Please teach me about Piilu Clematis

TomNorthJerseyJune 30, 2012

I planted my first clematis and I'm hoping some of you would share your knowledge so I can get my Piilu from Monrovia off to a good start. I'm not an expert when it comes to plants.

I did my best to learn about clematis while trying to select a vining plant to grow up a 6' x 2' trellis. When I got to my garden center they didn't have any of the varieties that I researched except for Jackmani, which in hindsight is what I probably should have gone with. The Piilu really stood out as looking very healthy and had big blooms with a long blooming season. Unfortunately I didn't realize they only grow to 6' high. I wanted it to fill the trellis.

Planting depth. The guy at the garden center told me to plant it just above ground level, which I did. I just read that it should be planted with the crown buried to encourage more stems to grow from the base. I'd like more stems from the base. Is there anyway I can do that now without digging out the plant? Can I push back the mulch and and some more soil on top then put the mulch back??

By the way is this true for most plants? I read the same thing about fig trees some years ago.

I dug a wide, deep hole for the plant and mixed the soil with some organic potting mix. My top soil actually has a good bit of organic matter but the hole went down past my topsoil so I made sure to mix in a lot of the potting mix in at the bottom. I watered then added more soil then covered with cedar mulch.

The garden center guy told me to water 2x a day for the first couple of weeks. I didn't ask how much to water. Can someone give me an idea? There is about 3" of fresh mulch in my beds and I'm really confused as to how much to water. With bare soil I can see how much the soil is absorbing but I feel like I'm just guessing when it's mulched. I'm always concerned that I'm just wetting the mulch and not the soil. I'm using a hose. I have a 2 gallon watering can which might be better. If someone can tell me how much the plant needs at each watering until it gets established I would appreciate it.

My garden center guy suggested using Miracle Grow on it, which I'm not opposed to but I prefer organics. I forgot to ask when I should fertilize. The plants had just come in the day before.

I'd like to help the plant grow as fast as possible to fill in the trellis. Any tips that would help would be greatly appreciated.

The branches on the plant were intertwined. Should I try to gently separate them to encourage wider coverage of the trellis or would that harm the plant?

What should I do in the winter. I've read recommendations that it should be cut down and that it should be left as is. I'd like to do what would help fill the trellis the most for the longest part of the warm seasons.

Lastly, I read that hostas are good to plant around the base of clematis because they help shade the soil. Is that a good idea even if I'm using mulch?

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Congratulations on your first....of what will likely become many - clematis! Hope you find the following helpful.

1) What you read about planting depth is correct - the root crown should be planted 4-6 inches below the soil surface. This helps to generate multiple stems form the base as well as encourage a strong, healthy root system. And with the exception of fruiting figs, tomatoes and potatoes, I know of no other plants that come with a deeper planting guideline.

If the planting was recent, there is no reason why you cannot dig up the vine and replant at the proper depth, as long as you are careful with the rootball. Doing so can affect flowering but it is far more important to get the planting right for the long term than to enjoy a few flowers now. If you feel uncomfortable digging and replanting the vine, go ahead and mound soil up to the appropriate depth, making a small berm. That works, too :-)

2) I can't tell you how often to water - no one can. That depends on your soil composition, how fast it drains, temperatures and rainfall amounts. What you want is for the soil to stay evenly moist. If the mulch makes that unclear, go ahead and rake the mulch away to check. And make sure that is evenly moist to the full depth (and preferrably deeper) of the rootball. It will only take a few trials for you to become familiar with your specific conditions and really know how often and how long to water. FWIW, twice a day seems excessive to me if you are giving the newly planted vine a deep, slow drink when you do water, not just a spritz with the sprinkler for a few minutes.

3) MiracleGro or any other water soluble fertilizer can work, although I'd opt for one that encourages blooms rather than foliage (or those with a lower N number). Many clematis growers like to use a tomato or rose fertilizer, both of which are available in organic formulations. Alfalfa meal is very good, as is compost. Your choice :-)

4)You do not need to do anything in winter other than apply mulch. Generally clematis are pruned back in late winter/early spring or when you prune roses in your area. Piilu is a type 2 but you will want to prune your vine back hard for at least the first two growing seasons (next spring and the following). This hard pruning encourages establishment, disease resistance and a good root system and is recommended for all newly planted clematis regardless of pruning type.

5) Fast establishment is the result of following all of the above :-)) Do not expect too much too soon. Clems (and all other vines) need about three years in the ground before they really take off. Encouraging the vine to grower faster than it should (or would naturally) can promote wilt or disease and insect problems.

6) Shading the soil with other plants is not a requirement, especially if you are mulching well. All you need to do is assure an evenly moist root run, which both the mulch and adequate watering will provide. Many folks DO plant at the base of clems - you want a shallow rooted plant that doesn't need much dividing, so you don't chance disturbance of the clematis roots.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 2:23PM
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I must have only previewed my message and not submitted it yesterday so here goes again :)

Thank you very much for your advice.

1) I'm really nervous about digging it up and planting it again. One of the plants wasn't doing too well after planting. See here I wonder if I somehow managed to damage the stems while trying to remove the canes. I'm not sure that's what happened but it's the only thing I can think of. I'll try mounding the soil up a bit. I don't think the crown is too far above ground.

2) I think I'm getting a handle on the watering. I took your advice and pushed the mulch back. I did it after watering to see how wet the soil looked and then watered again to gauge how much water was absorbed.

3) I'm going to try espoma tomato tone. I forgot I have some Organica Plant Growth Activator Plus that I should have added when planting. Will do so next watering. It does well on other plants and grass.

4) Stupid question, but if I prune back hard next spring, if I leave the dead branches on the trellis will they die off and fall off or do I have to remove them? :)

5) How much can I expect it to grow in the first year? I don't necessarily want to rush it I just want to make sure I'm not doing anything to stunt it's growth :)

6) I'll stick with mulch for now.

Thank you again for your help.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 6:23PM
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