How to grow clematis – the best climbing flowers for your fences

Learn how to grow clematis and boring fences will be a thing of the past

how to grow clematis
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Learning how to grow clematis can transform your garden. This climbing plant is perfect for disguising unsightly fences and helping to blur the edges of your garden – a great way to make a small space feel bigger. There's a clematis for all seasons and situations. But with so much on offer, choosing the right one can be confusing. 

Our favourites for bold, bright colour are the Viticella group. Originating in the sunny, dry climes of southern and Eastern Europe, they tolerate a wide range of locations, in sun or shade, and have a long-flowering season. They're perfect for growing through other climbers that may already have flowered earlier in the season or adding a contrasting pop of colour.

Clematis can be combined with other climbing plants for a bold display. Try contrasting colours, such as a bright purple clematis with a pale pink rose. Or try training up a trellis alongside an evergreen shrub for some extra foliage. Combine them with honeysuckle and you'll fill your garden with gorgeous summer fragrance.

Read on for our top tips for growing clematis, then check out our guide to where to buy plants online

WHEN TO PLANT CLEMATIS

For best results, plant clematis in autumn for flowering the following summer. Smaller varieties can be grown in containers, with support – use John Innes No. 3 compost with added grit. 

two clematis plants growing up an arch

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DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLEMATIS

Group 1

These flower during winter and spring and need no pruning at all. This group includes winter-flowering clematis, such as C. cirrhosa ‘Freckles’, which are best tucked up against a  warm, south-facing wall. 

Group 2

These clematis produce a few large flowers in May and June, and are the most demanding to grow and the trickiest to prune. They are prone to clematis wilt (a water-stress problem) and hard to place due to their oversized flowers. Lightly prune in February, or a little later, to the highest shooting bud.

Group 3

These flower after Midsummer’s Day (21 June) but before the end of August, and many are bred from a drought-tolerant Spanish species called C. viticella (Vt on labels). Group 3 clematis are good for arches and covering fences and trellises.

HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS

Growing a late, large-flowered clematis in a container will bring versatility to your patio or terrace. In order to give your clematis the best chance, it’s important to choose a large container, which is at least 45cm deep and across, as clematis develop an extensive root system. Thin plastic pots heat up too much in summer, so a wooden half-barrel or a thick concrete container is better. Make sure it’s well drained and stand it on pot feet. 

If planting directly into the ground, water your climber, then dig a hole approximately 45cm from the wall or fence and fork in some organic matter. Make sure you have a trellis or canes for the plant to scramble up.

Any sunny or semi-shady location works and well-drained soil is a must. They’ll tolerate light chalk to sandy acidic types, but not heavy clay or sites prone to waterlogged soil in winter. If you have this sort of soil, mixing grit for drainage is essential. 

Clematis 'Etoile Violett' climbing up trellis.

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HOW TO CARE FOR CLEMATIS

Use a high-potash feed, such as a rose fertiliser, throughout the growing season to encourage better flowering. When you’re happy with the height, pinch out new growing tips to encourage even more flowering stems. Keep watering your clematis – particularly if you're growing them in a container as they don't like to dry out. 

Take extra care of your clematis during the summer months. Weed around them carefully, being sure not to disturb stems and roots. If roots are in sun, add groundcover plants to create shade. Give the plant a general-purpose liquid feed now on moist soil, and again in three weeks’ time. Mulch over the roots with well-rotted garden compost, but keep the stems clear. 

PROBLEMS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Clematis wilt is a disease caused by a fungus Calophoma clematidina and is more likely to affect large-flowered varieties. It can survive in soil and spreads when spores are splashed onto plants by rain or watering. Look out for blackening leaf stalks and wilting of the stem and if you notice these symptoms cut away the wilted stems and get rid of them. Clean your tools afterwards to prevent the spread.

You can avoid the wilt in advance by making sure the roots are planted deep in the ground and mulching the plant. Keep it well watered but don’t drown it.

BEAUTIFUL CLEMATIS TO GROW IN YOUR GARDEN

You're spoilt for choice with clematis. Here are some of our favourite varieties for you to grow:

CLEMATIS MONTANA 'GRANDIFLORA'

Clematis montana grandiflora

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CLEMATIS MONTANA 'GRANDIFLORA'

This large-flowering, snaking variety is great for a shady spot. It flaunts large white flowers from May to June. It's perfect for a north-facing wall which doesn't get a great deal of sun. It will really brighten up the place!View Deal

CLEMATIS ARABELLA

Clematis arabella

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Clematis Arabella

This pretty purple variety likes to be positioned in full sun, so it's perfect up against a south-facing wall or fence. It's also great for pots and flowers for months, from late spring to early autumn.View Deal

CLEMATIS 'PICARDY'

Clematis picardy

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Clematis 'Picardy'

Choose this beautiful deep purple variety for repeat flowering. Once blooms are over, cut the stems back to 15cm. Continue watering and feeding and you will find it reflowers again.View Deal

CLEMATIS PRINCE CHARLES

Clematis prince charles

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Clematis Prince Charles

This variety is resistant to mildew and is easy-to-grow. So ideal for beginner gardeners wanting something simple to start out with. The flowers are 10cm across and open as azure blue which fades as they mature.


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CLEMATIS X DURANDII

Clematis x durandii

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Clematis x Durandii

Grow this one in partial shade for flowers from June to September. It won't cling to walls and fences freely so you will need to train it up supports as it grows. View Deal

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