Clematis Bloom Times: How Long Do Clematis Bloom
Clematis is a popular addition to flower gardens, and for good reason. It’s a perennial that climbs effortlessly and should reliably produce cascades of bright blooms for years. But when exactly can you expect these blooms? There’s no easy answer to this question, as the wide range of varieties bloom at such different times and for such different durations. Keep reading for a basic rundown of clematis vine flowering times.
When Do Clematis Bloom?
There are a huge number of clematis species, all with slightly different blooming idiosyncrasies. Some clematis bloom times are in the spring, some in summer, some in autumn, and some are continuous through multiple seasons. Some clematis also have two distinct blooming periods.
Even if you do plant a specific variety for its bloom time, sunlight, USDA zone, and soil quality can cause it to deviate from your expectations. There are some basic guidelines, however.
Spring-blooming clematis species include:
Summer-blooming and fall-flowering clematis include the following species:
- x durandii
The florida species blooms once in the spring, stops producing, then blooms again in the autumn.
Blooming Season for Clematis
Blooming season for clematis can be extended if you plant the right variety. Some specific cultivars have been bred to bloom continuously through the summer and fall. These hybrid clematis include:
- Gypsy Queen
- Star of India
- Ville de Lyon
- Polish Spirit
- Red Cardinal
- Comtesse de Bouchard
Planting one of these is a good way to ensure clematis vine flowering for an extended period of time. Another good strategy is to overlap multiple varieties. Even if you can’t exactly pinpoint your clematis bloom times, planting a spring variety near summer and fall varieties should make for continuous flowering throughout the growing season.
Clematis That Bloom All Summer
Garden catalog descriptions of plants that bloom all summer often seem too good to be true. Some gardeners have trouble getting their clematis to bloom at all because they don’t realize that different groups of clematis require different pruning practices. Cooperative extension horticulturalists live in the real world, however, and confirm that some clematis cultivars can bloom all summer. Take care in choosing clematis for your garden, treat them right and you, too, can enjoy these vines’ summer flowers.
Many of the summer-blooming clematis are in the Group 3 pruning category, which flower on new wood, according to University of Illinois Extension’s Sandra Mason. Mason notes there are many vigorous Clematis viticella cultivars, and that ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ will produce her red flowers all summer long. Among the other distinguished varieties are the purple-pink to reddish ‘Ernest Markham’, blue ‘Lady Betty Balfour’ and red ‘Ville de Lyon’.
Clematis x Jackmannii
The Clematis x jackmannii hybrids also bloom all summer on new growth, according to University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension’s Janet Carson. She singles out cultivars ‘Alba’, ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’ and ‘Star of India’; these plants have large white, pink and purple flowers, respectively.
Durand clematis (Clematis durandii) also bloom on new wood, but unlike most clematis they are more compact plants, described as either nonvining or less vigorous, with blue flowers that can range from lavender to indigo. Iowa State Extension’s Cindy Hayes notes that the attractive blooms begin in early summer and can continue until frost. Most summer-flowering clematis are hardy to at least U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 6.
Another compact clematis, the native Clematis texenis, has scarlet-red bell-shaped flowers and dense foliage. The Ladybird Wildflower Center notes that it is more herbaceous than woody, and climbs a maximum of 9 feet. North Carolina State University Extension’s Erv Evans says it blooms on new growth from summer until frost. Like other summer bloomers, C. texensis needs a sunny exposure.
Tips for Pruning Clematis Vines
Is it Time to Prune Your Clematis?
First, you must find out which pruning group your variety belongs to. If you bought it from Wayside Gardens, our website or catalog will tell you. If your variety isn’t being offered this season give us a call and we’ll happily look it up. If you bought yours elsewhere, take a look at any book on Clematis. (An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis is an excellent source of information about all things Clematis.)
(Bloom in early spring from buds set the previous season on old wood; doesn’t die back in winter)
Prune only when needed, after bloom in spring.
Clematis should only be pruned sparingly. They tend to bloom earlier, in the spring. After their bloom show is over you can give them a light pruning. All you want to do is clear out dead wood and keep the stems tidy.
Since this group blooms only on old wood, cutting too low or too early in the season could cost you flowers! Examples of a Group I Clematis are shown here.
(Usually includes rebloomers that produce flowers on old wood in late spring/early summer and often bloom again on new wood in late summer or fall)
In March, remove dead wood and cut the remaining stems 6 to 8 inches to a pair of strong buds.
Clematis should be given a moderate trim. Since they bloom on old and new wood alike, you want to trim enough to encourage new growth, but without losing any promising buds. Remove dead wood and cut back the remaininsg tems just 6 to 8 inches.
