Unlike traditional clematis vines that precariously climb trellises on delicate, woody stems, there’s a small group that doesn’t need a support system. Solitary, or border, clematis—along with a few other semi-woody and herbaceous types—are non-climbing plants, as they don’t wind their leaf petioles around supports; instead, most meander through the garden or grow in informal, upright clumps.
Their showy blooms, technically called tepals because the petals are really modified sepals, can be nodding and bell-shaped with charmingly swept-back tips, or a froth of single, starry flowers. Many non-climbing clematis bloom all summer, and some, such as the hyacinth-flower clematis, even bloom into the fall. Attractive seedheads composed of many feathery, silver-coloured seed tails put on a good display until late summer or fall, and often appear along with the flowers.
Soil and exposure
Full sun (for more blooms) or part shade; shade roots by mulching well (but keep from touching stems) with five to seven centimetres of compost, shredded bark or small wood chips applied in spring and fall. Or create shade by planting leafy perennials at the base of clematis; grow in well-drained, loamy, organic soil. Amend heavy clay soils with compost, leaf mould or sand.
- Prune all non-climbing clematis, including upright forms, to just below knee height (15 to 30 centimetres above ground) in early spring while plants are dormant, cutting just above a strong leaf bud axil.
- Deadhead spent flowers to encourage reblooming.
- Propagate by division using a sharp spade every three or four years, in early fall or early spring.
- If you prefer a tidier look, support lax stems with peony rings, tomato cages, stakes, twine or twigs.
Pests and disease
Although clematis wilt is rarely a problem for these non-climbing types, a few common threats include earwigs and slugs, which chew holes in larger leaves and flowers, and fourlined (Poecilocapsus lineatus) and tarnished (Lygus lineolaris) plant bugs, which suck sap from new foliage, leaving sunken areas around the puncture marks. To control large pest populations, apply insecticidal soap at the first sign of infestation.