How to fertilize clematis?

Why Clematis Is Not Blooming: Tips On Getting Clematis To Flower

A happy, healthy clematis vine produces an amazing mass of colorful blooms, but if something isn’t quite right, you may be worried about a clematis vine not blooming. It isn’t always easy to determine why clematis is not blooming, or why in the world getting clematis to flower is sometimes such a challenge. Read on for a few possible causes.

Reasons for Non-Blooming Clematis

Figuring out why a clematis is not blooming is the first step in fixing the issue.

Fertilizer – Improper fertilization is often the reason for a non-blooming clematis. Usually, the problem isn’t lack of fertilizer, but too much, which may produce lush foliage and few blooms. As a general rule, clematis benefits from a handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer in the spring, along with a layer of compost. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer once or twice during spring and summer. Be sure the plant isn’t getting too much nitrogen, which may be the case if your clematis is located near a heavily fertilized lawn.

Age – Be patient if your clematis is new; give the plant some time to establish and develop healthy roots. Clematis can take a year or two to produce blooms and may take a bit longer to come to full maturity. On the other hand, an older plant may simply be at the end of its lifespan.

Light – “Head in the sun, feet in the shade.” This is a critical rule for healthy clematis vines. If your vine isn’t doing well, protect the roots by planting a couple of perennial plants around the base of the vine, or prop a couple of wooden shingles around the stem. If your plant has previously bloomed well, check to see if a nearby shrub or tree is blocking light. Possibly, a quick trim is needed to allow sunlight to reach the vine.

Pruning – Improper pruning is a common reason for no blooms on clematis, but it’s important to understand the needs of your particular plant. Some clematis varieties bloom on the previous year’s vines, so heavy pruning in spring will prevent new blooms from developing. Other varieties bloom on the current year’s vine, so they can be cut to the ground every spring. If you aren’t sure, don’t prune the vine until later in the spring, when you can easily determine new growth from older, dead growth. Then, prune accordingly.


Clematis vines are beautiful bloomers — if conditions are right to encourage flowering. This one is called Wisley.

(George Weigel)

Q: I have a clematis vine that grows like crazy. It’s been in the ground for 6 or 7 years now, but it’s never bloomed. Do you have any idea what the problem is or what I can do to get it to bloom?

A: The old non-flowering issue is one that comes up with clematis almost as much as wisteria. While most clematis blooms about as prolifically as any vine, some of them just decide to be miserly.

That can happen for a few reasons. Often, it’s a combination of several of the following:

* The plant isn’t getting enough sun. Six hours of direct sun a day is a good minimal rule of thumb.

* The roots are baking in lousy soil. Clematis grows best with its roots shaded (by mulch if not by neighboring plants) and in loose, well drained and nutritious soil.

* The plant is still a baby. Six years is enough time that your plant should be blooming by now, but it’s not unusual for a new clematis not to bloom until it’s had 2 or 3 years of acclimating root growth.

* The soil nutrition is out of whack. Sometimes the soil is just lacking in nutrients, and sometimes it has an overload of leaf-growing nitrogen from nearby lawn-feeding. It’s worth investing in a Penn State do-it-yourself, mail-in soil test kit to see where you stand.

* You’re pruning off the flower buds. Pruning in the fall or winter cuts off the flower buds that have formed for the following season. For spring-blooming clematis, wait until after bloom (or until after the plant should have bloomed) to prune.

Summer-blooming clematis can be pruned at the end of winter or very early spring.

* Disease. Clematis is prone to a wilt disease that causes the leaves to blacken in summer. Plants usually survive to grow again the following year, but the setback can sap enough energy to short-circuit the blooming process.

* A crummy variety. Some clematis varieties are much better performers and more reliable bloomers than others. Digging your slacker and replacing it with a different variety may solve the no-flower dilemma without doing anything else.

Some types also are nearly immune to the wilt disease, so changing varieties is a good way to deal with repeated infections of that.

Clematis Not Blooming – Why?

There are a three things can inhibit blooming on a clematis: light, fertilizer, pruning.

