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A Clematis for Every Garden

By: Stephanie Petersen
If you’re not sure which clematis will grow best in your garden, check out 7 varieties we recommend that will fit any situation from hot summers to container gardens!

'Jackmanii' clematis on white picket fence: 'Jackmanii' clematis has purple blooms in early summer.

What’s a garden without a clematis? You’re probably familiar with the spectacular flower show many cultivars, such as ‘Jackmanii’ in the photo above, put on. Clambering up and over a white picket fence or scrambling on a trellis or other structure are classic uses. Some gardeners adorn their mailboxes with them, too. Since there are hundreds to choose from in a wide range of sizes, colors and flower shapes, they can be used in even more situations. Below, I’ll talk about how to grow a clematis, suggest some places to try them and introduce you to a cultivar that works well there.

Best site and soil for clematis

Clematis can be slow to take off. It may take a couple of years, but good soil prep and proper planting will help your plant get established. Clematis can grow in part shade, but for best results find a spot with at least 6 hours of full sun a day. For a gallon-size plant, dig a hole 18 inches deep and wide. If the soil is very heavy with lots of clay, add compost. Clematis like alkaline soil, so add ground limestone to raise the pH so it will be between 7 to 7.5, if needed.

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fp-pg-Clematis-anywhere-Illustration: Set the clematis plant in the hole with the crown 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface.

How to plant clematis

Planting depth is important. Set the plant in the hole with the crown 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface, covering up to two sets of leaf nodes. This way they’ll grow extra flowering stems for a fuller plant faster. See the illustration above for how it looks once it’s in the ground. If necessary, stake the vine until it has grown enough to reach its permanent support. Pinch out the tips of new shoots once or twice during the first growing season to encourage branching near the base of the vine.

Find the right clematis for your garden

With the right start, your clematis will be adding tons of flowers to a variety of situations in your garden. And you may be able to grow clematis in conditions you didn’t think you could. Let’s see where they can go.

Odoriba-clematis-with-illustration: 'Odoriba' clematis has lilylike pink and white flowers in late summer through early fall.

Clematis that can handle the heat

‘Odoriba’ (Clematis hybrid)

Clematis typically need to have their roots kept cool in the summer and require a winter chilling period to thrive. This can be a challenge where summers are hot and dry and winter is brief. ‘Odoriba’ is a hybrid of two native species (C. viorna and C. crispa) that thrives in these tough conditions. Its pink and white flowers will show off on an arbor, pergola or in a tree in late summer to early fall.

If you’d like other clematis that thrive in heat and drought, look for hybrids with native C. texensis in their heritage. ‘Duchess of Albany’ is one option that has pink tuliplike blooms from mid-summer to fall on 10-foot vines.

Blooms Lilylike pink and white flowers in late summer through early fall
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Moist, well-drained
Size 8 to 10 ft. tall, spreading
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9
Source Joy Creek Nursery


Nelly-Moser-clematis-with-illustration: The showy summer blooms of 'Nelly Moser' clematis are mauve pink with a deep pink bar.

Brighten the shade

‘Nelly Moser’ (Clematis hybrid)

‘Nelly Moser’ can be grown in full sun, but the intense color on the petals tends to fade in too much light. Plant it instead in a spot where it will be shaded in the afternoon and the large 6- to 8-inch-wide blooms will be more vibrant. In the photo above, it’s planted underneath an overhang, against the side of a building. Another option is an area that gets dappled sunlight all day. Delicate pale pink and blue clematis can also bleach out entirely when they get too much sun. Claire de Lune™ and ‘Dawn’ are a couple of others that prefer a part-shade spot.

Blooms Mauve pink petals with a deep pink bar in summer
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Moist, well-drained
Size 6 to 10 ft. tall, spreading
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
Source American Meadows


Avant-Garde-clematis-with-illustration: The early summer blooms of Avant-Garde clematis are a stunning velvet-red with pink pompon center.

