How to Choose the Best Clematis for a Long Season of Blooms

How to Choose the Best Clematis for a Long Season of Blooms

Frilly doubles, bell-shapes and star-like singles. Big as your hand or small and delicate. Kissing the sky or hugging the ground. White, pink, red, burgundy, lavender, deep purple and even yellow blooms. Clematis is a plant that, if your climate permits, belongs in every garden. Whether climbing a wall, wrapping a mailbox, scrambling a trellis or smothering an arch or arbor, clematis are easy-to-grow vines that add English-garden charm, blooming at different times of the season depending on the specific variety. 

Because they are so extra, we know you will want to extend the flower show beyond the bloom time of a single type (there are three groups of clematis—see below). You can have a reliable sequence of bloom from spring into early fall by planting a mix of varieties in your garden. Here's what you need to know.

Understanding Clematis Groups

Clematis varieties are classified into three groups according to blooming time and characteristics: Group 1 (spring bloomers), Group 2 (repeat bloomers), and Group 3 (summer or fall bloomers). This is important information for a few reasons including knowing when your vine will bloom and also when is the correct time to prune.

The long flowering season begins with alpinas and macropetalas in early spring then come the large-flowered hybrids through early summer. Late summer is when texensis and viticella varieties zoom into bloom with clematis season wrapping up with exuberant C. paniculata which produces an Instagram-worthy waterfall of white blooms. Combine from these groups for months of color. Add them to other plants (see below) and your yard will be the first stop on the next garden tour. 

Here are the three groups:

Group 1 are the early flowering types C. alpina, C. macropetala which have single, or double bell shaped flowers and some C. montana, with large saucer shaped flowers. These bloom on old wood and are all no-prune clematis.

Group 2 are clematis which flower early to mid-summer and sometimes with a second flush mid to late summer. This group of clematis have upright single, double saucer shaped flowers and are often very showy. These bloom first on old wood and then again on new; prune only as needed to shape and remove weak growth, late winter to early spring.

Group 3 are the later flowering clematis which have large saucer shaped flowers in summer and early autumn. Within this group there are also small flowering clematis which a variety of flower shapes, saucer, star shaped, bell and open bell and also tulip and tubular. These bloom on new growth and can be hard pruned back to 12" in late winter or early spring. 

Mix and Match for Months of Color

To create a near-seamless show of clematis in bloom (don't dream, do it!), you will be picking and choosing from amongst the above groups, mixing and matching based on bloom time, height, and habit. Planting early, mid-season and late blooming clematis is not difficult, but it does take some advance planning to ensure a sequence of blooms.

A word of advice about planting different groups (as defined above) together; each has its own set of pruning needs. If you do not live in an area where clematis dies back to the ground and is hard pruned, take care to space clematis from different groups so the vines do not become intertwined. If you are planting several clematis from the same group, this is not a concern. 

Clematis can get "bare knees" as they grow to maturity. One perfect way to solve this is to add a clematis from The Boulevard® collection.  Showy repeat bloomers that produce a profusion of blooms from ground to sky,  they can help fill in at the base of plants. Again, be aware that these are group 3 clematis that flower on new growth and should be cut back to 12″ in early spring.

Here are just three ideas for gorgeous combinations of clematis that bloom at different times and with a variety of mature heights, yielding a promise of the biggest, baddest blooming bounty. 

Luminous Pale Blooms

Gleaming in the light of the moon, the marriage of white and near-white varieties of clematis that bloom in early spring, summer and into fall provides a wash of color on trellises and walls. 

Toki
Clematis

Large, pure-white flowers with complementary delicate yellow stamens are among the earliest clematis blooms to appear. Up to 9' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Vancouver™ Fragrant Star
Clematis

Soft vanilla scent from pure white, late-spring flowering blossoms with red stamens. Up to 8' tall. Zone: 4 - 8.

Boulevard® Tranquilit™
Clematis

Soft blue, almost white blooms from top to bottom of this compact vine, early summer to fall. Up to 6' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

PHOTO: Guernsey Clematis

How About 5 Months of Color?

