By: Teo Spengler
Evergreen clematis is a vigorous ornamental vine and its leaves stay on the plant all year round. It is usually grown for the fragrant white flowers that appear on these clematis vines in spring. If you are interested in growing evergreen clematis, read on for all the information you’ll need to get started.
Evergreen Clematis Vines
Popular in the Pacific Northwest, these vines climb by twisting stems around any support you set out for them. They can grow to 15 feet (4.5 m.) tall and 10 feet (3 m.) wide over time.
The glossy leaves on evergreen clematis vines are some three inches (7.5 cm.) long and one inch (2.5 cm.) wide. They are pointed and droop downward.
In the spring, white blossoms appear on the vines. If you start growing evergreen clematis, you’ll love the sweet-smelling flowers, each 2-3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm.) wide and arranged in clusters.
Growing Evergreen Clematis
Evergreen clematis vines thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. If you take care to find an appropriate site when planting an evergreen clematis, you’ll find the vine is low maintenance. These evergreen vines do best if you plant them in full or partial sun, as long as the vine base remains in shade.
Planting an evergreen clematis in well-drained soil is essential, and it’s best to work organic compost into the soil. Evergreen clematis growing works best if you plant the vine in soil with a high organic content.
When planting an evergreen clematis, you can help the vine by applying several inches (5 to 10 cm.) of straw or leaf mulch on the soil above the vine’s root area. This keeps the roots cool in summers and warm in winters.
Evergreen Clematis Care
Once you get your vine appropriately planted, you need to concentrate on cultural care. The most time-consuming part of evergreen clematis growing involves pruning.
Once the flowers have faded from the vine, proper evergreen clematis care includes trimming out all of the dead vine wood. Most of this is located on the inside of the vines, so you’ll have to spend some time to get it all.
If your vine gets stringy over time, it may need rejuvenating. If this happens, evergreen clematis care is easy: just cut the entire vine off at ground level. It will grow back quickly.
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Top 10 Tips on Growing Gorgeous Clematis Vines
Clematis is the queen of climbing plants! Old man’s beard, Traveller’s joy, Virgin’s bower are some of the common names for this popular plant. Clematis vines are so versatile that they can be grown on walls, pergolas, frames, containers, or left to scramble through trees and shrubs.
They come in so many different shapes and colors and sometimes even evergreen foliage. What is truly great about these climbers is that they are very easy to grow if you follow few simple steps. Keep reading to discover how to grow these beauties successfully…
1. Selecting the plant
You will find dozens of different clematis varieties at the garden center. When choosing the perfect ones for your garden, you need to consider the variety’s mature height, flower form, and color. If you have space to choose, you can go with a 10- or 20-foot clematis vine, but there are more compact varieties if your space is limited.
Also, there are varieties with large flowers and some with smaller blossoms, double blossoms, and lovely bell-like flowers. The colors you can choose from are white, lavender, purple, wine red, or even yellow.
Choose at least 2 years old plant as clematis needs several years to mature and start flowering vigorously. Make sure the plant is container-grown and is robust and healthy.
2. Planting info
Clematis can be grown both in containers and in the garden. They are usually planted in fall or early spring, depending on the climate zone and the variety. Most clematis varieties need a lot of space as well as good airflow. As for the soil, it should be well-drained and rich. When you have found the perfect spot for planting your clematis vine, dig two feet deep hole and fill it with some compost. Cut back your plant a bit before planting to lessen the shock and help it adapt easier to the new environment.
Once you have planted your clematis, you will need to water it regularly until the plant is well established. This means watering once a week the first season. If your plant gets through its first year, it will continue to thrive, and it will need just a little bit of care to be healthy and happy. During hot periods, all clematis varieties need watering. A deep soaking once a week is better than watering little but often.
When you have a well-established plant, it will require some fertilizer. Feeding your plant regularly will help it maintain healthy growth and flowering potential. Use organic fertilizer to keep a good soil structure. Clematis responds well to tomato or rose food as well as any fertilizer in the range of 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 or good compost or chicken manure. In late winter or early spring, apply a potassium-rich fertilizer.
