How to train clematis
Clematis are some of our most popular plants, loved for their versatility and ability to provide vertical colour and cover. One of the most effective ways to use them is to train clematis up a wall or fence, but they also make lovely features in their own right, scrambling beautifully up and over obelisks, arches, even shrubs or small trees. Brilliant for extending the garden's season of interest, they are a diverse group of plants, with both evergreen and deciduous varieties, and with an array of clematis blooming every season, in a whole host of sizes and colours, there is a clematis for every garden. Just make sure you choose the right clematis for your needs - rampant, vigorous growers such as Clematis Armandii are perfect for quick cover to screen an unsightly wall or fence, while a slower growing variety like C. 'Crystal Fountain' is best for scrambling from a container or through a small shrub.
Most clematis will cope in full sun or partial shade and all like their roots to be kept cool, so train clematis where they can grow with other lower growing, shallow rooting plants, such as geraniums, to help shade their roots. All but the evergreen varieties should be planted deeply, at a depth of 5-8cm below the soil surface.
Clematis are versatile plants but one of the simplest ways to grow them is to train clematis up a wall or a fence. The soil in these spots is often poor and very dry, so dig in plenty of organic matter, such as your own garden compost or animal manure before planting. When training clematis up a wall or fence always plant them at least 45cm from the wall, out and away from the rain shadow, where there is plenty of light. Dig a large hole, twice the diameter of the clematis root ball and deep enough to allow the clematis to be planted 5-8 cm lower than the surface of the soil if necessary. Before training clematis up a wall or fence take the plant out of its pot and soak it in water for a couple of minutes and then plant, filling in around the root ball firmly with soil and watering in well.
A good tip before you train a clematis up a wall or fence is to provide the plant with some kind of support, such as wires, a trellis or mesh wire, before planting. This will make it easier to train a clematis up a wall or fence by allowing you to start tying the strongest shoots in straight away. If you are training a clematis up a wall on wires, keep the cane that the plant is supported on, angling this against the wall when you plant. You can then lead the plant to the wall by tying the main shoot to the nearest wire.
If you are training clematis up a fence on a trellis or wire mesh, remove the cane from the pot before planting and place four new canes at angles out from the base of the plant against the trellis. Guide your plants to the fence by tying the four strongest shoots to each cane. Keep tying in new shoots through the season to help them on to their supports and ensure your plant covers the wall or fence evenly.
To encourage bushy growth on any trained clematis pinch out the shoot tips early in the season. Keep an eye on newly planted, trained clematis in dry weather, watering them well through extended periods through the summer and give plants a mulch in winter with well rotted garden compost, taking care to keep it away from the base of the plant.
Clematis pruning can be confusing but all species and varieties are split into designated pruning groups and as long as you know the name of your plant you should have no trouble finding out which pruning regime your trained clematis needs.