Clematis annual or perennial

Clematis Winter Preparation – Taking Care Of Clematis In Winter

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.

How to Prepare Clematis for Winter

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.

Can Clematis be Overwintered in Pots?

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 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.

Clematis need very little winter prep.

Learning how to winterize clematis vines is fairly easy. Clematis are remarkably hardy and tolerant. With a few simple steps, your clematis will withstand the cold blows of winter and bloom another day.


There are over 200 species of clematis, with these beautiful flowering vines found in most gardening zones. Clematis range in color from white to rich purples and burgundies, and are usually bred for large, showy flowers. Some have a strong scent while others have little scent. You can find clematis that bloom in spring, summer and even into the autumn. It’s actually possible in some gardening zones to have four seasons of clematis blossoms!

As perennials, clematis return year after year from the same plant stock. Most clematis varieties are pruned in the spring, and new flowers grow on the old wood. It’s important, however, to check your own variety’s growing and care guidelines, since pruning times can vary from variety to variety. The best source of clematis information is the American Clematis Society.

Tips on How to Winterize Clematis Vines

If you’re wondering how to winterize clematis vines, you’ll be glad to learn that very little preparation is actually needed to help them survive the winter months. These hardy vines tend to take care of themselves. But some basic preparations do help.

Deadhead and Clean Up

Deadheading means snipping off the spent flower blossoms. Take a clean, sharp pair of garden shears and simply snip off the flower blossoms. Be sure to rake them up.

It’s a good idea to clean up the area directly around your clematis vines to ensure that no plant disease lurk in the debris. Rake the area or pick up branches and large material by hand.

Training the Vine

While not imperative that you do it in the fall to winterize clematis vines, once the leaves fall off and the bare vine can be easily seen on the trellis, you might want to take some garden twine and tie branches to the trellis if they aren’t following the pattern that you want. Be sure to use a garden twine and never use metal twist ties or twist ties made of plastic and metal. The metal portion can heat up in the sunshine and burn plants.


Clematis like having a good, rich organic mulch around their base. Fall is an excellent time to apply compost and mulch. Use a rich organic compost, and then add an inch or two of mulch on top. Wood chips and hay make a good mulch. Place the chips around the crown or central portion of the plant where the main stem rises from the ground. If the plant gets zapped by the cold weather, this is the area that will be most affected and it’s the area that needs the most protection.

Other Fall Tasks

Fall is a good time to start browsing for next year’s acquisition to your clematis collection! Since local nurseries probably don’t have clematis over the winter, find some good gardening magazines and catalogs and start daydreaming. Mark off the clematis that suits your fancy.

Winter is also a great time to explore ways of growing and showing off your clematis. A wrought iron obelisk is a great way to grow clematis as a focal point in the garden. During the winter, when most of the plants have died down to the ground and the trees have lost their leaves, you can really see the ‘bones’ or general outline of the garden. Photograph your garden during the winter, then make a photocopy and sketch onto the copy an obelisk or other garden feature to see if it fits in. If it does, consider clematis. With their gorgeous blossoms and hardy nature, they’re a fine addition to any garden.

How to Care for a Clematis in Winter Time Images

Clematis vines climb over fences and trellises, providing a cascade of color during the summer months. These deciduous woody vines die back after winter frost, providing no winter interest in the garden until they begin putting on new growth in spring. While most clematis varieties grow well in most climates, they do benefit from from some protection from freezing in colder areas. Winter is also the time to prune and clean up some clematis vine varieties.

Prune out any damaged or broken vines in fall. Only remove damaged vines, and do not prune the plants completely.

Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch, such as bark or straw, around the base of the vines once the ground begins to freeze. Mulch insulates the soil and protects clematis roots from winter temperature fluctuations.

Tie loose vines to the support with a length of garden twine. High winter winds can dislodge the clematis if it isn’t fully secured to the trellis.

Prune late-flowering and large-flowered clematis in late winter before new spring growth begins. Cut vines on large-flowered varieties back to the topmost leaf buds. Cut back late-flowering varieties to a height 2 to 3 feet. Early flowering types are pruned in summer after flowering and not in winter.

