Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


October 29, 2012

PLATEAU GARDENING: Pruning, supporting hardy clematis vines

CROSSVILLE — If you add a clematis to your landscape this fall or in February or March next year, remember to keep track of the varietal name and characteristics of your vine. Clematis start slowly, needing no pruning the first two or three years. If the need arises, time trimming according to the pruning category in which your specimen belongs. Groups 2 and 3 have been detailed in prior articles. Here is the rundown on that last pruning classification and names of some cultivars in it.

Clematis Pruning Group 3 (at times called Group C) contains primarily plants that bloom on new wood (current season’s growth). Flower buds develop on new shoots formed in spring and early summer. Bloom time is summer through autumn. Winter cold won’t curtail flowering, but a spring and/or early summer drought or delaying pruning until summertime could limit blossoms for that season.

Prune in late winter while the plant is dormant. Cut back to four buds per stem (10 to 12 inches above the soil line). New growth develops above the cuts, and those shoots bear flowers. If not cut back for many years, lower stems of some in this category will be bare and woody producing neither leaves nor flowers. Cut back in late winter to rejuvenate them. Regular pruning also keeps vigorous growers in check.

The large-flowered hybrids in this group (usually Jackmanii and crosses with Jackmanii in their parentage) are susceptible to fungal wilt and are rarely scented. Ernest Markham (5-6 inch magenta blooms with gold anthers in summer), Rouge Cardinal (4-6 inch crimson red blossoms), and Romantika (4-5 inch deep, dark purple summertime blooms) are large-flowered cultivars that should do well in Tennessee. Clematis viticella, Clematis terniflora (aka C. paniculata and Sweet Autumn Clematis) and Clematis texensis (native to Texas) all have a profusion of small blooms.

Small-flowered clematis rarely get clematis wilt. Some have fragrant blossoms. C. viticella varieties to look for are Polish Spirit (3-4 inch, deep purple blooms June to September) and Purpurea Plena Elegans (2-3 inch double rose-purple flowers in late summer). Sweet Autumn Clematis is NOT a recommended choice despite its fragrant, white, star-shaped blossoms. In some situations this cultivar can be an invasive, weedy pest plant.

Clematis grow between 6 and 30 feet high. Have sufficient space and a support (mailbox, fence, trellis, tree, light pole) tall enough and sturdy enough for your variety. Clematis vine leaf stalks act like tendrils wrapping around any thin upright to cling. Attaching plastic netting or fish line to the base of a support will help the vine climb. The Mary’s Greenhouse suggestion at is a good one: “Carefully attach the bottom of the vine to a cane. Lean the cane over to the trellis, etc. that the clematis is to climb. Then push that cane into the soil so the vine stem is fairly stable. This helps keep the stem from being broken or weakened by animals, weather, etc. Not damaging the base of a newly planted clematis is important.” 

There is a PVC trellis plan that costs about $12. Buy three 10-foot sections 3/4-inch PVC pipe, ten 3/4-inch PVC tee connectors, two 3/4-inch PVC elbows and two 3/4-inch PVC end caps. Cut the PVC pipe to size with a miter saw. Cut seventeen 18” and two 12” PVC pipe pieces. Assemble the base in a ladder-like pattern with five 18” horizontal rungs and ten 18” uprights. Join with tees. See lay out photo. Put a 12” upright above the top tee on either side. Cap one end of the remaining 18” pieces to make "legs" to hold the trellis away from the building. Use an elbow to join the top 12” upright on each side to the open end of a capped 18” piece.

• • •

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region.  UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) has answers to horticulture questions, free publications and details on how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, 



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