base during the formative years, do this by cutting back all shoots back to within 225mm (9") of ground level the second spring after planting.

Thereafter, as soon as the buds start to swell in spring, remove all weak and dead wood and tie in young growths as replacement shoots.

These may be shortened in a restricted space by up to one-third.

In restricted areas it can be an advantage to train the first shoots horizontally, in the same way as an espalier is trained, about 300mm (12") above ground level.

From these permanent horizontal arms, the flowering stems will grow vertically.

Subsequent pruning, in spring, consists of removing all the previous season's stems back to a pair of plump buds near the bases of the vertical shoots.

Clematis climbing through trees require little attention apart from occasional thinning out in spring of old and dead growths.

If a tangled bird-nest mass develops, this should be cut back well within the crown of the tree: remove all tangled stems to allow new growth to begin.

Generally,deadheading with removal of a few inches of the stem encourages autumn flowering.

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