How to Winterize Clematis

Clematis are known as a climbing plant, perfect for pillars, a balcony or trellis, or even the entire side of a house. However, protecting that clematis during the winter months takes a little time and preparation. Learn about the variety of clematis you own to determine the best time for pruning, deadheading or mulching in preparation for winter.

“Deadhead” to prepare the clematis for winter. Deadheading is a gardening term that means removing dead or spent blooms or flowers on a plant. Deadheading can be performed by snipping or snapping dead blooms or flowers off the stem at the base of the flower. For harder woods, like roses, you may need a shears to remove dead blooms. Be advised that timing of pruning will depend on the type of clematis you have. Some varieties that bloom in spring are pruned after flowering and others that bloom in summer and fall are pruned in the early spring. The clematis will create new wood and blooms where it has been pruned, so the extent of pruning is up to individual gardeners. Cut back to about 12 inches above the soil line.

Mulch around the plants once ground freezes or outside temperatures reach about 25 degrees. Much can be created out of straw, hay, bark, manure, leaf mold, grass clippings, or commercial mulch purchased at the nursery. Don’t be afraid to pile up mulch around the base or root and crown of the clematis. Pile up and gently pat a small mound of mulch around the base and covering the crown (part of the root portion that grows out of the ground and creates branches) of the clematis.

Propagate if desired by taking cuttings from the clematis or by root division. However, the easiest way to propagate clematis is through stem cuttings in late spring. Leaf bud cuttings taken in the summer can be rooted indoors or out, taking care to keep soil moist when new root growth appears. To take stem cuttings, cut a main stem approximately two inches below a leaf joint. You should have a roughly “T-shaped” cutting at this point. Then, cut away stem or leaf growth from one side of the “T” so that only one ‘branch’ or pair of leaves is left on the stem. This will reduce water loss while roots grow. Gently place the cutting into container filled with potting soil or compost. The main stem should be covered, with only the top of the stem and remaining leaves exposed. Water from the base of the container for best results.

Clematis grows into woody vines that produce large, showy blossoms in a variety of colors. Clematis vary as to when they produce blossoms and whether they develop buds over the winter or after the frosts and cold have given way to spring. Clematis that blossom in early to midspring, usually April or May, produce blossoms on the previous season’s wood, and cold protection will give you a good batch of blossoms, especially in eastern Washington and Oregon, where winter temperatures can drop very low. Clematis that don’t bloom until late May or later don’t need winter protection, as they produce flowers on the spring’s new growth, but do need pruning late in the winter.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy


things you’ll need:
  • Mulch
  • Pruning shears

Early-Blooming Clematis

  1. Replenish the mulch around the plants to a depth of 2 to 3 inches and build a mound of mulch around the base of the plant. Mulch helps to keep the crown of the plant protected during the worst of winter’s cold.
  2. Water the plant leading up to the first frost of the season. Clematis needs about 1 inch of water per week. The date of first frost can vary greatly in the Pacific Northwest, depending on where you live. For example, Seattle generally receives its first frost in early to mid-November, whereas Spokane’s first frost generally occurs in early October. Contact your county extension office or the National Climatic Data Center for more information about what to expect for frosts and freezes in your area.
  3. Remove the plant from the trellis in the fall and lay the vines on the ground. Cover it with several inches of mulch to protect the buds from cold damage. In the spring, uncover the plant and place it back on the trellis.

Late-Blooming Clematis

  1. Check the mulch around the plant in the autumn and replenish as needed to keep it about 2 to 3 inches. Build a mound of mulch around the base of the plant to provide extra cold protection for the roots.
  2. Water the plant so that it receives at least 1 inch of water per week leading up to the first frost of the season.
  3. Cut back the vines to 3 inches from the ground in late winter. When spring arrives, new growth will develop and provide you with the next season of flowers.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you’re not sure what kind of clematis you have, check the tag that came with the plant. Plants labeled as type 1, 2, A or B produce flowers on old wood, and cold protection will help give you a good display the following spring. Clematis labeled as type 3 or C flower on new growth and perform best with a late-winter pruning.