Clematis need 5 to 6 hours of light per day. However their roots a little protection from the sun. To shade the roots you can mulch and/or plant ground cover type plants under them. The fact that your are under an apple tree may be the reason they are not blooming. It depends on how much shade they are receiving. If you want the clematis to grow up your tree trunk and bloom make sure that the lower limbs are high enough off the ground to allow sunlight to reach the clematis.

Clematis need a well balanced fertilizer – all three primary nutrients must be present N, P and K. If you used a fertilizer that was very heavy in N (nitrogen) you will get beautiful green growth but it may inhibit blooming. Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) are responsible for blooming growth and formation. So it is important to fertilize your clematis twice a year with a balanced water soluble fertilizer like Hi Yield general purpose fertilizer which is a 20-20-20 blend.

Clematis need very little pruning but when you prune it timing is important. Depending on the type of clematis you have will determine the pruning schedule. You said that you prune according to pruning instruction, so I assume that pruning is not a factor. But just to be sure about how to prune them I checked with Donahue’s Clematis (they are the superior clematis grower). Donahue’s recommends pruning the Montana series right after they bloom. The reason for this is they bloom on old stems. So it is extremely critical that pruning occurs as soon as blooming is completed. If you planted your Montana clematis this year, you might not see blooming until next year. For your other clematis it really depends on the variety you have. Some varieties bloom from last year ripened stems and the buds should appear in very early spring. If you have particularly warm weather in the spring and the temperatures then turn very cold, the bud swells can be damage and will not develop fully into blooms. Other clematis bloom on new growth and are usually pruned in February or March as the buds begin to swell. If old dead foliage is allowed to remain on the clematis fungal problems can occur which will inhibit blooming.

With all of that said, I would check to see that the clematis is receiving enough light and that the area was staying moist but not soggy. Since you have pruned and fertilized your clematis according to instructions, light has to be the reason.

Donahue’s Clematis has some great clematis culture information that might shed some more light on the subject. Hope this helps. Good Luck.

Learn About Clematis

Common Disease Problems

Bacterial Wilt: This causes yellow streaking on the foliage. It is soil borne and spread by flea beetles. Burpee Recommends: Control flea beetles.

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering, make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Clematis Wilt: This is a stem rot/leaf spot disease caused by a fungus. The stem suddenly collapses, often just when the flower buds are about to open. The leaves and stem turn black and leaf veins may have a purple coloration. Larger flowered varieties tend to be more susceptible than small flowered varieties. Burpee Recommends: This disease may not affect the entire plant, and sometimes the plants recover in a year or two. Make sure your plants are well sited, with 6 hours of sun, cool roots and a well-drained soil and good air circulation. Remove plant debris and avoid injuring the stems and roots. Remove diseased stems immediately.

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Rust: A number of fungus diseases that cause rust colored spots on foliage and stalks. Burpee Recommends: Plant resistant varieties. Remove infected plants. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.

Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

How to Feed Clematis


The symptoms of fungal infection and environmental stress can be similar. The following symptoms are associated with fungal infection:

  • When fungal infection occurs through the leaves, these wilt and the leaf stalks turn black. Leaf infection is followed by rapid wilting of the stems
  • Fungal infection can also occur through stems. Freshly affected stems show black discolouration of tissue when split open
  • Young healthy shoots may be produced from the base of affected stems, sometimes from below ground

Non-chemical control

  • Try to create a suitable root environment by deep cultivation and mulching, to minimise root stress
  • If fungal infection is suspected, cut out all wilted stems back to healthy (non-stained) tissue and promptly destroy the affected material to prevent it contaminating the soil. New healthy shoots may be formed at ground level
  • Disinfect pruning tools to prevent spread of spores and avoid transferring infected plant and soil material to a new area
  • Particularly susceptible cultivars include: Clematis ‘Henryi’, ‘Vyvyan Pennell’, ‘Mrs N. Thompson’, ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’, ‘William Kennett’, ‘Marie Boisselot/Madame le Coultre’, ‘Ernest Markham’, ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’, ‘Jackmanii’ and ‘Nelly Moser’ are also susceptible
  • Resistant cultivars and groups include: Clematis ‘Avant Garde’, ‘Black Prince’, ‘Constance’ and groups montana, viticella (which is tolerant rather than resistant), diversifolia, integrifolia, macropetala and tangutica.

