Consisting of more than 300 species, the genus Clematis has examples from all over the world but is primarily found in China and Japan. These climbing plants are a part of the Ranunculaceae family and are mostly lianas.
Unfortunately, the beauty of these plants can only be matched by their frailty. Gardeners have found it almost essential to pair Clematis companion plants to gain the most visual impact.
What Is Companion Planting?
Before we get started, we must know what companion planting is.
This process has been a gardening secret for many generations and is known interchangeably as complimentary gardening.
In companion planting, there are three basic criteria people look at:
#1 – Plants Must Have Similar Environmental Needs
It goes without saying that planting a swamp-loving plant beside a plant that needs dry soil is a bad idea.
Likewise, soil pH, fertilizer needs, sunlight, and temperature can all be factors that help rule out many plants as potential (flower) bedmates.
The one main exception to this is if you have a shorter shade-loving plant and a taller sun-loving plant that can provide shade.
Note also that root depth plays a role in companion planting, as different root depths allow plants to be placed closer together without competing for resources.
#2 – Plants Must Provide Benefit To One Another
Many plants actively repel pests, reduce the risk of certain diseases, or even release chemicals that can help nearby plants grow.
Unfortunately, clematis trellis vines have none of these benefits to offer and are susceptible to a wide range of health issues.
But that’s where companion plants can come in handy, as pairing a plant that repels aphids with a plant (such as clematis) prone to aphids will result in a much lower risk of infestation by that particular pest.
#3 – Plants Should Complement Each Other Visually
This is where the concept of complimentary gardening is most obvious, and some plants are often chosen for looks over function or vice-versa.
However, many plants do both, and these are usually the true gems of the garden.
Some of the ways plants might be aesthetically pleasing together are height differences (with the taller serving as a backdrop), foliage shape or hue, and complimentary floral colors or shapes.
There’s a lot of variety in this genus, so we need also to take a quick look at the three groups of clematis.
These groups are based on the bloom time and pruning needs.
- Group 1 plants bloom from winter into early spring and generally don’t require pruning.
- Group 2 plants bloom in spring and summer, require pruning in late winter, and then again after their first flush to encourage new blooms.
- Group 3 plants bloom from summer through fall and need heavy pruning in late winter to ensure they don’t become flowerless tangles of growth.
Clematis Companion Plants
There are many staple companions for clematis, some of which are ornamental and some beneficial.
Let’s go over the most common companions for your garden.
Group 2 clematis plants will get a lot out of having allium beside them.
Known as the genus of garlic and onions, alliums can be up to 4’ feet tall and have surprisingly ornamental blooms.
But more importantly, alliums are cherished for their ability to ward off a wide range of insect pests, slugs, snails, and even sometimes repel deer and rabbits.
Considering clematis is prone to infestations, having an allium growing at its feet can provide far better protection than constantly resorting to insecticides.
Clematis likes to have its legs in the shade, so planting smaller plants around its base can help keep the clematis healthier.
Of course, there are several great annuals to choose from, but cosmo, flowering sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), and larkspur (Consolida ambigua) are some of the most common annual companions.
We’ve already mentioned alliums, but other edible plants look great at the base of clematis.
Basil is a wonderful kitchen herb that also provides some insect repellent properties.
Chives and garlic are two particularly great alliums, as their smaller bulb sizes make it less likely you’ll damage the clematis when harvesting.
Lettuce is another great option, as it comes in a wide range of colors, such as red and green, and the heads can be rounded or more cylindrical.
Marigolds are another great choice which are usually grown as annuals and (depending on the species) have edible flowers and leaves.
But even better, marigolds are great at repelling many insect pests while attracting pollinators who will then spend much time investigating the clematis.
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Japanese maples are well beloved for their beauty and provide a wonderful living trellis for your clematis.
Let the fragile vine wind its way up the maple’s sturdy trunk, and you’ll be rewarded with a mix of red and green foliage, not to mention the paired blooms.
Several ornamental grasses make a great border when paired with clematis.
A great example is Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (AKA maiden grass), a fellow perennial that shades the more sun-sensitive base of your clematis.
This is perhaps the best-known pairing, although there are some guidelines if you want the best possible pairing.
For example, clematis plants in Group 2 will bloom at the same time as roses and can also be pruned at the same time.
Climbing roses work best, as bushier usually requires a different pruning time.
Additionally, clematis can cut off some of the airflow and sunlight if allowed to use the roses for support, so be sure it has its own climbing support.
Shrubs And Trees
While we’ve already given an example or two, clematis can work really well with a sturdy tree or bush to climb on.
- Make sure your chosen plant has similar care needs.
- Clematis must be planted between any larger tree roots so that its roots have somewhere to go.
- Avoid shrubs that can’t handle the weight and foliage of a clematis.
- Your clematis will add color and character to these larger plants when properly paired.
There is no doubt about it, clematis are beautiful. When combined with Clematis companion plants they put on a landscape flower show.