Draw attention

Avant-Garde™ (Clematis hybrid)

Pompons always attract attention, and Avant-Garde's pink pompon center surrounded by a velvety red halo will turn visitors’ heads. At first glance, it may be difficult to recognize this unusual flower form of as a clematis. And that’s one of the reasons it makes such a great addition as a specimen in your garden. The flowers are small, only 2 to 3 inches wide, but plants are the perfect size to cover a trellis in summer. Clematis with double or bicolor flowers are good choices for a focal point in the garden. ‘Crystal Fountain’ has 5- to 6-inch light purple double flowers and ‘Empress’ boasts 2- to 5-inch pink and white double blooms.

Blooms Flowers are velvet-red with pink pompon center in early summer
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Moist, well-drained
Size 6 to 10 ft. tall, spreading
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 11
Source Annie's Annuals & Perennials

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Leatherflower-clematis-with-illustration: Leatherflower is a North American native species with a clumping habit.

Enjoy clematis in a border

Leatherflower (Clematis ochraleuca)

Not all clematis have tall vines with twining petioles. Leatherflower is a North American native species with a clumping habit. Grow this clematis at the front of the border where you can enjoy its petite, bell-shaped flowers. This one in particular is fairly drought-tolerant and can even be grown in a rock garden that gets a little afternoon shade. Sugarbowl (C. scotti) is a Colorado native clematis with deep blue bell-shaped flowers in late spring to early summer that has a similar look and prefers the same conditions.

Blooms Pale green to white flowers with purple blush in late spring
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Well-drained
Size 12 to 15 in. tall and wide
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
Source Plant Delights Nursery


Purpurea-clematis-with-illustration: ‘Purpurea’ clematis has dark purple-bronze foliage when it’s young.

Add dark foliage

‘Purpurea’ (Clematis recta)

Purple foliage always adds extra color and contrast in the garden. And there’s a clematis to do that job, too. ‘Purpurea’ has dark purple-bronze foliage when it’s young. It greens up some as the season goes on, and small, fragrant creamy-white flowers add extra contrast from early to late summer. ‘Purpurea’ isn’t a climber, but more of a clump-forming herbaceous type. Even so, it may need a little extra support — plant it alongside taller perennials so they can hold each other up, or corral its leaning stems with a hoop stake. It’s great in a border or a container. Serious Black™ (also known as 'Lime Close') is another clematis with dark foliage and a similar habit.

Blooms Creamy white flowers from early to late summer
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Well-drained
Size 36 to 48 in. tall, 24 to 30 in. wide
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9
Source White Flower Farm


Parisienne-clematis-with-illustration: Parisienne™ is compact and grows easily in a large container.

Use clematis in a container

Parisienne (Clematis hybrid)

If you don’t have much space to garden, a compact clematis, such as Parisienne in the photo, will fit into small beds and even large containers. It’s part of the Boulevard® Series, which has lots of colors to choose from and offers season-long color on compact vines. Growing a clematis in a container is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind: Be sure to choose a pot at least 18 inches wide and deep to hold the roots and stabilize the vine. In cold climates, overwinter the clematis by wrapping the pot and woody stems with burlap after a hard freeze. Make sure it’s in a place that’s protected from wind and extreme temperatures. Choose wood or resin pots that can handle freezing temps. Other cultivars that stay less than 6 feet tall, such as ‘Filigree’ and ‘Piilu’, can also be grown in a pot.

Blooms Light purple flowers from early to late summer
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Moist, well-drained
Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
Source Brushwood Nursery


Bill-MacKenzie-clematis-with-illustration: The bell-shaped golden-yellow blooms of 'Bill MacKenzie' can be seen from late summer through frost.

Cover a wall

‘Bill MacKenzie’ (Clematis hybrid)

‘Bill MacKenzie’ is a vigorous vine that can quickly cover a wall, chainlink fence or large trellis. It makes a great back-drop or screen. Most clematis bloom in shades of purple, pink, white, red and blue, so these golden-yellow open bell-shaped flowers are an interesting alternative with bright, eye-catching appeal when covering large spaces. As flowers fade, ‘Bill MacKenzie’ develops tan silky seedheads that stay on even after the leaves drop, providing extra interest through winter. Cultivars of C. montana also grow large vigorous vines and work well in these situations.

Blooms Bell-shaped golden-yellow blossoms from late summer through frost
Light Full sun to part shade
Soil Well-drained
Size 10 to 15 ft. tall, spreading
Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
Source Brushwood Nursery

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Published: July 29, 2020
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