Clematis Care: Growing Clematis in Garden Pots and Planters

Growing plants in garden pots and planters or containers is a method of gardening that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is partly because modern gardens tend to be much smaller, but also because nowadays there are so many different types and styles of container available, which means gardeners can be increasingly creative and adventurous in their choice of plant.

The choice of clematis depends on the manner of growth. Vigorous species such as Clematis Montana will soon outgrow even the largest pot, becoming starved and bedraggled after a couple of seasons. Some of the more vigorous hybrids will also run out of steam fairly quickly.

Choosing The Right Clematis for Containers

Clematis require a cool, moist root run, and growing one in a free-standing container inevitably opens the root system to the vagaries of the weather. In the summer the pot and its contents may become very hot and dry.

In the winter, if it is not given some protection, the root system can be frozen solid. Both these extremes can result in the plant dying unless precautions are taken.

Green Leaf Climbing Clematis Plant

The choice of container is therefore an important issue. The most pleasing pots to look at are those made from traditional clay. These used to be regarded as expensive, but nowadays there are many imported types that are excellent value, even if they lack the true character of the traditional hand-thrown pot.

Clay pots are porous, and as the water seeps through the pores it evaporates, keeping the roots of the plants cool. However, this can also mean the pot is liable to cracking in frosty weather. If size prevents you from taking your garden pots and planters indoors for the winter, then it’s advisable to wrap some kind of insulation around them to protect both the pot and the roots from the cold.

Plastic is much more robust than clay, but as there is no evaporation the roots can become very hot. Plastic pots can also become waterlogged unless there are plenty of drainage holes at the base. If you bear these points in mind, however, your plants will grow very happily in plastic pots. They are also light, which means they can be moved around more easily.

Sizing It Right: Container Dimensions Matter

The size of the container is important if your clematis is to thrive for any length of time. You are not recommended to use a pot any smaller than 18 in (50 cm) in diameter. This size will give the plant adequate room to grow and develop over a number of years, and will also hold sufficient water and nutrients to cope with its demands.

Each year, when you prune the plant, you should carefully scrape off the top inch (2-3 cm) of soil and replace it with some fresh compost. If you do this, your clematis will grow and provide an abundance of flowers for many years.

Clematis 'Edda' Growing in a Terracotta Flowerpot
Clematis ‘Edda’ Growing in a Terracotta Flowerpot

The next important decision is the best compost to use. Remember that clematis like a good rich soil with lots of nutrients. A John Innes-type compost is always the best for this purpose.

This formulation, developed many years ago, includes loam, which provides a good reservoir of nutrients and also retains adequate water without becoming too wet. Loam is also heavy, which helps prevent the container and its contents from blowing over in the wind.

Planting and Caring for Your Clematis

Planting in a garden container is much the same as planting a clematis in the open ground. It’s a good idea to plant fairly deep so as to cover up some of the basal buds, and to firm it in gently around the roots with your clenched fists. Finish the process with a good watering, allowing any excess water to drain away.

Purple Clematis on A Weathered Wooden Wall

Once your clematis has become established, start feeding it with a good, well-balanced liquid feed – preferably one that is high in potash. Feed it at least once a week during the growing season. If you give too much feed, then salts can build up in the compost. So it’s a good idea to miss one weekly feed each month, just watering normally to flush the compost through.

What to Grow in Garden Pots and Planters?

All the varieties listed in the list below are suitable for growing in pots. However, some such as the alpinas and macropetalas have a short flowering period, so are probably not the best choice for free-standing displays in a conspicuous position.

Bright Purple Climatis Flower on The Fence

Given a container of adequate size, you can also plant two varieties together such as Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ and C ‘Lady Northcliffe’, which will provide an eye-catching display of flowers over a long period. Low-growing annuals can also be planted to provide color at the base, and a degree of shade for the clematis roots.

A selection of clematis varieties for growing in garden pots and planters:

  • Clematis alpina ‘Burford White’
  • Clematis ‘Columbine’
  • Clematis ‘Constance’
  • Clematis macropetala ‘Maidwell Hall’
  • C. m. ‘Markhams Pink’
  • Clematis ‘Orchid’
  • Clematis ‘Bees Jubilee’
  • Clematis ‘Carnaby’
  • Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’
  • Clematis ‘Dawn’
  • Clematis ‘Dr. ruppel’
  • Clematis ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’
  • Clematis ‘Duchess of Sutherland’
  • Clematis ’Edith’
  • Clematis ‘Fireworks’
  • Clematis ‘Lady Northcliffe’
  • Clematis ‘Mrs N. thompson’
  • Clematis ‘Mrs P.B. Truax’
  • Clematis ‘Royalty’
  • Clematis ‘Wadas Primrose’

Final Thought

In the dance of gardening, clematis twirling up garden pots is a sight to behold. The versatility of these climbers, paired with the charm of container gardening, brings a delightful elegance to any space.

Remember, the right care, from pot selection to the perfect compost, is the secret song to their thriving. So, as you step into this gardening rhythm, let your clematis sway, bloom, and be the star of your outdoor symphony. Go ahead, plant a little magic today!

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What type of pot works best for clematis?

Traditional clay pots are aesthetically pleasing and offer cool root conditions due to their porous nature. However, they can be prone to frost damage. Plastic pots are more durable, but ensure good drainage. Always select a sizable pot, preferably at least 18 inches in diameter.

How often should you water your potted clematis?

Clematis prefers a moist environment but dislikes being waterlogged. Ensure the pot has excellent drainage. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry. Adjust based on weather conditions; hot days might demand more frequent watering.

Why are the leaves on your potted clematis turning yellow?

Yellowing leaves can indicate water stress or nutrient deficiency. Ensure consistent watering and proper drainage. A balanced feed might also rectify the issue.

How often should you change the soil in your clematis pot?

Replacing the top inch of soil with fresh compost annually can be beneficial. Complete soil change might not be necessary unless there’s disease or severe nutrient depletion.

Do clematis in pots need support?

Absolutely! Clematis is a climber by nature. Providing a trellis, stake, or even an adjoining shrub can give it the needed support to grow upwards, showcasing its beauty.

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