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Home & Garden

Learning to Grow in St. Charles: Clematis vine provides bright beauty

My favorite vine, the clematis, is a beautiful climber. Clematis vines bloom in a wide variety of rich colors, ranging from white to red and pink to purple. Flowers may be shaped like stars or bells.

The stems of clematis climb by twining their tiny leaf petioles around supports 3/4-inch or less in diameter. If not provided support to climb, they will twine their way through neighboring plants. Depending on the type, they can grow as tall as 20 feet or higher, or remain just 2 to 5 feet tall.

Clematis vines are divided into three categories for pruning purposes. Group A blooms in late April on last season’s “old wood.” Pruning is limited to immediately after blooming if needed.

Group B flowers on old and new wood and will bloom in spring and again in fall. Pruning is more challenging and must occur in early spring to remove dead wood. If major pruning is needed, it should be done after spring blooming.

Group C is late blooming and perhaps the easiest to care for because they bloom on new wood. These plants can be pruned down to 8 to 10 inches from the base to encourage a healthy, blooming vine each season. It is important to keep any information that comes with your plant for later reference regarding plant care.

After you decide which type of clematis you would like to grow, choose a favorable location. Once established, clematis do not like to be disturbed or transplanted. Pick a site with well-drained soil where the top of the vine will receive full sun for the best production of blooms, but where the roots will be shaded and cool.

Organic material can be used to protect the roots and help the soil retain moisture, but remember to keep mulch pulled away from the base of stems. A low perennial ground cover also can be used to shade the roots.

Choose a plant with multiple stems and make sure to have a support in place for the vine to climb. Twine can be used, because the leaf petioles more easily wrap around smaller-diameter structures.

Give clematis – often called the queen of vines – a chance in your garden. Although pruning may seem complicated, even if you prune at the wrong time, it likely only will result in delayed or limited flowering, and the vine will bounce back the next season.

Darlie Simerson is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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