Do this trim in March, before the blooming has begun. This group tends to bloom in the middle of the season, setting flowers on old wood in late spring/early summer and then reblooming on the new wood through late summer or even early fall. This group is a bit more forgiving—even if you prune a bit too harshly, you will still get to enjoy the late-season rebloom! An example of a Group II Clematis is Vancouver Fragrant Star.
(Bloom on new wood in the summer and fall; dies to the ground over winter)
Each year in March, prune all stems back to a strong set of buds 12 inches from the ground.
Clematis are the easiest to prune, since you basically cut the whole thing down! This group goes dormant in the winter, letting the stems die off, and then they grow anew each spring. This means that each year in March you should prune back all the stems to just about 12 inches off the ground to make way for the new growth.
This group will come back strong and will bloom on the new wood each year. Since they have to re-grow their mature size each summer, they tend to be the last to flower, opening in late summer or fall. Examples of a Group I Clematis are shown here.
Before You Prune Your New Clematis
You aren’t going to like this, but the first year of your Clematis’s garden (or container!) life, you need to do a special pruning. If you planted your Clematis last spring or fall, or if you’ve been growing Clematis without pruning it, please give it this first-year trim — it will make your Clematis more beautiful over its entire (long!) life.
Every variety, regardless of group, should be cut back to about 5 inches from the ground in late winter/early spring the first year after it is planted. You don’t have to — it will certainly still grow and flower without ever feeling the snick of the shears — but if you want a bushier, stronger, tighter growth habit, with flowers from the base of the plant instead of beginning 4 feet off the ground, cut every stem back to 5 inches from the soil. Don’t worry about leaving buds; Clematis handles that sort of thing with underground growth.
Now, the bad news is that if your Clematis is in Groups 1 or 2, this first-year pruning means that you won’t get blooms this year. These groups bloom on “old wood” (the previous season’s growth), so you’ll lose one season of color. But I promise you your Clematis will more than make up for this loss in the years to come!
So — cut every stem that’s coming out of the ground to 5 inches tall, even if you’ve got an old established Clematis that’s been twining up a tree for 5 years without a trim, or with random trims at various times of year. (Do you notice it blooms less each year, and perhaps only at the very end of the stems instead of from the base? This pruning will put a stop to that nonsense and give you lots of blooms, all along the stems!) That’s it — your work is done for the year!
Now, if your Clematis is in Groups 1 or 2, you should also do a special second-year pruning. Not everyone does this, but if you want a lush, many-stemmed, bloom-happy plant, the second year you should prune all stems back to about 3 feet from the ground in late winter/early spring. You will get blooms this year, because everything above 5 inches from the ground is old wood, but your Clematis won’t grow so tall so quickly. Again, this is all to the good — it will encourage more shoots to emerge and better flowering in years to come — but if you’re too impatient or simply forget, most Clematis are very forgiving!
If your Clematis is in Group 3, skip the second-year pruning. Your variety blooms on new wood, so this pruning is completely unnecessary.
Once you know your Clematis’s pruning number and get that first-year trim out of the way, keeping this woody climber looking its best and blooming like crazy is simple! A few minutes once a year will yield you armloads of flowers for many seasons, and you will continue to find new uses for Clematis, from hiding an unsightly fence to decorating your most formal garden art!
|Shop Clematis||Group 1||Group 2||Group 3|
How To Grow Clematis
First- Don’t worry! Clematis are not as hard to grow as you may think. They are easier to prune than you think, too! Follow the simple guide below to help you get started and to tell you about some really neat ways to turn your Clematis Vines into beautiful features in your garden!
For Beginners- Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your efforts pay off with a plant covered in flowers year after year! Clematis can be a part of any size garden and they live for very many years. However, you may have heard that they are difficult to grow. You may have heard that they require complex pruning to bloom each year. Let me assure you that you don’t need to be intimidated by this beautiful vine. Most varieties are vigorous, hardy and easy to grow. There are a few finicky varieties in the Large Flowered Types, but you can start today with some very rewarding varieties listed here: Clematis viticella Polish Spirit is our favorite of this type. It blooms heavily in summer with rich purple flowers similar to Clematis Jackmanii (the most famous variety in the world). Just plant, mulch and water as you would other plants in your garden and prune it back to about two feet each spring. Clematis montana Rubens is a wonderful vine in flower as well as in foliage! Each spring the vine is covered in rich pink flowers with an unmistakable vanilla scent. The leaves emerge with a bronzy-purple color and mature to a deep green. This one is even easier than the others to grow. Don’t bother to prune it at all except when you want to shape it up a bit. So, there you have three great varieties that bloom in three different seasons and have three different colors! Why not try all three? Don’t think you have the room? If you have an old fence or mailbox you’d like to spruce up, you’ve got the room. You can also combine them with your other garden plants. Read the section below on Training for more great ways to use your Clematis vines!
