Plant Bare Root Clematis

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Plant bare root clematis in pots to give them a head start. Planting bare root clematis in pots is what you do if you can’t yet plant them in the garden. If you are planting directly in the garden this is the same method.

Please note: there is a full-length step-by-step video you can watch me do this linked at the end of this post.

Why Plant Bare Root Clematis

Many times you can find a better selection of varieties in bare-root, plus there is a dramatic cost savings. Spring is when you will find bare-root clematis in big box stores, nurseries, and online.

Be careful when buying at big box stores as they may have dried out. I have had great success buying them at Costco. In my area, Costco carries the Longfield Garden bare root perennials and they are in tip-top condition.

Pam holding a bag of bare root clematis from Costco

You can also order directly from Longfield Gardens online and I often do. Everything I have ever ordered from them is top-notch.

Prepare containers

Use one-gallon nursery pots or something similar in size. This gives the roots room for healthy root growth.

Recycled pots from previous plant purchases will work great, just clean and sanitize well between uses.

recycled nursery can or pot ready for planting

Inspect clematis

Open the packaging carefully. The bare root clematis plant may have already started to sprout making it possible to accidentally cut it off.

When shipped to you or the stores they are taken from cold storage where they have been kept dormant. Warm temperatures in stores and our homes will wake them up.

The new growth is white as it has been in the dark and has not greened up from sunshine yet.

Pam inspecting a bare root clematis taken from the bag it was shipped in

The medium this bare-root clematis was shipped in is still nice and moist. If it was dry then soaking for 20 minutes in tepid water would be needed to help rehydrate the roots.

Planting bare root clematis

Fill the one-gallon container halfway with good potting soil. The potting soil I am using today is Gardeners and Bloom potting mix. Any good quality potting mix will work.

Pam filling one gallon container with potting soil

You will want two inches of the clematis crown to be under the soil line (or you can do this when you plant in your garden). Note: you can plant where the crown is just barely below the soil surface.

Look close you can see the crown just below my finger in this photo. If you feel it, it is hard, unlike the soft feel of the new growth.

Pam pointing to crown of bare root clematis

Nestle the roots down into the soil in the pot. Don’t press too hard, clematis can be brittle and easy to break.

Notice there is plenty of room to add more soil. Fill the pot with more potting soil to half an inch of the top. This leaves room to water.

bare root clematis nestled into soil of half filled pot

Press gently to firm the soil and water well.

Where to Place Potted Bare Root Clematis

Place your potted clematis in a protected space. These are in my greenhouse which is more of a glorified cold frame. It is not heated.

While you wait for the temperatures and soil to warm you can keep your potted clematis on a porch against the house or in a garage.

bare root perennials on floor of greenhouse until they can be planted in the garden

Once the temps overnight are not super freezing you can place them outside but keep an eye on fluctuating temps that dip below freezing. Bring back in if temperatures drop freezing.

Clematis are cold hardy but super freezing temps will do harm.

How to Care for your Potted Clematis

Keep an eye on moisture levels in your pots. You don’t want them waterlogged but you do need to make sure and not let them dry out.

As the temperatures climb and your soil warms you can plant out in your garden. Many clematis can be grown in containers but they need to be large and roomy. Most are not suited for container growing and won’t perform as well as in the garden.

For more information on planting in your garden then hop on over and read this article: How to Grow Clematis Successfully.

If you really need to grow in containers look for ones that are better suited for that use. There are newer dwarf varieties available that are purported to do well in containers. The information on each clematis will say if they will do well in containers.

It can take a couple of years for a bare root clematis vine to mature and begin flowering vigorously. Be patient, this is a plant for the long haul.

To shorten the wait and help ensure your success, it’s best to purchase a plant that’s at least two years old.

Look for a container-grown plant in a quart or gallon-size pot. If you’re shopping for your clematis at a garden center or nursery, select a robust plant that’s showing vigorous growth. Brushwood nurseries send out more mature plants that you can enjoy the first year. They are more costly but that is to be expected, they are perfect for the impatient gardener.

Enjoy your Clematis

Sorry for the blurry shot but this is a Warsaw Nike clematis I bought bare root at Home Depot. It took a couple years for it to take off but it has been well worth the wait.

Warsaw Nike clematis climbing on trellis with red rose

Clematis make a perfect companion for roses.

Want to try your hand at propagating clematis? See here.

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  1. There are many variables but you should see something in about 2 weeks with optimum conditions. If not, you can get a refund from Costco. Sometimes they can become too dried out depending on how they were shipped, how long they were in the store, and how long you waited to plant them. Have you dug down into the soil a bit to see if something is happening under the soil? Some are just slower than others even of the same variety. Bareroot in packages can be a gamble but both Costco and Longfield Garden are very good about refunds.

  2. Can you suggest how long it would take if the plugs were planted in pots like you described in your video (Costco purchase also) before one could expect to see some healthy shoots with leaf development. I got 3 plugs in the purchase & looks like only 1 is the survivor – going to check with C. to see if they have more…………………your advice helps ……………… to planting plugs

    Love your site – you do a great job of teaching us

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