Skip to content

Planting clematis in a tub: The right care and suitable underplanting

Clematis, also known as woodland vine, is a hardy climber that produces stunning flowers in vibrant hues – from white or pale pastels to deep purple and red. In most climates, clematis blooms from spring until the first frost in fall. But can you keep clematis in a container? Read on to learn more.

Can you keep clematis in a tub?

Clematis in the tub on the balcony

Caring for clematis in pots is a bit more involved, as potted clematis plants require more attention than those in beds. Nevertheless, growing clematis in pots is definitely possible, even in climates with cold winters. Thus, clematis in containers can be used to beautify the terrace, balcony and entrance area of the house.

Which clematis is suitable for containers?

Clematis in terracotta tub in front garden

The genus of woodland vines includes more than 200 species, which are divided into numerous varieties and hybrids. In principle, if the water and nutrient supply is provided, you can plant any clematis in a container. But it’s important to note that the wild species and cultivars can reach a dizzying height of growth. This makes them rather unsuitable for container keeping. Small and medium-sized clematis varieties with a growth height of 100 cm to 350 cm are suitable for container growing.

Here are some of the best clematis varieties for containers:

  • Clematis piilu
  • Clematis jackmanii
  • Clematis alpina
  • Clematis viticella
  • Clematis lanuginosa
  • Clematis florida
  • Clematis integrifolia
  • and Clematis hybrids like ‘President’, ‘Königskind’ and ‘Nelly Moser

Clematis varieties like

  • Clematis tangutica
  • Clematis vitalba
  • Clematis montana
  • and Clematis armandii

are rather unsuitable for container cultivation, because they are very strong-growing and reach a growth height of up to 900 cm.

How and when to plant clematis in a container

Clematis with red flowers in tub on terrace

Be sure to use a large container for clematis, because the extra soil in the planter will protect the roots in winter and on hot summer days. We recommend a planter with a diameter of at least 60 cm and a depth of at least 45 cm. So the planter should hold about 25 to 30 liters. The best material is fiberglass or resin, as terracotta or ceramic pots can break in winter. Make sure the planter has drainage holes, as the roots do not like waterlogging.

The best time to plant clematis is in the spring from March to May or in the fall from September to November. You can also plant clematis in the summer, but then more attention and care is required.

Clematis do best in a location in full sun or partial shade that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. This allows the plant to produce flowers year round. It’s best to place the container in a location with a west, east or south exposure.

Clematis in the tub – what soil?

Clematis in the tub what soil

Use a potting soil mix that provides good drainage. We also recommend adding some compost or water-holding granules to the soil for better soil structure and more nutrients. For larger planters, some gardeners cover the soil with gravel, expanded clay or stones as the bottom layer to improve drainage. However, this is not absolutely necessary. We also recommend spreading a thick layer of mulch around the root ball. Mulch helps retain moisture, releases extra nutrients into the soil as it rots throughout the year, and provides extra protection for the roots in the winter.

Clematis in tub climbing aid made of wood

Once you have planted the plant in the container, immediately add a climbing support for the woodland vine. It is important to do this immediately because the plant needs support as it grows. If you add the climbing aid later, the roots could be damaged. Clematis grow quite fast, so the height of the climbing aid should be at least 1 – 1.5 m. We have compiled beautiful ideas for climbing aids for clematis in this article.

Clematis in the tub with climbing aid

Care of clematis in containers

Clematis climbing aid made of bamboo

Clematis can do very well in planters if you take good care of them, especially in the first 2 years when the plant is growing and becoming established. The main points to consider are:

  • that the plant gets enough sunlight
  • that there is good drainage in the container
  • and that the plant gets enough water

Watering clematis in a tub

suitable partner plants for clematis in tub

In the container, the water requirement of the clematis is higher than in the bed. This is because the soil dries out faster in the tub. Check the soil frequently by thumb test, especially in the first year. If the top layer is dry to an inch and a half below the soil, the plant needs watering. Water the soil well, using about 2 to 3 quarts of water. If the planter has good drainage, you don’t need to worry about overwatering.

Once the clematis is established, it will need 1 quart of water per week. If the plant does not get rainwater, you will need to water with a watering can. Check the soil more often during hot summer days and droughts.

Fertilizing clematis in pots

Clematis in a pot needs at least 6 hours of sunlight

If you added compost to the clematis when you planted it, you won’t need to fertilize it the first year. Once the plant is established, you can fertilize each year in early spring, January to mid-March, with tomato or rose fertilizer. Avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, as these inhibit flower growth and instead promote leaf growth.

Overwinter clematis in a container

Clematis in frost-proof pot

If you are keeping clematis in a ceramic pot, you should place the container in a location where the plant will not freeze, but that is still cold enough for it to go into winter dormancy. If the container is frost-proof, then leave the clematis where it is. Usually Mother Nature provides adequate watering, but make sure the soil doesn’t stay dry for too long.