Planting- Since Clematis live up to 50 years or more, you should take the time to plant each one carefully. Water the pot well before planting. This is an important step for any planting. Once you have selected a location, dig a hole at least twice as big as the pot and twice as deep. In areas with poor drainage, consider a larger hole or mounding up from the ground a bit. Mix some of the soil from the hole with a good topsoil and compost if you wish. The exact proportions will vary by your soil conditions. Backfill some of the hole with this mix. You may gently tease some of the roots away from the sides but be gentle.
Place the clematis on the backfill and look at the soil line of the plant and the ground. The clematis should be about two inches lower than the ground. This keeps the roots cooler and provides buds below ground if the vine should suffer a disease or infestation and you need to cut it back. Every clematis we sell has buds below the soil line, but we’d like you to plant deeply for extra protection. Fill the rest of the hole and over the top of the pot’s soil line with the mix you made earlier. Don’t cart the extra away until after you water the plant thoroughly. Sometimes the settling soil can leave the vine exposed. After all filling and watering are done, you should mulch your clematis carefully. This can be done with composted pine bark or other mulches, but you can also use stones. This is important because clematis need ample moisture to grow their best and mulch can help the soil retain moisture. Also, be sure to go back and water new plantings regularly during the first growing season. This will help them get off to a great start!
Some clematis will establish very quickly and flower within a year of planting. Others take a little longer, but they’re worth the wait!
Training- Some folks think of mailboxes and lampposts when they consider Clematis. These are two great ways to feature your vines. However, over the centuries gardeners have found dozens of beautiful ways to add Clematis to their gardens. A trellis is certainly a way to get a Clematis to cover up a bare wall or an unsightly view, but they can just as easily be trained into a shrub! Try a summer flowering variety like Clematis Comtesse de Bouchaud to add life to a forsythia whose spring show has long since faded. Or try combining complimentary colors like Clematis Candida and red roses! You can even mix different colors of Clematis together for a great show or to extend flowering season. No matter where you grow them all they need is a little guidance and the occasional twist-tie secured loosely until the vine grabs on by itself.
Some types of Clematis aren’t vines at all and can find a good home in your perennial border. Clematis integrifolia is a cute perennial with lovely blue flowers that would look great anywhere. Clematis heracleifolia is a stout, almost shrub-like perennial that also flowers blue and has leaves with a great texture. Clematis mandschurica is a rare cousin to Sweet Autumn Clematis that is a perennial with the same starry white flowers as its bigger relative. But don’t leave the perennial bed yet! The British are known to allow even the vining types into the border. They let them (sometimes with a little guidance) scramble around the perennials like streamers filling in the open spots. Clematis Nelly Moser would be excellent for a partly shady perennial combination. You can even use Clematis as a ground cover!
There are plenty of ways to grow Clematis on structures in your yard. Try training a Clematis Ernest Markham up each side of your front door. Sweet Autumn Clematis would provide summer shade overhead on a lattice over your back door. The old fence would brighten right up with a Clematis montana Grandiflora draped over it. Imagine your plain old bushes with a splash of red Clematis Madame Julia Correvon or your dogwood brought back to life in late summer with white flowered Clematis vitalba.
Many of the Large Flowered Types make great container plants as well. Try Clematis Dr Ruppel in a big pot on your patio or deck. You can plant small annuals around the base of the pot, too! Clematis General Sikorski’s blue flowers look great combined with white flowered impatiens or petunias. Just remember to use a large container, mulch your Clematis and be sure to remember to water it regularly.
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! Look around your yard with these ideas in mind and I’m sure you’ll find lots of ways to use the “Queen of Climbers”.
Pests- Clematis can get many of the same pest infestations as your other garden plants. Light infestations of insects and mildews can be treated with sprays suggested by your local garden center. A heavy infestation may be best treated by hard pruning of your vine. Landfill or burn the pruned parts. Do not throw them into the back corner of your yard or compost them. Slugs can be a problem on young vines at times. Encourage toads to live in your garden by providing them with cover or set a low jar of beer a couple of feet from your vines. There are chemical baits available for them as well. Usually the problems are minor and a little care is all you need to return the vine to its full beauty. The only major disease affects the Large Flowered Types and is called Clematis Wilt. When a vine is infected, one or more stems mysteriously wilt and die. If this happens, cut several inches below the dead stem or stems with sanitized pruning shears and landfill all of the debris. If the entire vine is infected, trim it to the ground. This is one of the reasons they should be planted deeply. New buds will arise from the crown underground. If you continue to have problems with Wilt or live in an area known to be badly affected by it, consider many of the fine species like the viticellas, alpinas and montanas. They are highly resistant to Clematis Wilt.
Pruning- OK, now, don’t worry! This is easier than you think. There is a very simple rule to follow when pruning your Clematis. Just use the flowers as a guide. Clematis flowering is divided into three major groups: spring (1), early summer (2) and late summer/fall (3). If you know when it flowers, you can choose when to trim it. There are also ways to make some of them change their bloom time, but that gets more complicated and I promised simplicity!
