Clematis flowers are showstoppers that grow on a woody vine that climbs on fencing, walls, arbors and lampposts. There are 250 species with three different flower types available. Clematis plants are deciduous, meaning they will loose leaves in the winter, but come back the following years even in cold climates. Some plants will bloom and flower for 25 or more years with the proper care.
Large clematis plants grow 20 to 30 feet high while medium varieties may top 12 feet. Smaller clematis species may only grow 2 to 5 feet high. The stem twines with tendrils that grab on to anything that will support them. Flowers usually have four to eight petals and some flowers are larger than 10 inches in diameter. Clematis will bloom over 100 flowers in a season and may or may not have a fragrance. Colors include white, purple, blue, pink and red with all their shades and many flowers are more than one color.
Clematis plants are slow growing at first and may not put forth as many blooms in the year they are planted. Once they get going, they grow quickly and are impressive bloomers. The first year expect no growth and just a few flowers. The second year the plant will increase in size slightly, but there will be more flowers. After that, growth should double or triple and the blooms will be very prolific.
Early blooming varieties flower from April to May. Flowers come from buds that develop during the previous summer. These types should never be pruned until after they flower and never later than July. Many grow 6 to 8 feet in height while others may only reach 3 feet. Alpine Clematis has lavender or blue bell-shaped flowers that bob in the breeze. Candy is a version of the alpine variety that has pink petals with green stamens. Armand’s Clematis has clusters of white 2-inch diameter open blossoms with a vanilla fragrance.
Large flower hybrids start blooming in June on the previous year’s growth and will bloom again late summer on new growth. Prune in March all the way down to the first green buds that appear on the stem. Barbara Jackman is a favorite with 4-inch open flowers in purple with magenta bar and yellow stamen. Mrs. Cholmondeley has lavender flowers with brown anthers. Nelly Mosser clematis blooms are 8 inches in diameter in mauves and roses.
Late bloomers flower mid June into the fall and bloom on current growth. Prune stems back 2 to 3 feet during the month of March. Duchess of Albany is a late bloomer having deep rose-colored bell-like blossoms. Italian Clematis has deep purple flowers and grows very quickly. Orange Peel or C. tangutica resemble orange Chinese lanterns hanging from a stem. Polish Spirit is very unusual with dark purple open flowers that have red stripes.