Van Meuwen
How to grow Clematis


How to grow Clematis


Clematis are popular climbers, grown for their huge range of flower shapes and colours, and sometimes evergreen foliage. From summer-flowering clematis through to winter-flowering clematis you can have these beautiful flowers in your garden for most of the year! Happy in the garden border or in a container on the patio, clematis are easy to grow if you follow a few simple steps. Read on for advice about planting, feeding and pruning clematis for the best show in your garden! Browse our full range of clematis plants for sale for inspiration.


Clematis pruning groups

Clematis are generally divided into three main groups which helps determine their cultivation requirements. These groups are stated on each of our product pages:

Group 1 Clematis

These are early flowering Clematis and will bloom in the winter or spring on the previous year’s growth. Most evergreen clematis belong to this group and they require little or no pruning. They generally prefer a sunny and sheltered position in the garden. Good examples include Clematis armandii (fragrant), Clematis montana and Clematis napaulensis (fragrant). Many group 1 clematis are fragrant including Clematis 'Fragrant Oberon'.

Group 2 Clematis

These deciduous Clematis flower in late spring and early summer, flowering on side shoots arising from the previous year’s growth. They can also flower in mid to late summer at the tips of the current season’s growth. Flowers are generally larger and showier than group 1 Clematis. A good example is Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’.

Group 3 Clematis

This is a varying group of late-flowering Clematis, including herbaceous clematis, such as Clematis 'New Love', which die back to the ground for the winter. They are mainly deciduous and flower on the current season’s growth. Well known for their large, showy flowers, there are also many smaller-flowered, fragrant clematis available including Clematis x aromatica and Clematis rehderiana.


Group 1Group 2Group 3
Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty'Clematis (Top to Bottom) 'Success Lavender Blue'Clematis 'Prince George'
Clematis 'Fragrant Oberon' Clematis (Top to Bottom) 'Success Magenta'Clematis x aromatica
Clematis montana 'Mayleen'Clematis 'Josephine'Clematis 'Blue River'
Clematis 'Summer Beauty'Clematis 'Crystal Fountain'Clematis 'John Howells'
Clematis napaulensisClematis 'Empress'Clematis 'Royal Ladies Collection'

Where to grow Clematis

Clematis are very versatile climbers and can be grown against a wall or fence, over an arch or pergola, through trees and shrubs or in containers on the patio. Some of the early flowering clematis varieties tend to be the most vigorous and are ideal for covering large walls, fences or old tree stumps. If you grow your Clematis through a tree or shrub it’s important to match their vigour so that the Clematis doesn’t swamp its host. Make sure their pruning requirements are compatible - a group 1 Clematis would be unsuitable to grow through a climbing rose which requires annual pruning. Smaller species and cultivars such as Clematis 'Dancing Smile' are ideal for growing in containers.


How to plant Clematis

Clematis plants like a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade, with the base of the plant in shade. This can be achieved by under planting with shrubs or mulching around the base of your clematis with pebbles or slate chips. It’s a good idea to incorporate some well rotted manure or compost into the soil before planting to aid fertility and improve drainage.

Plant large-flowered cultivars (group 2 and 3 clematis) with the tops of their root balls about 5cm (2") below the soil surface. This encourages basal buds to develop below soil level and will help the plant recover if it suffers from any damage or diseases such as clematis wilt. Evergreen clematis (including group 1 clematis) such as Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ should be planted with the crown at soil level.

Newly planted clematis should be pruned to 15-30cm (6-12") above ground level, just above a bud in February or March. As they mature, many clematis plants have a tendency to produce one stem with growth concentrated at the top of the plant meaning they become top-heavy. Initial training will encourage branching low down on the plant, preventing the plant producing a single stem with a tangle of heavy top-growth. You won’t need to do this if the new plant already has three or four shoots growing from the base.


Growing Clematis in containers

To grow clematis in pots it’s best to use a large container - about 45cm in diameter with the same depth, for good root growth. Make sure a suitable support is in place such as an obelisk or a small trellis. Our Climbing Frame is ideal for this. Use loam-based compost to fill your container, such as John Innes No. 2 or 3 rather than multi-purpose compost. Multi-purpose composts will break down over a number of years leading to poor drainage and poor nutrient retention. Regular watering and feeding will be needed throughout the summer to maintain healthy growth and lots of flowers!


How to care for Clematis

Whether growing in the ground or in containers, there are a few things you’ll need to do to keep your clematis in good condition:

Watering - newly planted clematis will need regular watering whilst they establish. All clematis will need watering during hot dry periods. A thorough, deep soaking once a week is better than watering little and often.

Feeding - for the best flowering make sure you feed your Clematis each year in late winter or early spring. Spread a slow-release, potassium-rich fertiliser around the base of the plant, such as a rose fertiliser or try our specialist clematis fertiliser. Apply a mulch afterwards of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.

Slugs - fresh spring growth is attractive to hungry slugs. It’s a good idea to put down slug barriers in early spring, especially around young plants.


How to prune Clematis

Knowing when to prune clematis depends on the variety you have. Some clematis flower on their old wood, which must be left in place permanently, whilst others flower on new wood so all old stems should be removed for better flowering. Pruning clematis is easy once you know which pruning group it belongs to! The pruning groups of all our clematis are stated on each individual product page.

Group 1 Clematis (just needs tidying)

Clematis belonging to this group require little or no pruning – most winter clematis and evergreen clematis fall under this category. They produce flowers on shoots which grew the previous summer. If your clematis is growing beyond its support then it can be lightly pruned after flowering and after the risk of frost has passed in late spring.


Group 2 Clematis (needs light pruning)

Clematis in group 2 benefit from regular pruning to stimulate new shoots, which will provide late summer flowers in addition to the early summer flush. They’re best pruned once in late winter or early spring before growth begins, and again in early summer after the first flush of flowers has faded. In early spring, prune out any dead, weak or damaged stems, cutting back to just above a strong pair of leaf buds. Avoid heavy pruning at this stage as you may remove the early flowers.

In early summer after the main flush of flowers has finished, lightly cut back flowered stems to just above a strong pair of buds to encourage healthy new growth. This is also the time to prune overgrown clematis plants to reduce their size. Hard pruning should be carried out in stages over several years.


Group 3 Clematis (needs hard pruning)

Clematis in group 3 make new growth from the base each year so can be pruned hard annually. Prune these clematis in late winter or early spring when buds show signs of growth. Cut all the old stems to just above a pair of healthy buds 15-30cm (6-12") above soil level. If clematis in this group are not pruned regularly, they will develop bare lower stems with a mass of flowers higher up the plant where you can’t see!


Don’t worry about pruning a clematis incorrectly - this won’t kill your plant and at worst you may get reduced flowering for a year!



    clematis on trellis

    Clematis are generally divided into three main groups which helps determine their cultivation requirements.




    clematis on wall

    Some of the spring-flowering clematis such as Clematis montana tend to be the most vigorous and are ideal for covering large walls, fences or old tree stumps.





    clematis in a pot

    To grow Clematis on the patio it’s best to use a large pot - about 45cm in diameter with the same depth, for good root growth. Make sure a suitable support is in place such as an obelisk or a small trellis.





    pruning clematis

    Don’t worry about pruning a clematis incorrectly - this won’t kill your plant and at worst you may get reduced flowering for a year!