Group 1 Clematis flower in spring on buds from last year’s growth. They actually don’t need to be pruned at all but you may want to tidy them up from time to time. The best time to prune them is just after flowering. Shape them up or remove crowded or damaged branches. You can also guide new growth to a new position by trimming and tying branches at this time.
Group 2 Clematis begin flowering in early summer from last year’s growth as well as flowering later on short canes from new growth (in most cases). These should be pruned in spring before new growth begins. Look for fat, healthy buds on sturdy branches. They usually begin 1 to 2 feet down from the top of the vine. Make your cuts just above these healthiest buds. You may notice that you are cutting away some healthy canes, but you will be giving preference to the buds that will produce the best growth and flowers for you. At this time, trim away crowded and damaged branches, too.
Group 3 Clematis flower later in summer and into fall. They form flowers on new growth each year. For the best display and neatest look, they should be pruned back hard each spring to about two feet off the ground. However, if you are training one of these into a tree or onto an overhead arbor they should be left much longer. Look for fat, healthy buds on sturdy canes and make your cut just above them. The branches may be guided and tied to new positions now also.
Herbaceous Clematis don’t fit into the 3 groups mentioned above. They die back to the ground every year and all dead growth should be removed. They should be handled the same as perennials. The exception to this is Clematis heracleifolia which will die back to about 6 inches. Find the buds swelling in spring and trim just above them.
No matter which Clematis you choose, they will bring many years of beautiful blooms to your garden! Many can even be cut and used in arrangements or put in a vase. Try floating several in a shallow bowl for an interesting centerpiece. Their beauty and versatility truly make Clematis the Queen of Climbers!
On our site, Clematis are listed with updated hardiness guidelines. The American Clematis Society has made great progress recently in disproving the traditional hardiness limits used in most literature. Based in hot, Southern California, they have been successfully growing most varieties with beautiful results!
There are also many ways to extend the northern range of Clematis. Heavy mulching and/or planting in protected locations can raise the hardiness limit by a zone or more. Use a south facing wall with winter sun to create a slightly warmer climate in your yard.
So, relax and enjoy the site. And remember, anywhere we ship, there are Clematis for you!
Group 2 clematis are large-flowered hybrids which produce a heavy display in June on old wood, then a second bloom (with smaller flowers) later in the summer on new growth. Hybrids ‘Miss Bateman’, ‘Nelly Moser’ and ‘General Sikorski’ are just a few in this category. Group 2 vines require more early spring pruning than Group 1, but since the majority of the bloom is on old wood, you don’t want to trim away too much. Starting at the top, prune back one stem at a time to a healthy bud. If the vine has become tangled and requires a hard cutting back, the best time to do this is after the first flush of bloom, so the vine still has time to put on growth before the end of the season. Some varieties bloom on old and new wood simultaneously, meaning that they are in bloom almost continuously. It’s always hard to trim away a plant that is blooming, but in the long run you will be rewarded with more flowers on a healthier plant.
Group 2 Clematis:
C. ‘Henryi; C. ‘Multi Blue’; C. ‘Nelly Moser’; C. ‘Niobe’; C. ‘Ramona’
These summer or fall bloomers are smaller-flowered and bloom on new growth only, so you will want to prune them hard in early spring, removing all the old growth. C. terniflora (sweet autumn clematis) and hybrids ‘Ernest Markham’ and ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’ fall in this category. Group 3 clematis are the easiest to prune, because although you cut away more of the plant, there is little decision-making necessary. Just be sure you leave two sets of healthy buds on each stem, about 12 to 30 inches above the ground. These vines start their new growth close to where last year’s growth ended. Left unpruned, they will develop long, twiggy stems at the base. If your goal is to have the clematis bloom on a support far above the ground, you might actually want to encourage this.
Group 3 Clematis:
C. ‘Hagley Hybrid’; C. ‘Jackmanii’; C. ‘Ladybird Johnson’; C. terniflora; C. ‘Ville de Lyon’
Training a Young Clematis
Anxious though you may be to see your newly planted clematis bloom for the first time, some patience is required, since these vines need a strong root system to support luxuriant growth. Prune a young clematis back to 18 to 24 inches in its first season, no matter which group it falls in. Doing so encourages branching and will improve the vine’s appearance and flower production in the future.
Rejuvenating an Old Clematis
If you have a clematis so overgrown and tangled that it is no longer blooming and you don’t even know where to start pruning, you can rejuvenate it by cutting it almost back to the ground in very early spring. Within a year’s time, you will once again be rewarded with bountiful blooms. After pruning, a clematis will put on growth quickly, so be sure to keep it watered and fertilized even when it’s not blooming.
University of Illinois Extension
Ohio State University Extension
Title Photo: Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ by Joy