5. Supporting the plant
To grow, clematis vines need something to climb on. This is why you should support the plant from day one. But clematis isn’t a plant that climbs by twining around something it climbs by wrapping its leaf stems around something. These leaf stems are not very long, so anything more than about 1/2 inch in diameter is too wide for the leaf stem to twist around. This is why it is recommended to use twine, fishing line, wire, thin branches, wooden dowels, or steel rods. Even you have a trellis, add some twine lines or cover it with a grid of trellis netting. To keep the plant attached to the trellis, you will need to do some trussing, using a fishing line and twine.
6. Growing in containers
To allow good root growth, choose a container that is at least 45cm deep and wide. Again, support is important, so use an obelisk or a small trellis. Avoid multi-purpose compost and use loam-based compost instead. This is because multi-purpose compost will break down with years which will lead to poor drainage and nutrition.
7. Common problems
There are few common problems you can encounter while growing clematis. The first is clematis wilt which can cause vines to suddenly collapse and die after their foliage and stems have blackened. If there is poor air circulation, the plant can be affected by powdery mildew. Also, be aware of aphids and spider mites, and slugs. Slugs attack fresh spring growths, so make sure you put slug barriers.
8. Pruning group 1
One of the most important things when growing clematis vines is pruning. Different varieties require a different approach. This is why clematis are divined into 3 pruning groups, and once you determine in which group your variety belongs, you will know exactly what to do. Group 1 includes winter clematis and evergreen clematis, which produce flowers on shoots that grew the previous summer. This group requires very little or no pruning. If needed, they can be lightly pruned after flowering and after the risk of frost has passed in late spring.
9. Pruning group 2
Clematis vines from group 2 need light pruning. This includes pruning to stimulate new shoots to provide late summer flowers. It is best to prune them once in late winter or early spring and then once in early summer when the first flush of flowers has faded. Both times avoid heavy pruning you only want to encourage healthy new growth.
10. Pruning group 3
The varieties in group 3 require hard pruning. This is because they make new growth from the base each year. You should prune your group 3 clematis in late winter or early spring when the buds show growth signs. What you should do is cut the stems to just above a pair of healthy buds 15-30cm (6-12″) above soil level. If you don’t prune them, the varieties from this group will develop bare lower stems, so the flowers will be very high where you can’t see them.
You can buy clematis as bare-root or established in a pot, either way prepare your planting hole well. Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunshine in high summer.
They can be planted in a spot with less sunshine but they won’t perform as well as in sun. In hotter climates late afternoon shade helps the colors on darker versions stay vibrant. The hot sun tends to fade them out, but they are still beautiful just less showy.
Loosen up the soil deeper and wider than you will plant. Do your best, the roots of these plants are vigorous and will run deep.
You want to give them a head start by loosening up the area around their roots. Don’t sweat it though they are vigorous growers and don’t need too much babying.
Plant the clematis about 2 to 4 inches deeper than the crown of the plant. This will help if the clematis gets struck with wilt, a fungus that causes the entire vine to die back.
Having the crown under the soil allows you to cut it completely back and it will grow new shoots that are fungus/disease free.
If you do contend with the wilt be sure to clean up and burn any of the vines, leaves etc you cut off, you don’t want that fungus hanging around.
No matter the pruning group, when you first plant your clematis you should prune back the growth to 8 to 12 inches the first growing season. This is tough to do but it is rewarding.
Pruning it back ensures good root development which is crucial to a healthier clematis and more shoots coming up from the base. More shoots, more flowers.
Nelly Moser Clematis
The complete clematis growing guide
My first clematis was ‘Mrs. N. Thompson’, a spindly specimen from a local garden center, but I thought it was something spectacular because it was a clematis that wasn’t ‘Nelly Moser’. Up until that point, I was under the impression that the only two clematis that existed were ‘Nelly’ and ‘Jackmanii’.
