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Q&A - Careing for your Clematis

This section is based on an article that appeared in a recent BCS Journal. It will be updated from time to time as new areas of interest arise.

If you have any questions about looking after clematis, please feel free to e-mail us and we will arrange for them to be answered for you by one of our more experienced members. We do this on the understanding that we may publish the question and answer at a later date without, of course, disclosing your name.

Controlling a rampant C. cirrhosa 'Freckles'
Watering clematis plants
Clematis & drought
Frost damage on clematis

How do I control a very disobedient and rampant Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'? The plant is 10 years old and despite her disobedience, flowers profusely every year! Help, before 'Freckles' finds her way into our home!

You should have no difficulty in controlling C. cirrhosa. In the North, the weather would do this for you. Prune after flowering by thinning out the shoots but refrain from going too far back into previous year's wood. C. cirrhosa flowers on old wood.

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Please give me some indication on how much, and how often should I water my clematis plants. I have quite a number of very old, and not so old clematis, in my garden.

No two gardens have the same requirements for water. Plant positions and soil texture determine the needs. Every gardener gets to know the soil and plants gradually by observation, trial and error. This is fundamental to gardening. Sunshine can change the surface of a wet soil to dry in a very short time, but if you are garden-wise you will know it is only 'skin-deep'.

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Despite a very dry April my early-flowering clematis have all performed exceptionally well this year. I understand that when plants are under stress they produce a large number of flowers. Is this true of clematis, and is this the reason why my plants have produced a record number of beautiful flowers? Does this mean my plants are going to die as a result of this 'stress'? Silver-leafed plants, I am told, withstand persistent drought. If so, are there any silver -leafed clematis available on the market?

When clematis plants are subjected to stress they usually die or at least collapse. I would say your record number of beautiful flowers is the result of good cultivation coinciding with favourable weather conditions including adequate rainfall and sunshine - quite the opposite of stress. It is a fact though that if a plant is starved
excessively it will endeavour to flower and seed, however small, before it dies. To the best of my knowledge there are no silver-leafed clematis - Clematis tibetana subsp. vernayi is probably the closest with glaucous leaves.

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Can you explain why my healthy new shoots of montanas and some large-flowered clematis have collapsed and look withered? I do not think clematis wilt is the cause.

You are right. This sudden damage is not the result of wilt. Severe frosts (-5°C to -6°C) during the growing season (Spring) can affect the new healthy shoots and even well developed buds in some early flowering clematis. There is very little we can do about sudden weather changes. Protecting the plant or plants with horticultural fleece may help prevent frost damage.

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