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Do Clematis Need a Trellis?

Author Kathy Jentz 12-1-2020

Clematis are perennial vines that have flowers ranging in size, shape, and colors. They can vary in looks from tiny bell-like blooms to large, layered open stars. Clematis are also known for their attractive seed heads, which gives the vines an additional season of interest in the garden.

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A few clematis vines are more like small shrubs than spreading vines; while other clematis have a habit of running along the ground that makes them a good choice for groundcover. The shrubby kinds are slow-growers and are perfect in a container with a short stake, cage, or trellis to wrap themselves around. The ground runners are fun to plant in a sunny perennial border where they will weave themselves around the other plants.

Most clematis are climbing vines and wind themselves around anything they can grasp on to. Some can reach as high as 15-30 feet. You can guide them along a trellis by using wires and ties to direct their growth or let them do so on their own.

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One common way to grow a clematis vine is trained up a fence in or along a wall in order to disguise it. You can tack nails in the fence or wall and string wires between them for the clematis to grab onto them.

Clematis also can grow through other plants for a lovely affect. Plant one at the bottom of a rose bush or an evergreen shrub. It will climb in and among the other plant’s branches then bloom through that plant's foliage—giving you a graceful peek-a-boo effect. You can even pair a clematis with an annual vine for added drama as they wind themselves around each other.

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* Note: a few clematis can be aggressive spreaders like the invasive ‘Sweet Autumn’ Clematis and may overtake nearby plants, if not kept in check.