For sheer impact of clematis doing its thing, not much can match the grouping of three large-flowered varieties timed to bloom in sequence. (And, purple pretty much goes with everything!)

Vancouver™ Starry Nights
Clematis

8-inch blooms in brilliant purple-blue with red highlights. Blooms early spring, repeats to fall. Up to 10' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Pink Champagne
Clematis

Deep-pink flowers up to eight inches diameter. Blooms early summer, repeats into fall. Up to 8' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Jackman Superba
Clematis

Avalanche of large, deep violet-purple flowers continuously from summer through fall. Up to 12' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Let's Fill a Container

Clematis can be grown in large containers (18" diameter minimum and deep enough to insert supports) as long as you provide sturdy support such as a trellis, obelisk or tuteur. 

Boulevard® Yuan™
Clematis

Abundant, large pink flowers on this compact climber. Blooms spring through summer. Up to 4' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Vancouver™ Danielle
Clematis

Brilliant violet-blue flower color on a vigorous vine. Blooms in spring, repeats in fall. Up to 7' tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Niobe
Clematis

Leathery, textured foliage and large wine-red blooms that don't fade in the sun. Blooms late spring and summer. Up to 12" tall. Zone: 4 - 9

Tips for Growing Clematis

Clematis is such a diverse group of plants that there's one for virtually every situation. When you buy a Monrovia clematis you are already ahead of the game as each pot contains several vines grown in a custom soil mix for a great head start. Caring for clematis is not any more difficult than many other vining plants as long as you remember a few things:

  • Clematis famously like "head in the sun, feet in the shade" so lay stones around the base of the plant or add annuals or perennials. 
  • Clematis is deep rooted so water slowly and thoroughly if it doesn't rain.
  • Once planted, clematis likes to stay put. Yes, you can transplant, but do so only if necessary and use great care.
  • Adhere to a pruning schedule based on the type of clematis (see above).

If your clematis is stubbornly refusing to bloom (it happens!) see if any of these apply:

  • Pruning at the incorrect time thereby accidently snipping off the buds
  • Clematis loves to eat but too much nitrogen fertilizer can come at the expense of flowers (typically food for roses is a good choice)
  • Inadequate soil nutrients (get a soil test--its not expensive and can help)
  • Not enough light. Yes, some clematis can tolerate shade but they set more flowers with full sun
  • They're just too young. Immature plants are spending their time setting deep roots, not making flowers. Patience, friend

Plays Well With These Beauties

As if clematis weren't already an object of desire for so many of us, the ways she loves to wind her way up, over, across, and through other beautiful, sturdy plants that can stand up to her fast growing nature makes us want one for every corner of the garden. Here are just six easy-care plants that pair well with a variety of clematis (make sure light needs, heights and habits are compatible). 

White Lady Banks
Climbing Rose

Blooms in spring to early summer; does not repeat. Perfect foil for later clematis. Up to 20' tall. Zone: 6 - 9

Pair with: Ramona Clematis

Eden Climber®
Rose

Large, fragrant, old-fashioned rose blooms early and continues to bloom throughout the warm season. Up to 12' tall. Zone: 5 - 9

Pair with: Niobe Clematis

Summer Snowflake
Viburnum

Layered branches create ideal structure for enthusiastic clematis. Up to 10' tall and wide. Zone: 5 - 8

Pair with: Arabella Clematis

PHOTO: Richard Shiell

Amethyst Falls
American Wisteria

Spring bloomer with stems made for tall clematis to wind. Up to 20' tall. Zone: 5 - 9

Pair with: Apple Blossom Clematis

PHOTO: Richard Shiell

Seaside Serenade®
Cape Lookout
Hydrangea

Green-aging-to-white blooms twined with clematis? Wow. Up to 3' tall and wide. Zone: 4 - 9

Pair with: Piilu® Clematis

Zestful™ Lollipop
Grape

Fast-growing, sturdy vine can accommodate even the most scramble-happy clematis. Up to 25' tall. Zone: 7 - 9

Pair with: Jackman Clematis

Learn More

Related posts:

Late summer blooming clematis ideas

5 ways to use compact clematis

Video--how to train clematis