‘Mrs. N. Thompson’ clematis was the first clematis I bought and she was a bossy gal.
‘Mrs. N. Thompson’ never grew that well for me, in part because I don’t think it’s a great cultivar, but mostly because I now know that I did a lot wrong in growing it. But it introduced me to a plant that is my great gardening weakness. Every year I realize I have no more places to put more clematis and every year I buy more because they are just amazing plants.
I don’t know everything about growing clematis, but this post includes pretty much everything I know, and it has served me well in caring for the more than 30 clematis I have in my garden.
Many clematis are hardy from zone 4 to 9, but not all fall within the entire range, so double check that it will be hardy in your area before you buy.
All clematis want sun, although some can be pushed into part sun or even grow moderately well in some shade (‘Silver Moon’ grows—not rambunctiously, but it flowers—up the skirting on the north side of my deck).
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‘Silver Moon’ grows in bright shade in my garden, not exactly thriving, but still putting out a good number of luminescent flowers.
There is a long-standing saying about clematis that they “want their feet in the shade but their face in the sun,” and I think people take this too literally. When I planted poor ‘Mrs. N. Thompson’, I put chunks of fieldstone on top the roots (yeah, um, don’t do that). What I’ve learned is that they really just want moist, rich, soil to grow in with a nice layer of mulch on top (like a lot of plants) the shade part isn’t necessary.
Clematis is a rule breaker when it comes to planting. Typically plants should be placed so that the top of the soil in the ground is the same as it was in the container and planted directly in the native soil (turns out that whole “$10 hole for a $5 plant” advice was probably off base). But clematis are special (or for the kids out there: extra) and they want special treatment.
This is what I want to see in spring: A happy clematis with oodles of stems emerging from the ground.
Here’s how I plant clematis. You will find variations on this technique and I suspect they all work, but I stick with what works for me. Dig a big hole, far bigger than the plant: about three times the width and twice the depth. Add in compost, well-rotted manure (it should not have a smell), a small amount of Espoma Rose-Tone and the soil you dug out. Place the clematis on a 45-degree angle toward whatever it will be growing up, with the crown buried 3 to 4 inches under the finished level of the soil.
(Edited to add: A kind commenter brought up that some people do not recommend this deep planting method for non-vining bush-type clematis. I’ve read that as well, but I read it after I had already planted many bush types deeply. I can report that all are doing well, but in the future I will probably plant them shallower.)
Fill in the rest of the soil and water it in really well. Mulch well.
And then, you need to do the hard part. If it’s not already been cut back, you need to cut those vines back. I know it’s hard, but you want it to worry about roots, not flowers or stems right now. So cut it back to about two leaf buds. I promise it’s worth it.
This is the part where people freak out about growing clematis. Don’t let it stop you.
Clematis, like most vines, are pretty big feeders. There’s a lot of growth to support there. I fertilize two to three times a year with Espoma Rose-Tone: once in spring when I prune, once again before they flower (for late-flowering varieties) and then after they are done flowering. Never when they are in bud or flowering (I don’t know why, to be honest, but I read it somewhere once, so that’s what I do).
Keep up on the watering, especially while they are getting established, because they like moisture (but not sitting in wet soil).
‘Etoile Violette’ blooms profusely up the deck stair railing. It’s a Group 3 clematis, meaning it is cut back all the way each spring.
Pruning is the part that throws everyone for a loop, but the good news is that you won’t kill your clematis if you do it wrong. The worst case scenario is that you’ll either have few flowers or all the flowers will be very high up in the air. You need to know what kind of clematis it is. They are divided into groups and that dictates how and when you prune them.
The plant tag should tell you what pruning group they fall into or you can look it up by the name of the plant. If you’ve lost the tag and can’t remember the name, you’ll have to do a little detective work, but it’s best to just let it go for a year, observe how and when it blooms and make note of it for the next year.
