the other clematis: charming non-vining types

From Brushwood, form of Clematis integrifolia called 'Floris V'WHEN I TALKED CLEMATIS PRUNING recently with my friend Dan Long, we didn’t spend much time on some of my favorite Clematis of all: the non-vining types that act more like perennials or even like lightweight shrubs. I wanted to be sure to spread the good word for “non-vining” Clematis, too (that’s ‘Floris V,’ a form of Clematis integrifolia, up top), so that you might consider making space for them among your other perennials, where they will happily scramble and lend extra interest to a planting.

dan long on non-vining clematis, a q&a

I asked Dan Long, founder of Brushwood Nursery (a.k.a. GardenVines.com)–full disclosure: I’m proud he is a seasonal advertiser on A Way to Garden–about these special Clematis:

Q. I’m starting to explore more of the non-vining types of Clematis here in my garden. I have one old plant of C. recta purpurea ‘Lime Close,’ for instance, with its amazing purple foliage (below) that is now so big and enthusiastic it has outgrown every support I’ve tried, yet it’s not really a climber. Any tips, and any varieties to recommend?

Clematis recta purpurea foliage emerging

A. It’s not commonly known but there are actually hundreds of species of clematis. Most are climbers, some are shrubs and several are herbaceous perennials.

For pruning, the perennials should be treated as Type 3 [pruning diagram at the bottom of the page] but many will die back clean to the ground and should be cleaned up just like your other perennials. A few are “sub-shrubs” and will retain some short stems. Look for those buds for your pruning cues.

Many will form large clumps and can be divided as you would other perennials. Clematis recta [Note: those are the frothy white flowers of the green-leaved species, below] is an amazing plant because it gets huge, up to 6 feet, but does not climb. It’s often best at the back of a perennial border supported by tall neighbors or with sturdy branches stuck in the ground. Consider lassoing it with some twine to reign it in a bit since it can lean down when it’s full grown and is hit with heavy rain or wind.

Flowers of Clematis rectaThere’s been a lot of work lately with Clematis integrifolia as a parent in hybrids. An older example, and probably the inspiration for the newer ones, is Clematis durandii. It brings a long bloom season and beautiful flowers but doesn’t climb well. Some of the newer ones are ‘Arabella’ and ‘Pamiat Serdtsa.’ These hybrids are stunning when allowed to scramble around in the front of the border where their light structure dances among the perennials and low shrubs.

Sometimes they’ll find their way up into an open shrub and climb a bit. For the traditionalist, they can be trained onto a support.

There’s such an amazing array of clematis available beyond the handful of hybrids usually offered. The potential for any garden is enormous! Anyone who has been timid or had trouble with them in the past should try Type 3’s and the non-vining ones. Give them a little love and they’ll repay it in spades with their generosity of flowers.

Type 3 Clematis pruning diagram

more about clematis

LEARN TO PRUNE clematis of all types in this recent how-to story with diagrams. It’s not hard! Also: listen right now to my recent podcast with Dan Long here. (All the links on how to get the podcast are also in that pruning story.)

(Photo up top of ‘Floris V’ clematis courtesy of Dan Long at Brushwood Nursery; used with permission.)

  1. Becky says:

    Great tips! And lovely photos. And by the way, Brushwood Nursery is my absolute favorite place to buy climbing plants. I was amazed at the condition that my roses I purchased from them arrived in. They were so healthy, so well-protected. I could tell they came from a very loving home. I can see a few clematis orders from them in my very near future!

  2. Carol says:

    Floris V is so beautiful–& White Swan! Hoping to have a house soon, so that I can stop dreaming & start planting!

  3. Florence W. says:

    I agree with Becky. Brushwood Nursery is also my favorite place to buy climbing plants. Dan is super to work with and the plants are in perfect condition when received. The Gelsemium sempervirens Margarita is in full bloom and the many clematis are full of buds. My only problem is that I’m running out of fence!!!

  4. Frances Roth says:

    I love it when you recommend a specific nursery. There are so many out there online it’s hard to know which will deliver the best plant specimens. I’ve taken your suggestion in the past and always been pleased. Now I have a new grower to add to my list.

  5. mikeinportc says:

    Congratulations on the milestone. Thanks ( & to Dan Long, this time) for all the great info , IN ONE PLACE. :) I’ve shared some of it , recently. ( Lee Reich/Blueberries, Seed Viability Chart, & 1 other that escapes me at the moment). Almost had to cut off the email notification from Pinterest, there were so many likes/repins. It’s what people are looking for.

    I like every one of the non-vining clematis that I’ve seen, especially C. recta ‘Purpurea’. ( Are there any ugly clematis? ;). Bring ’em on, Dan. As many as possible.:)

  6. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    It is my wish to add more clematis to my garden. I love how you can tuck a clematis here and there and everywhere in the garden! I will keep some of these non-climbing varieties in mind. I just added Tango to climb my Cardinal Dogwood – it takes two to Tango, you know? And I ordered it from Brushwood! It arrived beautiful and fresh, and is now soaking up the rain in my garden.

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