Planting Clematis - Do I Do It Deep?

Discussion in 'Vines and Climbers' started by moth1, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    I planted a clematis yesterday, and was subsequently told I should plant it deep.

    So, I dug it up and carefully replanted it, about 6 inches deep at the deepest end (it's on a slight tilt so as to direct the plant to the trellis.)

    I should have consulted here first before doing all this work because now I've read that deep planting is a myth! In other words, there is no advantage and possibly disadvantages.

    So, do I have to do more exercise, not to mention bother that poor vine again?

    I may have to partly dig it up anyway since I have to determine if the part I buried was 'ripe' - good grief, what does that mean - woody part only? No leaves thereon?

    Also, other advice is to amend planting holes, etc. etc., but I recall from my maiden planting projects last year that that is no longer recommended, at least for shrubs and trees. That said, now I read that drainage is important and that I should have added gravel at the bottom (LOL, where I live, no need to add gravel, rocks and small stones grow naturally in Nova Scotia soil, particularly Halifax, although the soil is otherwise pretty heavy.)

    The vine is about 2 years old (I paid more for a more established plant in a bigger pot). It is going to be a large-flowered species but other than that, the none-too-helpful President's choice label gave the cultivar solely as "Clematis." It had a couple of white blooms on it which disappeared about 2 weeks ago. I haven't a clue what type of pruning group it belongs to, so I don't know if I should prune back the vine or how much.

    Alas, there are too many how-to-do-it theories out there, how do I select the truth from the follies? Meanwhile any advice is much appreciated.
     
  2. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Moth,

    I can see that you are confused about your clematis. Welcome to the club that most new clematis growers belong to! I grow several cultivars and have found there are certain basics.

    When I plant my clematis I do not plant them deeper then about 2" below the soil line they were in the pot. Some I have not planted deep and they have also done just fine. I live in hardiness zone 7 and have found they have done well. I've only lost one to clematis wilt. I would remove any leaves that would be below the surface. These sites, that I have used and trusted do recommend planting deep.
    http://clematis.org/basics/
    http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/clematis/clemindx.htm

    True, no longer recommended for trees and shrubs. Clematis are vines and their needs are a bit different from trees and shrubs. Most clematis on the market today are crosses and few are species. They have been bred for their diverse flowers and lots of them. I've seen species clematis growing wild in the mountains of West Virginia and the Amazon Jungle. They had no amendments, had self seeded and done just fine without human intervention. The one in West Virginia was on a hillside in a shady spot and the drainage was excellent. There was little leaf litter and no amendments. The soil was rock hard. The one in the Amazon Jungle was at the edge of the forest in part sun where it rains ALOT! Neither one was vigorous and lush with flowers as we expect them to be. Still, the flowers were lovely. Here's the Amazon one. Note all the leaf litter.

    It is a good idea to add lots of compost to the planting hole for them and to dig a very large hole - deep and wide to give their roots lots of room. These are the same links I just gave you, but they do speak of amending the holes.
    http://clematis.org/basics/
    http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/clematis/clemindx.htm

    The heavy part may be problematic for your clematis. Dig a hole nearby that is 12" deep. Add water to the top and see how long it takes to drain. If it drains in 15 minutes, you're good to go. :)

    No problem. We can easily determine the pruning group from your description of large flowers and the fact that it's already bloomed. If it's a 'Montana' (very large vine) then we're wrong, but I suspect it's not. It may even be an unnamed cultivar. You might want to consider calling the President's Choice folks. They generally know which vines they propagated and where they went that year. So let them know where you bought it and you might at least get some possibilities. Here's how the pruning groups break down. If it's not a 'Montana' (large open flowers but not as large as the others) then your's is probably pruning group 2.
    http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/new-pruning.cfm

    Once it blooms again you might be able to figure out which one it is from one of these sites.
    http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/new-clemlistsearch.cfm
    http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/clematis/2002091814008238.html

    Here's more interesting sites.
    http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/clematis/
    http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/clematis/

    Let me know if you still have more questions.
    Newt
     

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  3. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    Dear Newt

    Thank you very much for your reply, which was very generous of you. Looks like I'm going to get some more exercise! And I think the net advantages will outweigh the risks to the poor vine's being disturbed yet again. Plus your descriptions of where you’ve seen Clematis suggests that we sometimes have to trust Nature. If it was meant to be, it will, no matter how much we flatter ourselves that we made it possible (or conversely, curse ourselves that we made it impossible.)

    Creating good drainage is always a problem here where I live. The soil depth can be very shallow. For example, if you try to sink a fence post, you can sometimes get down only 18 inches before hitting bedrock. We also get a lot of rain - even more than Vancouver! So it really doesn't matter whether one adds gravel at the bottom of the hole since there is usually almost nowhere for the water to go, at least in the 'depth' direction. I'm hoping that even the slight slope of my back yard will be enough to drain the water at least from one or two sides of the hole. Plus, I’ve raised the bed about 5 inches. Since people do manage to grow them in my neighbourhood, I can but hope for the best. The soil is heavy, true, but not the kind of clay-heavy that I've seen some small trees in the nursery potted in.

    As I type I realize that the shallow soil is yet another reason not to plant too deeply, since it sounds like the plant will need all the 'footing' soil it can get. I don't count on a spectacular clematis, just a healthy looking one even 5 feet or so high will be pleasing.