Chemical control

There are no chemicals available to treat clematis wilt.


Phoma clematidina can survive in the soil on dead plant material and organic matter. Infection occurs when spores are splashed or otherwise carried to leaves or young stems. Infection spreads rapidly to the shoots and stems, which when split open, are stained black. Infection causes rapid wilting and death. The root system is often not killed and young shoots frequently regenerate from or below ground level. The disease is not immediately fatal, but susceptible cultivars will usually die eventually.

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How to Grow Clematis. How I successfully grow beautiful clematis though I don’t always follow the rules. Easy how to care for your clematis instructions you can follow.

Today I am sharing how to grow clematis. This applies to all types. I grow about 10 different clematis vines and am always adding more. In this post will share how to care for your clematis so you can have tons of blooms clamoring over your trellis, fences and arbors.

Disclaimer..there are tons of differing opinions and experiences on how to grow clematis. What I relate here, for the most part, is from my personal experience. Reading about gardens and watching gardening shows is something I do a lot of. The education is wonderful but many times it does not fit my region and conditions, so experience has been my best teacher.

Please PIN for reference later.

I live in USDA Zone 8, have cold, snowy winters and dry summers (no rain or humidity) with temps up to the 90’s. Gardeners in other areas may grow them differently and be equally successful.

This post is about how I grow clematis that reward me every year with plenty of blooms.

Bourban Clematis

(this post contains affiliate links, please see disclosure page for more info)

There are 3 requirements for healthy growing clematis.
1. Sun on their stems and leaves (at least 6 hours or more)
2. Cool roots and steady moisture but not overly wet (some dispute the claim that Clematis prefer cool roots)
3. Support for climbing

Getting Started Growing Clematis

Good soil is always the best way to get started.

Soil health is the best thing you can do for any plant in your garden. To see how I got my start click on over to Lazy Gals Garden Guide.

Amending your soil with compost is one of the best ways to build your gardens health. I avoid chemical fertilizers, they are not conducive to good soil and there is no need if you keep your soil rich and well amended.

This is not a one time deal, you don’t just add compost when you are getting started, you will be adding it frequently.

Belle of Woking Clematis

Planting Clematis

You can buy clematis as bare-root or in a pot, either way prepare your planting hole well.

Loosen up the soil deeper and wider than you will plant. Do your best, the roots of these plants are vigorous and will run deep.

You want to give them a head start by loosening up the area around their roots. Don’t sweat it though they are vigorous growers and don’t need too much babying.

Plant the clematis about 3 to 4 inches deeper than the crown of the plant. This will help if the clematis gets struck with wilt or a fungus that causes the entire vine to die back.

Having the crown under the soil allows you to cut it completely back and it will grow new shoots that are fungus/disease free.

If you do contend with the wilt be sure to clean up and burn any of the vines, leaves etc you cut off, you don’t want that fungus hanging around.

No matter the pruning group, when you first plant your clematis you should prune back the growth to 12 or less inches the first growing season.

Pruning it back ensures good root development which is crucial to a healthier clematis and more shoots coming up from the base. More shoots, more flowers.

Nelly Moser

How to Care for Clematis

There are differing views on growing other plants close to the clematis base to shade its roots, some say it robs the needed nutrients for optimum bloom from the clematis and others have no issue with it.

Personally, I have some growing with roses, at least within a foot or so and shorter growing flowers shading the roots of both. I have had no problem with the clematis being vigorous and bloom happily.

That is because of healthy, rich soil that I regularly add compost to.

I also have clematis growing on their own with a deep mulch to keep their roots moist and cool.

Clematis like moist, well draining soil not soggy soil so keep them watered if you don’t get summer rains, (we don’t).

We have contended with deep drought for several years, my clematis did okay with a lot less watering, they just did not bloom as prolifically.

