How to Combine Roses & Clematis
Roses and clematis make wonderful companions in the garden. Clematis have a delicate structure and clinging tendrils that gracefully climb rose canes and intermingle with the rose nicely. The clematis foliage can hide the rose’s bare legs. Clematis and roses both have similar cultural requirements. In addition, from a design perspective, if the bloom times are staggered, you are getting twice the flower power from one location. If the bloom times overlap, you are intensifying the blooming impact from a single garden spot. Either situation is a big garden benefit. Keep in mind that not all clematis and roses work well together. You will need to learn the differences and choose compatible plants.
- Choose clematis vines classified as viticella or jackman types. These plants bloom on growth from the current season.They are cut down to the base every winter or in very early spring, which is a big help when pruning roses. Clematis that are pruned in that manner are classified as "Group 3" clematis, but not all clematises in the group work well with roses. Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata) is too robust ,and Clematis integrifolia does not have clinging tendrils and would need your help to climb up the rose.
- Select roses that are climbers or ramblers. These have long canes, which support clematis well. Most clematis will grow 10 to 12 feet and will overpower a shrub rose that only grows to 3 or 4 feet tall.
- Check the stated bloom times of the rose and the clematis. If their bloom times overlap, make sure you have a pleasing color combination for your tastes. Keep in mind that stated bloom times might not always prove accurate in a specific garden setting — especially for young plants.
- Build or purchase a trellis, fence or obelisk suitable to support the roses. Locate it in an area that gets five or more hours of direct sun a day.
- Plant the vine and the rose about 2 feet apart, either next to each other or with the clematis behind the rose, depending on the physical location you are working with. If they will be growing on a trellis attached to a building, be sure the root zones are far enough away from the eaves of the roof so rainwater reaches them.
- Prepare a suitable soil mix for the plants. Both plants like rich, fertile, well-draining soil, so amend your native soil with compost as needed — as much as 50 percent if your native soil is lacking nutrients. Mix in bone meal or super-phosphate to help promote flowering, according to package directions.
- Water the plants throughout the season. They both require about an inch of water a week; more in periods of drought.
- Secure the clematis stems to the rose canes to get it started in the beginning of the season. Use either a vine clip or a tie or simply tuck the stem tendrils around a rose cane. As the season progresses, the clematis will find its way up the rose without any further assistance.
- Remove the clematis stems at the end of winter. With pruners, grab the stems at the base of the plant and cut about 12 inches above ground. Remove any ties securing the clematis to the rose and gently pull the old clematis stems off the rose. They come off easily. Apply a granular rose food for the upcoming season.
Tips & Warnings
In addition to all the above characteristics for combining these plants, always consider winter hardiness and select plants compatible with your U. S. Department of Agriculture zone.
For extra excitement, try a clematis on each side of a rose. Rosa "Golden Showers," Clematis "Huldine" and Clematis "Jackmanii" would make a stunning yellow, purple and white combination. If you are lucky, they could all bloom at the same time.