“Queen of all Vines” is one of the names for Clematis, and it’s rightly earned. Clematis are beautiful perennial vines with some of the most amazing flowers on the planet. However, clematis can be a difficult and tricky plant to grow here in Alberta.
In this blog, let’s talk about Clematis and Which Clematis Varieties Work Well in Alberta.
Where do Clematis Come From?
What Family is Clematis In?
Clematis are part of the Ranunculus family, otherwise known as the buttercup family. Clematis are native to Spain and Japan and they made their way to North America with settlers and explorers of the 1800’s, like most plant material that is not native here. Clematis love warm, humid weather.
The word Clematis means ‘vine’ in Greek. Clematis are perennial vines, they can be either herbaceous or woody perennials.
Herbaceous Clematis Perennials
Herbaceous Clematis perennials completely die back to the ground in the winter and grow their leaves and stems fresh from the ground each spring. This type of Clematis is the one that grows best on the Canadian prairies.
Woody Clematis Perennials
Woody Clematis perennials have woody vines much like trees and shrubs where their leaves die back in the fall and each spring they grow new leaves from their branches where they left off growing the season before. Woody Clematis are grown in more southern climates and aren’t hardy for us in Alberta.
There are three basic Clematis flower forms:
- Flowers grouped together in small clusters
- Bell shaped flowers that resemble a buttercup
- Open or flat flower hybrids that are most commonly used in garden horticulture today
Which Clematis Varieties are Right for Alberta?
It’s always good to know where plants come from to get an idea of the environment they require to thrive in. Clematis come from areas that are milder than our central Alberta climate, but there are a number varieties that will work well here.
Talking horticultural zones, Clematis are rated a Zone 4. Edmonton has historically been considered a Zone 3, but it is sometimes called a 4. Horticultural zones are a system of rating trees, shrubs, and perennials that will grow in particular climatic conditions. This system was initially instituted in the 1960s to help governments decide on how to make informed decisions about things like forestry, agriculture, and horticulture, but it is useful for home gardeners too.
Here in Edmonton in central Alberta, despite being a horticultural Zone 3, some Zone 4 perennials will grow just fine. It just depends on individual locations and the environmental factors that make some areas just a little warmer.
One of the keys to growing Clematis successfully is to find a location that makes them happy.
Clematis have three basic needs
- Sunlight for their head
- Coolness for their feet
- Support for Climbing
If you are having trouble with a Clematis, it could be that there isn’t enough sunshine or the area is just too wet. Many people have success growing Clematis in flower beds on the south side of their homes.
If you are thinking of jumping into growing Clematis, give one of the following Clematis varieties a try first and then expand your palette to other colours once you have success. All of the Clematis listed below are rated as Zone 4s, but they tend to be a little tougher and more successful than most other Clematis with the same rating.
Most herbaceous vine Clematis grow quite long. They can grow as tall as 4-5m (15-20 feet) in length in a season. Some have a large summer flush of blossoms and then continue to flower until the frost, while others have less of an initial flush but they flower consistently until the fall.
Best Kinds of Clematis for Alberta
Jackmanii is by far the most successful and popular Clematis in the Edmonton area with its 10 cm (4 inch) flowers with single dark purple petals and yellow centers. Its vine will grow to 4-5m (15-20 feet) in a season. Jackmanii is named after an English gardener named George Jackman. This variety of Clematis has a large initial flush of long lasting blossoms in summer and then continues to flower until the first frost.
2. Nelly Moser
Nelly Moser is another popular variety in our area. Nelly has large 10 cm (4 inch) pink petals with a darker pink carmine midstripe in the center of the petal. Nelly’s stamens are a pink colour and it grows tall like Jackmanii. Nelly Moser blooms heavily in the summer and then continues to bloom until the fall.
3. Multi Blue
Multi Blue is a variety that has 8-9 cm (3-3.5 inch) multilayered lavender blue flowers with silvery sepals, growing the same height as Jackmanii. Multi Blue blooms in the summer and continues to bloom through to the fall. It will grow to a height of 4-5 meters (10-15 feet).
4. Ernest Markham
Ernest Markham bears a 10 cm (4 inch) flower that is a deep red colour with a sheen and has golden yellow sepals. This variety starts to bloom a little later in the season with continual flowering until fall. Ernest Markham grows tall like Jackmanii.
Henryi is another large flowering variety like those above. Henryi has pure white flowers with white/pink sepals. Henryi has a heavy flush when it initially blooms in summer and then continues to lightly bloom until fall. It grows the same height as a Jackmanii.
Other hardier Clematis varieties include: Mrs. N. Thompson (violet flowers with a carmine midstripe), Dr Ruppel (pink flowers with a darker pink midstripe), and Vancouver Daybreak (lavender purple flowers with a whitish midstripe).
Summing Up Clematis Varieties
I hope that you will have an opportunity to try one of these Clematis in your own growing space. Check out the other two blogs connected with this one – How to Plant Clematis Properly and How to Care for and Prune Clematis.
©Sharon Wallish Murphy, Gardening with Sharon