Group 1: These bloom on old wood, so you only need to prune out dead or damaged stems. If you need to prune for another reason, do it after they bloom. Group 1 clematis bloom very early.
Group 2: These are probably the most common kind of clematis and the ones people think of first. I prune these in early spring, when buds begin to swell, following a rule of thirds. One third of the stems get cut back to about one or two leaf buds from the base, one third gets pruned to about half their length (height?) and the last third remains unpruned. Some Group 2s can be pruned again after flowering and they may rebloom in late summer or early fall.
Group 3: I love Group 3s because they are easy. Just prune them back to one or two buds from the base in early spring or late winter.
See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? The best visual aid I’ve found is on Margaret Roach’s website.
As for winter care, well, there is none. Just forget about them until spring.
If there was any doubt about the number of clematis I have, I can’t actually recall if I still have this ‘Perle d’ Azur’ anymore or not. If I don’t I’m ordering it again because it is outstanding.
When you get addicted to clematis like I have, placing them is an issue. One can only have so many trellises. So I use nature’s trellises: that is, trees and shrubs in my garden.
I grow clematis everywhere, including up a piece of driftwood.
In fact, I think clematis looks best when it’s intermingling with something else. I grow ‘Prince Charles’ on my Limelight hydrangea and the flowers look like they are on the same shrub. ‘Gravetye Beauty’ gets a little help making its way up the trunk of the Serviceberry tree and then scrambles throughout the branches. A Group 1 clematis (whose name I cannot recall) grows up the magnolia tree off the deck and last year did a wonderful job disguising the face that the magnolia died.
I also grow clematis together and in the classic combination of a clematis with a climbing rose (although I’m swapping out the clematis I grow next to ‘Autumn Sunset’ rose on the front of the house because they never bloomed at the same time and it seemed like such a missed opportunity to me).
‘Sugar Sweet Blue’ clematis will get a new home this spring. It’s growing next to the ‘Autumn Sunset’ climbing rose, but it blooms so early that they are never blooming at the same time.
Lately though, I’ve become enamored with non-vining clematis varieties that stay short and flop over walls or meander among other perennials. They are Group 3s so they are easy to clean up, and they are an unexpected addition to the garden.
‘Sapphire Indigo’ is a new favorite. It’s non-vining and it happily mingles with the nearby Oso Easy roses.
My advice to gardeners is usually to shop their local garden center first, but I stray from that advice for clematis. The clematis I see in garden centers are usually spindly, with just a few long stems, forced into flowering so they sell better. Remember, we want roots, not flowers, at first. There are exceptions to this, of course, but if I’m buying from a garden center I look for something with lots of stems coming from the soil, not a few tall stems.
Specialist clematis nurseries grow them best, in my opinion, so the two I recommend based on my personal experience are Brushwood Nursery and Silver Star Vinery. I’m sure there are other good clematis growers out there, I just haven’t ordered from them.
‘Sweet Summer Love’ growing amazingly well in my mom’s garden.
‘Betty Corning’ is a charmer. I grow it by the front door where its nodding blue bells soften the railing.
Well, how have you been saying it in your head while you read this? I am a firm supporter of the CLEM-uh-tis pronunciation, but there are a lot of clem-MAH-tis folks out there as well. Say it however you like, just grow them!
‘Princess Diana’ is on my must-grow list. It looks particularly good growing through dark-leafed shrubs.
You know this is like asking a parent who their favorite child is, right? Well, I do have a few favorites, but I’m always discovering new clematis that I love as well.
- ‘Sapphire Indigo’: A Group 3 non-vining clematis with deep blue (OK, purple-ish) flowers that absolutely cover the plant for most of the summer. Great seedheads as well.
- ‘Guernsey Cream’: A classic Group 2 that blooms very early and is just so creamy wonderful. I’d never be without it.
- ‘Princess Diana’: I have two of this Group 3 clematis because I thought the first one had died and I couldn’t be without its tulip-shaped pink bell-shaped flowers. The first one was fine and now there are two.
