How to Get Bountiful Clematis Blooms

If you press me, I will admit that people admire my Clematis jackmanii. This admiration has led several, including neighbors and friends, to ask me how to get more plentiful Clematis flowers. Sparsely blooming Clematis, apparently, is a not uncommon problem.

Clematis jackmanii
Clematis jackmanii

The thing is, I really don’t know why my Clematis jackmanii blooms so happily. I mean, I don’t know anything beyond what you could find from a cursory Google search. For example: head in the sun, roots in the shade (in my case, the shade is provided by a thick layer of periwinkle).

Also, I have a vague memory of reading that Clematis are heavy feeders, so every year they get an extra generous helping of compost. Plus, some years I also give it a dash of organic 3-4-5 slow release fertilizer.

2014-07-04 16.20.35 clematis jackmanii

I have wondered if this Clematis likes alkaline soil. Our soil is normally alkaline, and it is growing in a spot that should be extra limey because it sits between the driveway and the west-facing brick wall of the house. But the sources I’ve looked at say that Clematis are adaptable as to soil pH.

I suppose the extra warmth from that wall, which is painted white, could also be a factor.

Bottom line, though, is this: I’m lucky. Because I know people who have done all the things I have done and still have been left with a poor excuse for a Clematis.

Blooming on both sides of the trellis.
Blooming on both sides of the trellis.


Luck plays a big part in gardening, I think. We can follow all the right practices and fail, or we can ignore them and succeed. Perhaps it isn’t luck, but a mix of factors that are just too complicated to untangle or understand.  Because a garden is a living thing, not an internal combustion engine.

As Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), a founding member of the Garden Writers Association, wrote many centuries ago:

“… the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong … nor yet disease-free roses to men of understanding, nor yet the tastiest tomatoes to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.”  – Ecclesiastes 9:11, New Rodale Translation.

Have you ever had inexplicable success or failure in the garden?


87 Comments on “How to Get Bountiful Clematis Blooms”

  1. Oh my…I am so admiring your Clematis jackmanii as well! I would love to have a spot for a bloomer like this! And yes I do think that luck has a bit to do with it…and I know this sounds nuts but I think that plants sometimes know that they are cared for as yours are! Truly beautiful Jason! Happy day to ya! Nicole

  2. My luck seems consistently bad, but every now and then the successes erase that all.
    I’m sure if I would finally plant shade plants in the shade and keep them watered that would improve my luck considerably, but I’m a slow learner!

  3. I’m going to join Judy in her Clematis envy. I have several in various locations throughout my garden, but none have thrived to the extent that yours have. Mine are still in their first few years though, so I’m hoping that in a year or two as they mature that they’ll reach something approaching yours.

  4. Yes, I have some Lilies that everyone ask me what do I do with them, and I say, nothing! I have question for you which may be wort a post. Life and death in the garden. Is a good gardener one that have killed many plants before?

  5. That is, indeed, one beautiful clematis!
    I’ve had my share of successes and failures. A recent one that surprised me is Convolvulus cneorum: I tried twice before and lost each over winter. My third try inexplicably made it through this past harsh (for us) winter and is happy as a clam.

  6. The white wall reflects plenty of sun to the back side of the plant and I’m sure that along with the compost has a lot to do with its vigor. When a clematis starts to bloom sparsely, cutting it back will give it a good boost. You need to read up on how to cut back your specific plant though, because plants with different bloom times have different requirements when it comes to being cut. Some people cut them back every year and others never cut them.

      • Is this one plant or many? I have a new clematis that I thought grew really well for it’s first year, but I’m scared to cut it back next winter. Seems counter-intuitive if I want it to be really full like yours. So you get all that growth in one season, apparently. Wow!

    • Such a beautiful plant. I have had a Jackmanii for years. At and elevation of 7,250 ft I thought is would surely die. BUT every other year I dutifuly cut it back each spring when the first leaves appeared. It flourshed at the base of a downspout, small boulder rocks warmed by the sun in the mornings, with 3xweek watering schedule kept fairly healthy. Blooms were all over the ONE vine. It didn’t seem to like to spread out. Ill health and a couple of years of no gardening did it in. This spring I will start again. I love the minimal care needed for this plant and the beauty it brings.

  7. I certainly have never grown one so successfully, I don’t even think I have seen one growing so lush. I think you are right that somehow, sometimes all the requirements for a specific plant are met and it does particularly well.

  8. Jackmanii is possibly my favorite clematis. I love the color and how they bloom like it was an emergency situation and only lots and lots of flowers will save the day. I have one growing on a fence in acid soil but with shaded feet and it just gets better and bloomier every summer.