They like the sun, the ones I grow that do the best get nearly 6 hours of sun a day. Late afternoon shade helps the colors on darker versions stay vibrant. Hot sun tends to fade them out, but they are still beautiful just less showy.

Be sure and provide support, something for the clematis to climb, a sturdy trellis, arbor or post. A healthy clematis will smother it with beautiful blooms in no time.


Clematis Groups

There are 3 groups of Clematis.
Group 1 blooms the earliest in Spring and has the small flowers. Here is one that is on my list to acquire, Pamela Jackman. I don’t have any growing now to show you but I do have some on my list to add to my garden. Exactly when in Spring these bloom depends on your region, some areas it blooms in late winter as well.

Group 2 bloom in Spring and early Summer, they are the large, showy flowered ones we all love. They bloom on both old and new wood. Many I have are in this group. Some will re-bloom but the first bloom of the season is the best.

Group 3 Summer blooming and they will bloom on into Fall for masses of color all season. Add a few of these to your collection and you will have gorgeous clematis until frost.

They are also known as A,B & C and an easy little way to remember pruning advice for the different ones is here

Pruning group A (or 1)
A is for After bloom
Includes: Species that bloom in early spring, such as C. montana, C. armandii, or C. macropetala.
When and how to prune: Don’t prune until after the flowers are finished. Flower buds were formed the previous year, so if you prune before they flower, that means no flowers for you that year.

Pruning Group B (or 2)
B is for Before bloom
Includes: Species that bloom in late spring/early summer, including most large-flowered types.
When and how to prune: In spring, cut back to a set of live buds, about a third down from the top. Hard-prune (to about 12 inches) for the first two years after planting to develop a strong root system.

Pruning Group C (or 3)
C is for Cut back hard
Includes: Species that bloom in summer/early fall: C. viticella, C. tangutica, C. virginiana, C. texensis, C. crispa.
When and how to prune: In early spring, cut every stem to 12 to 18 inches or so.

Warsaw Nike is one of my Group 3 clematis and it is a power house bloomer and so is Pistachio above.

There are some scented varieties I would love to get and have Summer Love by Proven Winners on my list.

This double one below called Franziska Maria, is one of my favorites, it blooms and blooms in early summer.

Then if I make sure to dead head and feed it after blooming it will put on another good show of blooms.

Be aware that if you plant a double that the first year it will most likely have single flowers, the doubles develop on old wood so the following year you will get the doubles.

If you can plant all three groups in your garden you will have clematis blooms for months and months. It is advised to plant like groups together so pruning will be easier.

The pruning of clematis is going to get an entire post to itself, then I can try and photograph what I do for pruning. It is not as confusing as it can seem.

Feeding Clematis

Clematis are considered heavy feeders. As I stated before, start with healthy well fed soil.

Every Fall I add a few inches of chicken manure mixed with compost all around my flowering plants. The compost chicken litter mixture sits all winter at their feet.

I have no trouble with it burning my plants as they are all dormant by then.

In Summer I do supplement feed my clematis with fish emulsion (stinky but effective) or foliage feeding (I am using Spray and Grow combined with the fertilizer though you can just get the Spray and Grow alone).

Since I plant my clematis next to other heavy feeders like roses I know that they all will get enough nutrients to pump out the blooms for me.

Other gardeners have reported that they don’t feed them at all and still get good results.

For those of you that live in a warmer winter region I have had a few readers that successfully grow clematis and get it to bloom by burying a plastic flower pot beside it and putting ice in the pot to chill the roots.

One reader said she does it for about two weeks long and she gets beautiful blooms. (clematis need some winter chill to bloom successfully, I have not had to try this as we get cold winters but I thought I would pass that on for those of you who live in warmer regions)

You can also grow many of these in pots on your porch, patio or deck, some varieties have been bred especially for container gardens. What is not to love about Clematis?

Until then…..Happy Gardening!

Other posts you may enjoy
How to Prune Clematis for Top to Bottom Bloom(this happens in Fall)
How to Spring Prune your Clematis
Propagate Clematis by Layering
Build an Easy Garden Obelisk (for your Clematis to climb)
How to Start Clematis from Cuttings

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