- ‘Sweet Summer Love‘: A small-flowering Group 3 with a lovely scent and crazy amounts of flowers.
- ‘Etoile Violette’: Dark purple, long-lasting medium-sized blooms that combine so well with so many other things and happily climb up my deck railing.
I don’t grow ‘Stand by Me’, a new introduction from Walters Gardens and Proven Winners last year, yet but I have my sights set on a mass planting of it because it comes to me in my dreams. I’m only sort of kidding. (Update: I planted three ‘Stand By Me’ clematis in a clump in the new patio garden area I redid in summer 2019.)
‘Guernsey Cream’ will always be a favorite of mine.
Well, yes, because there are downsides to any plant, particularly one that has such genetic diversity. Clematis wilt can be a problem with Group 2 clematis, although I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it. It’s a disease caused by a root-rotting fungus in which stems just suddenly wilt, often just as they are about to flower. To my knowledge, the only thing you can do for it is cut away the affected stems. Planting deeply helps new stems regrow and allows the plant to develop deep roots that will hopefully prevent clematis wilt from striking and, if it does, help it bounce back.
Some clematis are aggressive and even invasive in some areas. Sweet Autumn (Clematis terniflora) is a massive grower in most areas and will quickly cover anything and everything with a huge vine with thousands of small, white flowers. It is considered an invasive species in some areas, so handle that one with care.
‘Alba Luxurians’ is a delicate white clematis that gets green accents on its petals. I took this photo when it grew in a container but I moved it to grow up a spruce.
Other clematis are rampant self seeders. I presume this is highly dependent on where you garden because I’ve never had a clematis self seed in my garden in 17 years, but take note that some may have that habit in your garden.
Do you grow clematis? If so, I know you have a favorite. Share it in the comments. I might need to add to my collection.
The best clematis to grow in containers in the small garden
These are the newly developed varieties that only grow to 3-4ft (90-120cm. They flower most freely from late spring to early fall sometimes resting in the heat of mid-summer.
The best selections for a sunny location are the reds, deep blues, purples and whites as these do not lose their colour. The best varieties include: Fleuri, with its very deep velvety purple flowers and the deep purple- blue Chevalier it produces single, semi-double, and fully double flowers at the same time on the same plant.
If you prefer the deep pink shades then you must consider using the delightful Sally, or this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show introduction Endellion, they may grow a little taller reaching 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5m).
For those who prefer shades of blue, the very long flowering Parisienne cannot be beaten. It seems never to stop flowering until the colder days of fall arrive.
My great favourite is the outstanding Cezanne its blue flowers with yellow centres can manage both sun and shade
The paler colours such as the pinks, pale blues, lavender shades and the paler striped varieties are ideal for the shadier part of the garden and for using in outdoor dining areas My recommendations are:
Ooh La La (called Cherokee in the US) with bright pink flowers that have a deeper central bar to each sepal. It just produces a mass of these fun flowers. The really super Chantilly, is a must for shade its creamy flowers have a touch of pink they really do brighten up any area in the garden.
The very pale, but delightful The Countess of Wessex has white flowers, but each sepal has a faint splash of pale pink to its centre, this is a great favourite of mine, I just cannot resist white flowers.
For those desiring a darker shade of pink Abilene has to be the choice, the flowers have a yellow centre which contrasts perfectly. However if a mid-blue is needed, there is none better than the stunning Diana's Delight, each sepal fades to a paler colour as it reaches the centre of the flower.
How to Plant Clematis
Last Updated: August 1, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.
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Clematis are vines that come in a stunning variety of colors and bloom ranges. They’re perennials, blooming in the spring and summer and dying back in the fall and winter, and can grow up to 20 feet (6.1 m) tall with lifespans of over 80 years. Clematis require full sun on its blooms and cool shade over the roots in order to thrive. See Step 1 to learn how to plant and care for beautiful clematis.