Clematis Pruning

Clematis are not difficult to grow provided a few simple measures are observed: Prepare the soil for these clematis by digging as deeply as possible a patch 60-80cm across and incorporating compost. Animal manures should not be used. A dusting of ground lime should be added if the soil isn’t alkaline. Plant each of these clematis 4cm deeper than it is in the pot. We grow quite a few Clematis species and hybrids in our garden and I’m often asked how we go about pruning them.

Clematis can be divided into four groups depending on their pruning needs.

Pruning Group One

This includes the popular and easily grown C. montana and the less well known but beautiful C. armandii. These species flower in early spring on the previous season’s growth and generally don’t need any pruning at all. If a bit of tidying up needs to be done it should be done after flowering.

Pruning Group Two

These clematis flower on both the previous season’s growth as well as on new growth. Generally they aren’t pruned in winter. After the spring flowering prune them back about half way to promote vigorous new growth and a second summer/autumn flush.

Pruning Group Three

These clematis flower on the new growth and include the later flowering large hybrids as well as all of the C. viticella varieties. Cut them down to strong buds near to ground level during winter. They will flower during late spring and early summer. When the first flush is over cut back to about 30cm to encourage another blooming during late summer and autumn.

Pruning Group Four

This group which includes C. maximowicziana and C. ‘Golden Tiara’ flowers on new season’s wood during summer and autumn and should be cut back to 30-50cm during winter.

It is hard to think of another plant that offers so much reward so it is well worth attending to their few simple needs.

SERIES 18 | Episode 21

Clematis are climbers and good companions to other plants because they don’t damage what they’re growing on. They can also be grown as ground covers, through a hedge, over an arch, on a pergola, or in a pot or hanging basket.

There are hundreds of different species in the wild, and they come from temperate parts of the world. Some are evergreen and others deciduous.

Look out for a new variety called ‘Crystal Fountain’- it’s absolutely fabulous with beautiful bright blue petals, about 15 centimetres across and white anthers in the centre that form a boss – this happens at the end of the season when the petals fall off to leave the anthers. It’s free flowering, great in a pot and would suit a small garden.

Another new variety is ‘Josephine’ – it’s a beautiful pinky mauve but is known for its consistent double petals in the centre. As it ages, toward the end of the season, they look like a pompom. At various times of the year, usually in spring and in cooler weather, they have a certain green tinge.

Plant clematis any time of the year, in particular autumn and spring, when the weather and soil warm up. If you grow roses you will also be able to grow a mighty fine Clematis. Both need five or six hours of sunlight.

When planting, remember that a clematis has a deep root system and needs a decent hole. The soil, whether alkaline or acidic, needs to be free-draining – that’s vital. A good tip when planting clematis is to plant it deeper than normal. Remove any green shoots that will be underground. Look for lovely little white roots to indicate a really healthy plant. Don’t tickle the roots because they can be a little fragile but plant it quite deep, so that the nodes are under the soil.

A clematis needs moisture and good drainage. Whenever you prune a clematis add a couple of handfuls of pelletised animal manure to encourage the wonderful new growth on which they flower.

Mulch is also really important because if you keep the roots cool, they love it. Straw, a brick or a piece of slate on top of the roots will keep them cool. The flowers then grow toward the sun, and with some support the new growth will shoot up and be an absolute wonder in spring.

Clematis can also be grown in a pot. Just find a good deep pot – that’s important – because they’ve got deep roots and use a good strong frame. They’ve got great tendrils that will grow everywhere, even up an apple tree, and if displayed like that they can look gorgeous.

Flowering depends entirely on how you prune them – and pruning is vital. Don’t be scared. Once it’s finished flowering, prune the plant to 20 centimetres above the ground.

Start pruning in late winter and look for two fat buds on either side of the stem – then just prune to them. Don’t be afraid because they’ll put on 2 metres of new growth within six weeks and then you’ll get more flowers between six and eight weeks later. But this only applies to the large flowered clematis.

They’re good mixers – they like the company of their neighbours – and are really one of the most versatile and popular of all climbing plants.



