Success with Clematis


When one browses through magazines and gardening books, especially those from the UK, the pictures of Clematis are always inspiring.

These beautiful climbers seem to clamber everywhere and anywhere, filling us with envy. Yet we can plant Clematis here in the colder parts of South Africa and, yes, they will be successful and provide a mass of blooms for most of summer. The secret is simple: soil with plenty of organic matter and lots of moisture!

A Clematis grower that I spoke to suggests that we first establish our Clematis in pots (using indoor potting soil and a handful of bone meal). A simple tepee of three or four sticks, tied at the top, or an obelisk can be used as a support within the pot. A thick mulch of compost that is replenished every time they are cut back to ground level after flowering is essential.

That’s correct – once the flowers die off, cut all the stems down to ground level and they’ll re-shoot and flower within four to six weeks. This can be done a few times through summer but when autumn arrives leave the old stems to die off naturally and cut them to ground level at the first sign of spring. If necessary, re-pot them in spring planting them deeper into the soil as this will encourage new shoots and stems.

It is most important to water them very well every two or three days or as soon as the soil dries out, making sure that the water soaks right down. Feed them fortnightly with Multifeed or Nitrosol. A sprinkling of 3:1:5 alternating with 3:2:1 can be applied every four to six weeks. Clematis prefer a sunny spot but must have cool roots so it’s essential to mulch them – one can even bury the pots in the ground until they are ready to plant out.

Only once they have been in pots for five years and their root systems are well developed should they be planted out into the garden. They make a superb show if planted between climbing roses, into which they grow! When planting them out add plenty of organic matter, such as compost and kraal manure, and a cup or two of bone meal. Continue to water them well on a regular basis.

The Gardener