  9. I like that New Rodale translation! 😉 Yes, I’ve had both good luck and bad luck, and more often success based on experience and trial and error over the years. Our ‘Nelly Moser’ Clematises were lush and thick like yours when we moved in to this house. One year I trimmed them back too dramatically and they died. For several years, I tried multiple techniques with no luck. Two years ago, I added fencing and aluminum foil to repel the rabbits so they would get a good start in the early spring, and voila! The Clematises are now nearly back to the full beauty of what we had originally. So, in my case, it was mostly experience and experimentation. But there have been many lucky and unlucky garden adventures, too! Great post!

  10. I agree, and am often mad when something is planted in the right position, right soil, etc and then just doesn’t thrive. I have more or less given up on clematis altogether, as they never do well – yours is quite simply happy where it is and is a real star, so whatever you’re doing is obviously right! 🙂

  11. You have green fingers and a caring way that can’t be bottled, your Clematis lives at the right house! I have one Etoile violet that is prolific, not quite as stunning as yours but I am proud of her none the less. 🙂

  12. Jason, I never call it luck when something grows well for me. I try to imply ( as modestly as possible) that it is all down to my greenfingers , or ‘ thumb’ as you Americans call it.
    Your Clematis is amazing and I’ m sure ‘ luck’ had nothing to do with it. You have green fingers……and thumbs.

  13. Different types of clematis require different types of pruning. Also, different varieties have different bloom times. I had a spring-bloomer that required no pruning but would turn into a giant tumbleweed every so many years. I would hack it down periodically and it would grow back and bloom prolifically; it received morning sun, its feet well hidden amongst the mugo. I replaced that with one that is supposed to bloom all summer, but I am having trouble keeping it alive, thanks to rabbits and neglect. I moved it to try to eliminate the latter, so we shall see.

  14. Yay, count me amongst the lucky ones. Well, where clematis is concerned, that is, because that is one of my plants that consistently flowers beautifully too. Now, if my Wisteria would learn what the clematis knows, I’d be a very happy gardener!

    Yours is gorgeous, as is everything you feature on your blog, including the birds and butterflies.

  15. That particular variety is very free flowering, I also noticed that it looks like it might be near a tap where the hose is, it loves moisture so maybe there’s a small leak or just that it is easy to give water to in that postition.,

  16. Drat, I thought you were going to reveal your secret to producing that utterly amazing show of the Clematis Jackmanii. I’ve been wanting a flower-covered clematis for years but haven’t managed yet, having said that, the clematis I have are rather young so maybe I just need to be patient. The bargain Clematis “Chantilly” I got from a garden centre last year was smothered in flowers this year so perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

  17. Whatever you are doing – keep on doing it because it is clearly working ! I think clematis are quite unpredictable. I have planted some which romp away immediately, and others which almost disappear for two or even three season, before growing and flowering fantastically well.

  18. Hey my brother in arms,
    Jackaminii was the favorite choice of Jim Crockett of Victory Garden fame. Only one I recall my biggest mentor ever espousing and he had his own testimonial plant. Thanks for sharing,

  19. I JUST planted 4 clematis plants together in my garden and I am hoping for the best. although I don’t think I am going to see anything interesting this year yet. I wonder how long it will take. You’re right you are pretty lucky, that plant is very prolific!

  20. Oh too many times I get lucky with plants especially the clematis. I find you really have to get their feet in the shade and heads in the sun. So I plant them in sunny or part sunny spots and lots of plants at their feet with roots deep in the soil…or I plant the vine at the foot of a shrub and let it grow through.

  21. I cut my clematis back to about 8 inches tall..every’s a jacmani also and it looks like the one in the’s on a light pole that no longer works and I have to tie it up several times as it’s’s beautiful. .☆´¯`•.¸¸. ི♥ྀ.

  22. Last fall my beautiful jackmani clematis I have had for 25 years was sprayed with fertilizer weed control, it killed most of the clematis last fall, I was hoping it would come back this spring, nothing. Very disappointed! Planted a jackman, does not compare to my jackmani

  23. That is a remarkably beautiful clematis! I hadn’t been feeding mine, so now I know to do that. Shade has gradually been increasing in my yard so eventually I suppose mine will give up altogether.
    What you say is so true. In our forest preserves sometimes populations of special plants decline even when we are managing for them. Microbes in the soil, insects, all have a role to play and it is impossible to unravel all the factors entirely.

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