Clematis are amongst the best and most popular climbing plants. They are mainly grown for their flowers, although some species produce beautiful seed heads and some have attractive foliage.
With the right choice of plants it is possible to have clematis in flower for every month of the year, including mid winter with Clematis cirrhosa and it cultivars.
The colour of the flowers is very varied, with most colours being represented. Some, mainly the species, are fragrant. The size of the flowers vary from tiny to great wheels 15cm (6in) or more across.
The majority of clematis are climbers, but there are a few that are herbaceous and are cut back to the ground each winter. These can be supported with twigs or allowed to sprawl over other plants. Many of the climbing ones can be treated as border plants and allowed to trail over and between other plants.
The climbers have tendrils and are mainly self-supporting, but they often need tying in to ensure that they are well supported, especially in windy positions.
They will grow in most soils. They prefer their roots to be cool, preferably shaded, but the top of the plant in the sun. Any pruning depends to which group of the family they belong and generally depending on what time of the year they flower. The basic difference is that early flowering clematis, from spring to early summer, should be pruned after flowering and often just lightly trimmed to keep a shape and remove dead wood. Summer and autumn flowering clematis should be pruned hard (leaving stubs with one or two pairs of new budds only) in spring, after frosts but before the new grown has begun properly.