Ooh, these new patio clematis vines are wonderful. Especially when they bloom twice in one season! No wonder you want to over-winter your containerized plant.

Your idea for burying these Zone 4 plants into the ground is a good one. And slipping the pot into another one makes it easy to remove the potted clematis come spring. If it’s growing in a terra cotta pot, though, be sure to transfer it to a plastic one that will weather our winter weather. The only thing I would add is to mulch it with a layer of chopped leaves, about 8 centimetres deep.

Alternatively, you could move the pot to a heated garage or basement where the temperatures remain above freezing, but cool enough for the plant to go dormant. Be sure to check on your plant from time to time and water it before the soil begins to dry out.

With either method, prune the vines come spring with a ponytail cut. It’s easy. Just grab a clump of stems by the hand and with one fell swoop of the secateurs, cut them all off at about 15 centimetres above soil level. That’s all there is to it. In our climate, it’s time for a ponytail cut in late spring, just as the buds begin to swell.

I hope you enjoy your clematis for many seasons to come!

Choice blooms

Earliest to flower, from early November through to March, is C. cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’ (3-4m) with its big, creamy, pointed bells splashed and spotted with maroon. Hardy to -12C (-15C in a well-protected position), these Jackson Pollock blooms show to perfection against a background of snow. Equally robust is its recently introduced sport, ‘Lansdowne Gem’, in which the freckles have fused into a solid red the colour of ruby port. Though it does occasionally revert to spottiness, it is vigorous and easy, and its glowing red bells over Christmas are delightfully seasonal.

Slightly later in flower, and more subtle in its charms, is C. cirrhosa var. balearica (3m), the native clematis of Majorca. Its creamy bells have a light, rusty speckling on the inside and carry a delicate whiff of lemon. These are set off by fine foliage that turns bronze as temperatures fall. Not quite as hardy as ‘Freckles’, it can sometimes be sulky and slow to flower. ‘Wisley Cream’ (3-4m), however, is a model of good behaviour, offering firm, creamy blooms reliably from November to March. ‘Jingle Bells’ is a pure white variant, which Dancer grows up the dark foliage of a yew tree.

Also pure white are the waxy, nodding bells of C. urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ (3m), borne from December to March on dense, shiny foliage. A few years ago we would have planted this Chinese evergreen with abandon, but it is not as resilient as the cirrhosas, needing a very warm town garden with tiptop drainage and protection below -7C.

However, the most exotic of the lot needs no such mollycoddling: C. napaulensis (3-4m) is one for the connoisseur, not so much for its hardiness (-10C), but because it loses its leaves in summer, so needs judicious placing in the garden. You may be minded to endure bare summer twigs for the sight of bright green foliage emerging in October, invigorating the garden as it subsides into brown. Winter brings pale green, tubular flowers that open to reveal tassels of pinky-red stamens with purple anthers. These give way to silvery seedheads.

How to grow

• Grow on a pergola, over a path or near a doorway, where you can look up into the pendant bells.

• In colder areas, a south- or west-facing wall will provide extra warmth.

• Good drainage is critical – it is winter wet rather than cold that will carry them off.

• Whatever the books say, do not plant your clematis too deeply. Dancer advises planting at the level they are in the pot.

• Don’t panic if some of the leaves turn brown during the summer, because winter clematis have a natural dormant period at this time. Disguise their fallow summer period by planting a small shrub or bushy summer perennial in front, or grow sweet peas up the same support.

• Keep them orderly by cutting back immediately after flowering, trimming back each shoot to a pair of healthy buds, then feed with a slow-release fertiliser and a mulch of well-rotted garden compost round the base of the plant.

• If pruning is impractical, pair with C. alpina or C. macropetala varieties that also require no pruning and will take over in the spring.

• Go to the British Clematis Society’s website for more advice on clematis care.

We’re offering a collection of three choice winter clematis – ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Winter Beauty’ and ‘Wisley Cream’. Buy one plant of any variety for £9.99 or all three (one of each variety) for £17.98 (prices include free p&p). To order, call 0330 333 6856, quoting ref GUA616, or visit our Reader Offers page. Supplied as 7cm potted plants from February.

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