Clematis plants are aggressively growing, climbing plants that can be difficult to grow. Their growing requirements are oddly specific and if you don’t fulfill them, you won’t get a healthy bloom.
Getting a clematis blooming would be a great success for a beginner gardener, as there’s a plethora of reasons why this plant won’t bloom.
In this article, we’ll tackle those reasons and see exactly what you need to do to get this plant to bloom and what mistakes are you making now that prevent it from blooming.
1. Your Clematis Needs Plenty Of Sunlight
Although clematises tolerate some shade, they develop best in full sunlight. You likely won’t get the stunning flowers you’re counting on if you plant your clematis in the shade.
There are two basic varieties of the clematis – the climbing clematis and the herbaceous clematis. Herbaceous clematis are very light-dependent, and you should always keep them in full sunlight.
Climbing clematis are better at tolerating shade.
2. Add Pebbles And Mulch To The Soil
There are two reasons you want to add pebbles and mulch to the soil around the plant. Firstly, they help with water retention and slow down the rate of drainage.
Even more importantly, pebbles and mulch keep the roots cool during the summer. This is a problem that we don’t come across often, but climbing clematis needs to keep its roots cool.
Pebbles and mulch are a good way of blocking sunlight (to an extent). The same rule applies to clematis grown in containers – cover the topsoil with pebbles.
3. Water Your Clematis Thoroughly
Since clematises need plenty of water to keep their roots cool and to support their intense, aggressive growth, they don’t tolerate drought periods well. You should keep the soil consistently moist just after planting your clematis.
Later on, when your clematis has matured and it isn’t growing anymore, you don’t have to water it as plentifully (unless you’re going through a particularly dry period).
Given how long clematis roots are, you’re going to have to water these plants more thoroughly than you would with other plants. Some clematis roots reach a full foot into the ground – that’s how deep you have to water it.
Container clematises need more regular watering as there’s less soil and it will dry more quickly.
4. Fertilize Your Clematis Regularly
Container-grown clematis needs more fertilization than soil-grown variants, and you should fertilize them at least once a month throughout spring and summer.
Clematis growing in the ground only need to be fertilized once a year. Do this in the spring, when the temperatures start to rise, with potassium-rich fertilizer.
You want to avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizer as it will promote plant growth (something that the clematis does on its own and doesn’t need help with).
At this stage, you can add new mulch to the soil.
5. Support Your Clematis’s Growth With A Ladder
If you plant a climbing clematis next to a tree, it will use the tree for support as it grows. You can achieve the same effect by planting it close to a wall with a supportive mesh.
The mesh itself won’t ruin the way your home looks because it’ll be covered by the clematis. For a more natural support, use a bamboo stick.
Climbing clematises need support and they won’t be able to climb if you don’t provide it.
6. Pruning Encourages Blooming
You should prune young clematis in the spring to encourage growth – cut them about 8 inches above ground level. This will force the plant into growing more stems.
When it comes to established clematis, you should prune them in early spring and late summer, but you shouldn’t follow this guideline to a fault. Some varieties grow so intensely that they’re going to overgrow quickly and require pruning more than twice a year.
To prune mature clematis plants, cut off branches that are too long and prune dead shoots.
Sometimes, the growth might be too much to prune and you’ll have to renovate your clematis. In that case, you can freely cut down the clematis to a very low level and restart the growth.
7. Protect Your Clematis From Powdery Mildew And Other Diseases
Powdery mildew and clematis wilt are the most common diseases you’ll see with your clematis. Both of these are fungal, and they’re usually caused by wet leaves and flowers.
To avoid this, always water the base of the plant, not the entire plant.
If the stems of your clematis are suddenly getting black and droopy, clematis wilt is likely at fault. This disease can, in extreme cases, kill your plant, while it will usually just cause wilting, leaf spots, and stem blackening.
The easiest way to resolve clematis wilt is by cutting all the unhealthy stems down to ground level, leaving only the healthy stems.
When it comes to pest damage, clematises are no more prone to it than any other plant, with slugs, snails, aphids, and earwigs being the usual suspects.
8. Deadhead Your Clematis
Finally, a good way to get your clematis blooming is by deadheading it. You can take off flowers as soon as they begin to wilt.
When it comes to blooming, clematises are usually separated into three groups.
Woody-stemmed clematises bloom in the spring. Then, we have double and semidouble clematises, which bloom twice – once in late spring and once later in the year.
The third group, including herbaceous clematises, blooms in the summer and the bloom may last until the fall.
The longevity of these blooms may be prolonged by deadheading flowers (which make for a nice decoration).
Why Isn’t My Clematis Blooming?
Clematises are, frankly, not easy to care for and getting a clematis blooming may be difficult for beginner gardeners. Warm roots are the first thing you should look into – is the soil covered with pebbles and mulch? Are you watering your clematis enough?
Remember – clematis roots are very long and you need to water plentifully for the water to get to them.
Next, you should inspect your plant for pests and diseases. If there’s any mildew, leaf spots, blackening, or drooping of the leaves or the stems – a disease may be the cause for the lack of bloom.
When you’re fertilizing, don’t make the mistake of using nitrogen-rich fertilizer – maybe that’s what happened.
Finally, although this is unlikely, did you plant the clematis in the right spot? They need plenty of sunlight to properly flower!
To Sum Up – You Need To Be Careful To Get Your Clematis Blooming
Clematis is a plant with very specific growing conditions, which are sometimes contradictory. The roots need to be cool, but the leaves and the flowers need plenty of sunlight. The plant needs to climb to achieve its full potential, but you have to cut it down every year.
It also asks for a lot of attention from the gardener – you’ll spend hours pruning your clematises each year.
This can be a challenge for some gardeners, which is why many people have trouble getting their clematis to bloom in their first season. To this I say, don’t worry about it – you’ll learn through trial and error.
The most important thing is balancing all the requirements this plant has and remembering that it’s a vigorous grower – in case you mess up, you can always cut it down and start all over.