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Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculate)
Clematis is an easy-to-grow, versatile climber that will be happy on its own or will enjoy the company of your climbing roses. As long as its roots are cool and its heads are in the sun, it will reward you with showy flowers in a variety of sizes and colours.

What you need to know about clematis

Name: clematis; popular varieties Clematis x viticillia, Clematis integrifolia, Clematis montana.

Height: varies with type, from 1m to 20m or more.

Foliage: cool temperate varieties are deciduous; in a warmer climate they are evergreen with blue/green foliage.

Climate: warm temperate, cold temperate.

Soil: well-drained soil with consistent moisture.

Position: prefers full sun, some varieties tolerate part shade. Roots must be cool—mulch to keep them cool, or shade with another plant. Protect from persistent, strong winds.

Flowering and fruiting: depending on variety, large showy summer blooms or smaller autumn flowering.  Bright blue, pink, white, purple, yellow and red blooms. Some flowers can be 10cm across, and some are strongly scented. Seed heads are large fluffy balls ideal for flower arrangements.

Feeding: feed in spring with blood and bone or liquid fertiliser.

Watering: deep, regular watering in spring, when new shoots appear. Ensure soil is moist and does not dry out. 

Appearance and characteristics of clematis

With more than 250 varieties, some of which are native to Australia, you’ll find a clematis plant to suit any garden. Most are vigorous climbers, although some are shrub-like. They’re hardy, and surprisingly easy to grow.  Some of the larger-flowered types are a little trickier, requiring more time, but are really worth the effort. From white to yellow, red, purple, pinks and blues, you can find a clematis variety to flower in spring, summer and autumn.

Macro shot of a white flowering clematis

Uses for clematis

Clematis vines are great for growing over an arbour or twining through a climbing rose, up a tree or verandah post, or as a sprawling ground cover.

Planting clematis

In the garden

  1. Choose a sunny site with at least 6 hours of sun, with fertile, well-drained soil and some support, such as a trellis, tree or post.
  2. Dig a hole twice the size and depth of the pot. Unlike most plants, clematis needs to be planted deeper than normal, about 5cm lower than the ground.
  3. Don’t tease the roots out, as they don’t like to be disturbed.

Growing clematis in pots

You can grow your clematis vine in a pot; just make sure it’s a deep pot and it’s in a spot where your clematis can climb, such as next to a verandah post.

Pruning clematis

Pruning your clematis plant helps it to look its best and helps promote flowering. When and how you prune depends on the type of clematis you are growing. If you have an early spring flowering variety, prune it back after flowering. Autumn blooming varieties need to be pruned back in late winter by simply cutting off all top growth. Prune large-flowered varieties to 20cm above the ground in late winter. For shrub clematis, prune after flowering in late spring. Whenever you start pruning your clematis, make sure you give your plants a handful of fertiliser pellets and water in well. Clematis is surprisingly tough and will cope with the roughest prune!

Clematis diseases and pests

When growing clematis, there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. If air circulation is poor, powdery mildew can be a problem—treat it with a fungicide spray if it occurs. Clematis wilt is a fungal disease that seems to affect plants overnight, often attacking the larger-flowered varieties. Flowers, buds, leaves and stems droop, then blacken and shrivel. This is tricky to eradicate, but you can control and even prevent it. At the first sign, cut the affected stems as close to the ground as possible, remove fallen leaves and keep the roots well-watered, and it will soon reshoot. It’s difficult to completely prevent clematis wilt, but if your plants are in the right spot in free-draining, moist soil with cool roots, and you follow a good prevention program you should have success.

If wilt is a problem, always remove leaf litter and other organic material from the base of the plant. Mulch with gravel or even a piece of sandstone, then spray the healthy parts of the plant and the surrounding soil with a fungicide, always following the directions on the packaging.

Snails are another problem; pick them off your clematis vine at night or in the early morning, or use an appropriate bait.

If you like this then try

Guinea flower: Australian native climber with green leathery foliage and bright yellow flowers.

Jasmine: slower-growing climber with white, star-shaped, perfumed flowers.

Dipladenia: hardy, attractive, long-flowering climber with striking trumpet flowers.

Start planting today

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