Clematis is a fascinating, antique genus of climbers that adds color and grace to any vertical surface in your garden. This is a brief introduction to some popular as well as lesser known Clematis cultivars you should know.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 25, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to yoru questions.)
As a general rule, clematis love partial to full sun and are extremely hardy plants; In fact, most thrive in Zones 3-9. Take a look through these pictures, organized by color, and see what you like. You might want to get a paper towel for the drool before you scroll down. You can click on the photographs for a link to the Plant Files entry on each variety where you can find more information on growing conditions and pruning groups. Remember, these are just a few of my favorites and I've included history and care on several.
Reds and Pinks
Nelly Moser (also pictured above right)
A standard in any Clematis collection, Nelly Moser is one of the most well-recognized and used Clematis out there. Introduced in 1897, this vine is very hardy, vigorous, and easy to grow. Make sure the roots are shaded or cool and you should have a blooming machine within a few years. (Pruning Group 2)
Comtesse de Bouchaud
Comtesse de Bouchaud (pronounced Boo-SHOW) is a very prolific mid- to late-summer bloomer with pale pink to mauve medium sized flowers. It is an excellent choice for a
sunny trellis or wall, though it doesn't get much taller than 7-8'. Part of the Jackmanii family, Comtesse de Bouchaud is in pruning Group 3 and blooms on new growth.
It is readily available and very well known among clematis gardeners. If pink is what you desire, Comtesse de Bouchaud will not dissappoint.
With a gorgeous large, red-violet blossom and a vigorous, tall vine, Ernest Markham is a good choice for arbors, pergolas or trellises. This clematis will bloom from late Spring to early Fall and can be pruned in Group 2 or 3 (1).
With deep scarlet red flowers, this prolific bloomer adds great contrast to any garden.
Niobe (pronounced Ny-o-bee) is an early large flowering variety and straddles 2 and 3 pruning groups.
It is one of the smaller clematis, so it makes a great container or patio vine.
Princess Diana (C. texensis)
Princess Diana has small, nodding bell-shaped rose blooms appearing from mid summer to early fall. Being in the Texensis family, this clematis is very heat tolerant and excellent for southern gardens. Princess Diana is in Pruning Group 3, needing hard pruning in early spring.
Purples and Blues
Belle of Woking
Belle of Woking is a member of the early large-flowering group. It blooms double lavender on the previous year's growth from May to July and single blooms on new growth later in the summer. Belle of Woking was introduced in 1881 in the United Kingdom (2).
One of the more widely used clematis, Jackmanii boasts deep violet blooms on a vigorous vine. In Pruning Group 3, this large late-flowering variety is fairly picky about having its roots shaded with its vine in full sun. This is a standard favorite of many clematis lovers and is readily available at retailers.
A native of Siberia, Mongolia and China, Floralia blooms in spring on last year's growth, putting it in Pruning Group 1. C. macropetala and its cultivars are excellent for trellises and fences (3).
Clematis alpina is a native species from the European Alps which is now grown as multiple different cultivars offering a range of colors. The original species C. alpina flowers purplish-blue bell-shaped nodding blooms and can grow up to 6-8'. It is an excellent choice for smaller garden plots or containers (4).
Pamela Jackman is a good example of a more recent cultivar of this species. Others include Pink Flamingo, Constance, Cyanea, and Frankie.
Clematis macropetala is a native species to China, Mongolia and Siberia. The small, early blooming flowers are semi-double blue and nod downward very similar to C. alpina (5).
Also known as Violet Star Gazer, this knockout beauty was introduced in 1884 in France. A cross between C. florida and C. viticella, Venosa Violacea is a vigorous climber and profuse bloomer (6). (Pruning Group 3)
Elsa Spaeth Pamela Jackman
This evergreen climber boasts pale pink to white blooms in spring on last year's growth (Pruning Group 1). As one DGer notes, the buds look like "pink pearls" and "then open into a profusion of light pink flowers about 1.5 inches across."
Duchess of Edinburgh
Talk about an antique! This stunning double-bloomer was introduced in 1874 in England.
This early large-flowered variety is a compact grower and is in Pruning Group 2.
Joe is an interesting, somewhat new addition to the world of Clematis. Its evergreen foliage is more deeply cut than most clematis, almost fern-like. Joe happens to be a male vine (dioecious) and therefore will never set seed and can only be propagated by cutting, according to the Plant Files. Joe, named for Joe Cartman who produced this variety, is a hybrid of New Zealand native clematis and is only hardy to Zone 7 (7).
Radar Love is well-known both for it's nodding bright yellow blooms as well as its silvery "poof" seed pods that grace it in fall. Radar Love is in Pruning Group 3, which means you have to prune hard in early spring to encourage new growth and blooming.
Also known as Bicolor or Choirboy, Sieboldii clematis is a stunner for warmer regions. Only harder to Zone 7, Sieboldii has pale yellow to pure white petals with deep violet, fringed sepals and chartreuse stamens.
A close, but hardier relative of Sieboldii (though still only Zone 6-7 hardy), Vientetta bares a striking resemblance to Passionflower. This beauty blooms from spring to mid summer bright white petals with unique sprays of double purple sepals and a chartreuse center.
Piilu means "little duckling" in Estonian, where this stunning cultivar is from. Early in the season, blooms are double and later in the season turn to single blooms. Not only is this bicolor variety a knockout, it is also one of the hardiest clematis, to Zone 2 if you can even find weather that cold (8)!
Be sure to check out paulgrow's article on Pruning Groups so that you can keep your choice Clematis going strong from season to season.
I garden in beautiful Colorado Springs, half a mile from Garden of the Gods. Since we bought our first house two years ago, I have been busy revamping my 1/4 acre of ignored decomposed granite.
My garden passions include water gardening, vines, super-hardy perennials, and native xerics. By day, I am a high school ceramics teacher as well as a ceramicist and painter.