Prune clematis in containers

Clematis with small purple flowers in a tub on the terrace

Clematis need to be pruned back on a regular basis. Without pruning, the plant will become bare at the base, with all the flowers sitting high up. Regular pruning keeps the plant in shape and encourages vigorous growth and flower formation.

But how and when to prune? Clematis are divided into three groups based on their pruning requirements. Most low-growing and medium-sized varieties are in pruning group II.

If you’re not sure what type of clematis you have, observe when it blooms. If it blooms before June, it needs only light pruning after flowering. And if it blooms after June, it needs a heavy pruning in late fall or February. Twice-flowering clematis varieties need pruning after each bloom.

5 Ideas for underplanting to clematis in a container.

Clematis with pink flowers and purple verbena in a tub

The golden rule with climbing plants is feet in the shade, head in the sun. So shade the roots of clematis with ground cover plants or add mulch around the roots. The perfect planting partner for clematis has similar site requirements, is a shallow rooter and grows no taller than 50 centimeters.

Planting roses and clematis together

Roses and clematis are a real dream couple and are often planted together. For the best effect, choose varieties that bloom at the same time and are similar in size. Also consider pruning times – ideally you want to be able to prune the clematis and rose together. Climbing roses and groundcover roses are preferable to rambler roses because the latter grow very large and need to be pruned at different times than the clematis. Ideally, choose a clematis in pruning group II – these bloom at the same time as roses and can be pruned at the same time in late winter.

Rose and clematis in a tub

Rose and clematis in a tub underplanted with ivy

A clematis entwined with a groundcover rose in a terra cotta tub is a real eye-catcher. The velvety clematis ‘Burma Star’ is in harmony with the regal tones of the rose ‘Suffolk’. A small-leafed ivy hangs over the edge of the container, accentuating the beauty of the rose, while the Nemesia adds another touch of purple.

Here we used: 1 x clematis ‘Burma Star’, 1 x rose ‘Suffolk’, 3 x ivy, 2 x elf mirror (nemesia) in purple, 1 x square terracotta tub (30 cm in diameter), 1 x wooden obelisk as a climbing support.

Clematis and small growing ornamental grasses

Clematis and ornamental grass in a tub

For a modern look, combine clematis with ornamental grasses. Since most grasses are at their best in late summer, plant them with Group 3 clematis.

Plant this charming pair of bluish-green ornamental grass and blue clematis in a tub of brown polyrattan to create an attractive and rustic-looking ensemble. Let the clematis climb up the poles and take the spotlight.

Used here: 1 x Clematis ‘Fujimusume’, 3 x Walliser Schillergras (Koeleria vallesiana) ‘Mountain Breeze’, 1 x polyrattan planter, 3 bamboo poles, lava mulch.

Ornamental tobacco and clematis

2 clematis in a tub Nicotiana and Isotoma

This container planting in green and white gives a cheerful and refreshing mood. The green foliage sets off the green and white flowers of Clematis florida ‘Alba Plena’ magically. This clematis variety scores not only with its elegant appearance, but also with its unusually long flowering period – from June to October. The small bells of Clematis ‘Blue Dwarf’ and the delicate flower stars of Isotoma are an unexpected accent, while Nicotiana (ornamental tobacco) delights the senses with its beautiful fragrance and shades the base of the clematis. Its lime green flowers harmonize perfectly with those of the clematis.

Here were used: 1 x Clematis florida ‘Alba Plena’, 1 Clematis ‘Blue Dwarf’, 1 x Isotoma ‘Blue Star’, 2 x Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’, 3 x Nicotiana ‘Perfume Antique Lime’, 1 x resin planter, 1 x willow obelisk as a climbing aid.

2 Clematis in a pot

2 clematis in a tub and ground cover plants in a tub

A black planter provides the perfect backdrop for the delicate pastel hues of these 2 clematis. The petals of Isotoma and Campanula add even more color and shape, while the strawflowers (Helichrysum) and barbed wire plant (Calocephalus) create a cloudy cushion and shade the base of the clematis.

Used here were: Clematis ‘Countess of Wessex’, Clematis ‘Cezanne’, Verbena rigida, Helichrysum ‘Goring Silver’, Calocephalus ‘Silver Sand’, Isotoma ‘Blue Star’, Campanula poscharskyana ‘Nana Alba’, black planter, black painted wooden obelisk.

Clematis and daylily

Clematis underplant with Hemerocallis daylily

Daylilies thrive in full sun and partial shade, making them the perfect underplanting for clematis. Choose a small-growing Hemerocallis variety, such as Stella d’Oro, which will beautifully show off the dark purple flowers of Clematis viticella ‘Etoile Violette’.

Clematis viticella in a pot with daylily