Hard to believe that we are back in the swing of things so quickly around here. Lazy snow bound days are gone , replaced by full 8 or more hour days cleaning, cutting back, weeding, edging , mulching, dividing, planting, sowing, shopping…are there any - INGS that I missed? I hope not because my plate already feels pretty full thank you very much.
Let’s talk about clematis, how they should look, what you should expect and what to do if there are problems.
First , the emergence thing. Around here we have had some delightfully warm weather so any clematis that are group 2 ( which I won’t even come near with clippers untl after the first flush of blooms) are all leafing out and I even have two , Elsa Spath and Omishoro , covered in ready to open buds.
If you have group two clematis growing in your New England yard , you should be seeing lots of signs of life . If you see stems that are definitly dead or broken off the mama plant, by all means prune them. otherwise WALK AWAY and wait to enjoy the show. Pruning now, no matter how tempting, will cause loss flowers and that is a sad thing indeed.
If you have group 1 clematis , like montana or alpina, they should also be ready to put on their spring show. I struggle with these vines here becuase they bloom only on old wood and almost every year no matter what I do the varmints cut them off for me in the winter. Some day a solution will occur in my little brain, but for now they are foliage plants. grrr and ugh.
If you have group 3 clematis that bloom later on in the season , many of these are just slowly starting to stretch and yawn and greet the day ( sweet autumn, any of the viticella or texensis hybrids, and the late blooming large flowered hybrids ) .If you have not already, cut your group 3 clematis down to about a foot tall so they will throw out lots of new growth which is where their blooms will be, Leaving them unpruned will result in long vines with flowers only at the tops. Boring! Go get the clippers please.
Herbaceous clematis , the ones that die back to the ground and have no climbing mechanism, should also be showing new growth by now ( c. recta, integrefolia, and heracliefolia). Clean away any old stems and leaves just like you would with any other herbaceous perennial.
Then there are those whose liveliness is in question, I have a few here every year that are way behind their peers in emerging and I always get a little antsy. But then I remember someone telling me when my kids were little and I was stressed when they were not on par with others their age in milestones ( especially the dreaded potty training) that all kids developed at their own pace and as long as they were out of diapers by the time they went to school I should not fret so much. Point taken, there are no absolutes in any aspect of life, so a little leeway is in order.
Carefully look around the base of the plant in question , do you see any sign of shoots coming from the soil? You can prod little in the soil and look closer, but do do very gently. I give my lackluster growers a little diluted fertilizer . Patience is also helpful.
Case in point, I had given up on my c. trinternata rubrimarginata for this year. Two years ago we had an episode where the irrigation system was missing a whole chunk of garden and many plants there were lost. The rubrimarinata was alive, but barely clinging to life , and this year repeated checks showed no growth. I ordered a replacement, and of course when I dug down deep enough to excavate, there was the crown of the old plant happily starting to shoot out new growth. A little swearing may have ensued, but I carried on and took out the struggling plant, put in the new one, and move the stressed one to a happy compost filled location where it will be babied until it is thriving again.
As for any clematis you have that overwintered in containers or that are growing in shady locations, don’t even bother poking around just yet. They are the last of the bunch to re-emerge , but just wait, don’t touch and don’t worry.
It is also safe here to plant any new clematis you bought now. Make sure to follow my planting instructions ( crown set 2-3 inches below soil line before mulching) , and water them if rainfall is not abundant.
Last but not least my indoor clematis, c.florida is entering week 18 of flowering. I had to trim some of it today to free up some of the houseplants it was engulfing so they could get repotted for their summer vacation outsoors. Truthfully, I had to wash the window it was covering too so we could see outside . When it ever winds dowm I will cut it back and repot it like the other plants to spend the summer season on the porch.