Love clematis vines? These tips will help you choose the best clematis trellis to give your flowering vine the support it needs, plus tips for proper placement for plant health and maximum growth and blooms.
This is part of the Complete Clematis Care Guide with tips on planting, propagation, fertilizing, and more.
Clematis Trellis Ideas
Clematis is a beautiful, flowering perennial vine but it can be tricky to choose the right trellis because it’s so delicate. Clematis grow spindly stems with tendrils that wrap around anything they come into contact with—but they’re also susceptible to damage.
You may have noticed this already in the garden nursery when the potted clematis vines are placed next to each other and become completely intertwined. You either have to buy the lot and plant them as one unit or damage the stems to get them apart.
Without proper spacing or support, the same problem can happen in the garden. Those tendrils will grab whatever they can and you end up with a tangled mess.
Best Trellis Choices
First, let’s have an overview of how clematis grows. These tips will help you identify the best style of trellis to build or purchase.
I have grown numerous clematis vines over the years and the best trellis long-term have specific design characteristics.
Many types of trellis found at garden supply stores suit other types of climbing plants but have the wrong dimensions for delicate clematis tendrils.
Use trellis made from wood, metal, or plastic not more than one-half inch thick with gaps less than six inches in size.
Avoid the temptation to use fine plastic netting or hardware cloth. While both of these can support the plant, the clematis will become so intertwined that it becomes impossible to prune the plant, clean up wayward growth, or train the plant to grow as desired.
The right type of trellis can make ongoing clematis care much easier.
Prepare For Pruning & Growth
The first few years of growth are the honeymoon period, but eventually, if left unchecked, the maturing vine, top-heavy with flowers, can cause the slender stems to bend and break, while also blocking light and air from the undergrowth. It’s kind of heart-breaking when this happens to a fabulous clematis!
While some clematis don’t require annual pruning (Groups 1 and 2), eventually there will be dead or damaged stems to remove. We need a well-trained (not tangled) plant to easily trim away the unwanted parts without causing damage to healthy stems with buds or flowers forming.
Group 3, which blooms in late summer, is easier to manage because the entire plant can be cut down to 12-inches or so after flowering in fall. You get a fresh start every year.
If possible, monitor your vines on a regular basis—a couple of times a week—when they are actively growing. Gently aim tendrils where you want them to go and secure them in place with loose twine as needed.
6 Tips for Clematis Trellis
Here’s some tips to give your clematis a good start and avoid it becoming a tangled mess.
Choose trellis to suit the plant size at maturity
Pick wood, plastic, or metal trellis that matches the expected height and width of the mature vine. The plant tag should list the average size.
A freestanding obelisk-style support is also an option:
Some species can grow as much as 30-feet long. These ones are best trained horizontally rather than vertically.
You can also use other shrubs or trees as natural trellis so long as the roots don’t compete for resources. I’ve seen clematis growing up various types of trees and shrubs.
The clematis will not, however, tolerate dry soil (it will die), so plant with this in mind.
They also need full sun (at least six hours a day) to ensure flowering, so avoid planting near plants or buildings that may cast too much shade.
Add the trellis at planting time
Secure your trellis in place before planting your clematis vine. It’s far too easy to damage the plant when trying to add a trellis after some growth has taken place.
Position trellis away from fence or walls
If you are placing the trellis near a fence or wall, do not mount it flush against the surface. Instead, mount it several inches away from the wall. You can do this by securing blocks of wood or mounting hooks to the wall and mounting the trellis to them. This allows the clematis to grow up both sides for better grip and air circulation. It also looks very nice.
House walls can also reflect extra heat so be careful that the soil is never allowed to dry out. With such delicate stems, clematis does not have the capacity to retain much water so it can dry out and die if left in direct heat.
Know your pruning group
As mentioned, it’s very helpful to know which pruning group your clematis belongs to (1, 2, or 3). This has tips for identifying your specific clematis.
Groups 1 and 2 can go with little or no pruning, other than removing dead, damaged, or diseased stems and leaves.
Group 3 is the one that gets cut back hard in fall (down to 6-24-inches depending on how big and mature the clematis is), which is handy if your plant tends to grow into a tangled mess. Each time you cut it back, you’ve got a fresh start to train it during the next growing season.
Find Clematis Trellis on Amazon
Clematis Reference Book
Plant Lover’s Guide to Clematis | Amazon
5Monitor Your Plant
Check your plant regularly and tie up tendrils as needed
Don’t expect clematis to grab onto the trellis by itself. It’s a contact sport and only if the tendrils touch a surface can they wrap around it, and only then if it’s not too thick. Without support, the vine will bend and flop over, possibly causing fatal damage to the stems.
Use natural twine (or something similar) to hold the stems in place every six inches or so.
If you notice dead or diseased stems, trim them off right away.
6Beware of Diseases
If something looks odd, find out what it is
This one isn’t about trellis, but important for the health of your plants.
Beware of common diseases that affect clematis vines.
Some problems, like clematis wilt, may not kill your plant if you act right away to stop the spread. You can find more information on clematis diseases here.
I loathe these problems because one day you can have the most spectacular vine, and the next day the wilt has blackened and withered the entire plant down to the ground. But, such is life in the garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
Clematis trellis should be large enough to accommodate the expected mature size of the plant. The plant tag should provide this information. Choose a wood, plastic, or metal trellis not more than one-half inch thick with gaps not more than six-inches. The fine tendrils have to make contract to wind around the trellis and hold the stems in place.
The coated metals used for plant trellis do not seem to get so hot that plant damage occurs.
It is best to put the trellis in place at planting time and train the vine along the trellis as it grows.
Trellis used for clematis should be secured in place without any wiggle room to avoid movement that can damage to the fragile stems. If mounting the trellis by a fence or wall, allow a gap of several inches between the wall and trellis to allow the plant to naturally wrap around the support on all sides.
The growth rate depends on the plant and growing conditions. In general, once the roots are well-established, which may take a few years, many clematis grow between two and six feet per year. Some varieties are slow-growers while others can be prolific within one growing season.
Clematis | Genus: Clematis
Clematis Growing Guide | Woody climbing vine
- Hardiness zones 4 to 9
- Full sun 6+ hours per day
- Well-draining soil
- Pruning varies by group
- Native Species | Parts of Canada and lower 48 US
- Clematis virginiana L. (Devil’s Darning Needles, Virgin’s Bower, Old Man’s Beard)
- Clematis occidentalis (Western Blue Virginsbower)
- Invasive | Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis Virginsbower)
Shop Online: Buy clematis vine plants at Naturehills.com (US shipping)
Watch Clematis Tips
Whatever you choose for trellis, make sure:
- It can be mounted to stand strong and firm.
- It looks great in your garden.
- It is placed away from walls so the vine can grow on all sides and get air circulation.
- It has places to attach wire or string for tying the tendrils in place.
- It accommodates any necessary pruning.
I hope this helps!
There is no perfect way to add trellis to clematis, but, if you know how much you’re willing to help it out, and if you can live with some messy but (we hope) flowerful overgrowth, it will be fine. Because truly, when it comes to clematis, that is the nature of this wonderful beast.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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