    The flowers weren't very large, just larger than what I can tell are the 'small' flowered variety. My husband was sceptical of the timing, pointing out that I had bought them from a nursery with possibly somewhat artificial climate conditions, but I’ve noticed that flowering shrubs they sell pretty well flower when expected (maybe just slightly earlier) so I’m going to trust the timing. I haven't had much luck getting a hold of the PC folks before, and the clerks at the garden outlet didn't know - so thank you for your 'Group 2' suggestion. It sounds, therefore, like I shouldn't prune the plant until next spring, early - say, two months before the flowering period, which was late May/early June? Or would it help establish roots to prune it somewhat now?

    Again, thanks so much. After a few years at this, maybe gardening won’t seem so intimidating!
     
  4. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    I just found a great website, with pictures, that makes it obvious when to prune -

    http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profiles0201/clematis_pruning.asp

    The definition of 'early spring' varies from place to place, but the plant's statement consisting of when it starts to bud out is indisputable.

    Having thought about it, pruning now would make it harder to confirm the identity, since it would make a second flowering all but impossible. It's still a dilemma, though, since some sites insist that one should prune at planting - enjoy the first flowers perhaps, but then prune.
     
  5. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Wow, great pruning site. I'm going to hold on to that one to share with others. I'm sure you don't mind. I use several of the RHS sites for reference. They are quite useful.

    Sorry about the exercise, but in the case of your soil conditions I do think it a good idea to dig as deep and wide as you can and add amendments. I do like using compost. It seems to solve all kinds of problems and is gentle to the plants.

    One of my favorite Clematis is C. 'Betty Corning'. I find it vigorous and love the bell shaped blooms. Note the zone differences at the two sites.
    http://www.joycreek.com/150-060-1.htm
    http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?Code=B842

    I remembered the name of the bell shaped one I saw in West Virginia. It's Clematis viorna.
    http://www.ncwildflower.org/plants/clematis_viorna/clematis_viorna.htm

    Newt
     
  6. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    Hello Newt

    Thanks for getting back to me. I apologize for the delay in reply. I am having computer problems, which, alas, are likely to continue sporadically until I get the operating system replaced. Did I mention that compared to computer problems gardening all of a sudden doesn't look so hard? : - )

    Thanks for the links. Glad mine may come in of use to people.
     
  7. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Moth, you are so very welcome! Sorry to hear about your computer problems. Been there, done that! It's all a learning experience, one indoors and one outdoors. ;)

    Newt
     
  8. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    As a follow-up to this thread: it's been two years since I planted as Newt suggested. In other words, my clematis was planted no more than 2 inches deep (perhaps a little more on one side where I tilted the plant to encourage it to 'head to the trellis' and a little less on the other, non-trellis side.)

    It is now in its third season in my garden including the season of planting, and it is doing spectacularly (the plant itself I estimate to be 3 or even 4 years old). I got two flowerings last year and I'm hoping for the same this year. It seems to flower both on short (new) lateral stems coming off of the woody stems AND on the new growth that has come along since. I leave 'well enough alone' and only prune it once - in the early spring, as soon as the buds are well underway.

    I'm actually finding that I haven't been cutting it back enough in the spring - next spring I'll cut it down to a pair of strong buds no more than 2 feet from the ground. As it is this year I cut back to about 3 feet and it's already at the top of the 7 foot fence and running along the top. I've had big, saucer-sized white-with-mauve-tint blooms for at least two weeks, and no sign of it giving up yet.

    Anyway, I keep it well mulched and well watered, and I don't have anything growing too close to the roots. I've seen the occasional brown shriveled leaves, but given that these are occurring on otherwise healthy shoots, I've concluded they are more likely due to heat stress than clematis wilt. Most times though I remove them if I can do so without injuring the rest of the plant.

    Anyway I pass this along to other novice gardeners as a bit of encouragement. Thanks again to Newt for the 'hand-holding' during the planting two years ago.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  9. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Moth,

    You are so very welcome! What a wonderful update! Thank you so very much for letting us know how your clematis is doing. It's not often that I know if the advice I give is helpful, but your update certainly put a smile on my face. It warms my heart to know that you succeeded so well.

    I do have 2 questions. Did you ever find out the name of your clematis? Can you post a picture? I'd love to see one.

    Newt
     
  10. moth1

    moth1 Member

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    Alas Newt, I never have managed to find out the name.

    I'm afraid my vine hit a problem. It had bloomed constantly for over a month, but the last blossoms wilted on the top part of the vine. The leaves didn't look healthy; pale green verging on yellow in some places. Others were green with brown splotches in the middles that looked like sunburn, still others were brownish, with brown veins.

    The sunburn suggested I allowed it to get a little dry (got distracted when had visitors.) But then we had quite a bit of rain alternating with warm, humid days, and the leaves remained wilted, in fact it got worse.

    I decided to cut back a lot of it a day or so ago (I know, not the best time for pruning) but I couldn't see how those leaves were producing much chlorophyll anyway. Given the poor clay soil in which it sits, I began to worry about rot.

    In hindsight, I probably should have left the vine to figure things out for itself. Still, what doesn't kill it, will hopefully make it stronger. (I've left six stems at about 4 feet in height, and maybe those leaves will recover or new ones will come out.) The root if it is as well-established as I thought, should hopefully still be vigourous. If it isn't, well, I'll learn from the experience. I guess that's what gardening is truly about!
     
  11. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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