How and When to Transplant Clematis Plants

Trying to transplant your clematis but aren't sure when or how to do it? Transplanting these popular vines is fairly straightforward. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen takes you through each step of transplanting clematis, starting with when to do it, through how it's done.

Pink blooming clematis vine that was recently transplanted to a new garden location

Clematis are a perennial garden favorite. They are a familiar sight growing up a trellis or arbor, or cascading over the edge of a wall or large container. They are reliable bloomers and are probably best known for their prolific displays of beautiful showy flowers.

There are many different types of Clematis. They are mostly perennial vines, although a few varieties have more shrub-like growth characteristics. They are hardy plants that grow in just about any climate zone.

There are many places in a home landscape where Clematis can grow quite well. Once planted, they become well-established and can grow for many years. But what if you have a Clematis that needs to be transplanted? How and when should you move it?

Sometimes, regardless of planning, you have a plant that ends up in the wrong spot. If you find yourself needing to transplant a Clematis, it’s important to do a bit of advance planning to ensure you provide the transplant with the growth potential it needs. Let’s take a deeper look at when you should transplant Clematis, and how it’s done!

When to Transplant

Vining flowers growing in the spring white and purple. The blooms are light purple, and sheet white, growing on a vine in the garden. Each bloom has seven petals, with yellow stamens in the center.
You should aim to transplant when the plant itself is dormant.

If you find yourself in need of transplanting a Clematis vine, pay attention to the season and the current growth phase of the plant. You will want to transplant your vine during its dormant phase. Make the move in late fall when plant has died back for the year or early spring before plant has started growing for the season.

If you are in a warmer climate and have an evergreen variety of Clematis, anytime from late fall through early winter is probably the best time to transplant, before the plant has started to develop flowers. Dormant plants tend to withstand transplanting shock much better than plants in the midst of a growth or flowering cycle.

At the time you want to do your transplant, choose a day that is overcast and cool. If possible, choose a day that is overcast with some more cool and rainy days to follow. Do not transplant on a day that is hot, dry, and sunny, as this will overly stress your plant.

This will give you the best chances of success because your plant will receive plenty of moisture and be well protected from stressful environmental conditions for a few days.

How To Transplant Clematis

When transplanting, there are several steps you can follow to ensure you will give yourself the best chance of success. There is no guarantee your plant will acclimate to the transplanting process, as many growth factors can come into play.

But, by following the steps below, you’ll give your plant the best possible chance to reach it’s best potential for growth.

Step 1: Choose Your Location

Lavender flowering vine growing in garden. The flower is light purple, with white center stamens.
Pick a planting location that has enough sun, and plan for a trellis as needed.

Choose the location where you would like to transplant your Clematis. Make sure the new location can accommodate the size and growth habits of your Clematis plant. Do you need a trellis? Is there room for a trellis?

If you expect your plant to sprawl, do you have room for a sprawling vine? Does the site receive the proper amount of sunlight for your plant? Is the soil in the area rich and well drained?

Step 2: Prepare The Planting Site

Digging a new hole for a plant that will be in the ground. The shovel is digging in the ground, and the ground has a hole started.
Preparing the planting site starts with digging a hole big enough for your transplant.

Once you have determined that the new location is suitable for a Clematis, you will need to prepare the planting site.

First, dig a hole that’s a bit larger than you think you will need. Make sure the new hole is wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the entire root mass that you will be digging up. Leave a little extra space for fresh soil and in case the roots are larger than you expect.

After you remove the original soil from the hole, if you plan to re-use it, mix it with some fresh rich soil with lots of compost or organic matter. You can use this enriched soil to help fill the hole again after transplanting.

Step 3: Prune The Plant

Gardener is pruning Jackman clematis with metal pruners wearing gardening gloves. The pruners are black with orange handles.
Pruning will help prepare the plant for transplant prior to being removed from its existing location.

Before you remove the Clematis from its existing location, prune it. You can prune it back to between 12 and 24 inches, or a bit longer for a larger plant. If your plant is growing on a trellis or other support, pruning will make your plant much easier to disentangle.

Pruning will also make your plant easier to handle as you move it. Finally, pruning before transplanting will help the plant focus its growing energy on getting established rather than maintaining an abundance of pre-existing biomass.

Step 4: Use a Water Bucket

Water bucket for plants during transplant process. The water bucket is made of blue plastic, and next to it is a shovel waiting to put the plant into its new location.
Using a water bucket can help keep the roots of the plant soaked.

Before you start digging, fill a bucket or shallow bin with water. Immediate after digging out your plant, put it into the water. The roots will not like to be dry and exposed, so dipping them in water while you work can help minimize shock and stress.

Step 5: Transplanting

Putting plant in ground with roots that are healthy. Gardener is holding the plant with both hands, and the roots are collected on their left hand while the right hand holds the plant and stake. Under the plant is rich  soil, with a hole waiting for the plant.
After you’ve dipped the roots in water, it’s time to start transplanting.

Be very careful when digging out the roots. Using a shovel or spade, dig a generous amount around your Clematis so you can safety remove as much root mass as you can, being careful not to break apart the largest main roots.

Clematis can have rather deep roots, so be sure to work carefully and get as much of the root mass as you can.

As soon as you remove the plant, put it into the bucket of water. Then, transport it to the new hole. Carefully set the plant into the new hole so the roots are all below surface level and the crown of the plant is slightly below or level with the surface.

Be sure that all the roots fit into the hole. Make your hole larger if necessary to accommodate all the roots.

Step 6: Cover the Plant Base

Gardener is placing Clematis into a new hole for the planting location. The new location has moist, rich, soil. The plant has healthy roots.
Post-planting, make sure there is soil placed at the base of the plant.

Using the soil mix you removed and amended, replace the soil over the roots and around the newly set plant. Then give a hearty drink of water (you can re-use any remaining water in the bucket for this purpose). Mulch well around the plant with wood chips, bark chips, or organic compost.

If you have a climbing variety of Clematis, be sure to give your plant something to climb on. Remember that some Clematis grow quite large, so be sure your support is large enough to accommodate the variety of plant that you have.

Post-Transplant Care

Watering garden flowering vine with a water spray bottle. They are holding a plastic bottle with green spray head, and the flowering vine has bright pink flowers.
Provide proper post-transplant care routine for the best chance of transplant success.

After transplanting, check on your plant daily for a few weeks. You will want to know if it needs any extra help and take care of it promptly if necessary. It will be very important to keep your plant moist for the first few weeks after transplanting. You don’t want the soil to be wet, but it should stay consistently moist. Also, make sure the roots don’t dry out.

Clematis may take a while to completely recover from a transplant and resume their normal growth rate. Don’t expect to see rapid growth during the year after transplanting.

Within 2 to 3 years after transplanting, your plant should resume its normal growth habits. This also means that you may not see flowers for a year or two after transplanting.

Given time, patience, and a little extra care, your plant should be ready to bloom again within a few years. The year after transplanting, you can resume normal fertilizer applications and any regular pruning schedule, as needed. If you were able to transplant without too much root disturbance, you should have good luck with your plant getting re-settled in its new home.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I guarantee success in transplanting?

If you know well in advance that you will need to transplant your favorite Clematis, you can take some cuttings in the spring when the plant sends out fresh green growth. If you are able to root a few cuttings, you will at least have a backup in case the transplant is not successful.

The most important tips for a successful transplant are the following:

  • Do not move the plant while it’s dormant.
  • Dig out as much of the root mass as you can.
  • Keep the roots moist the entire duration of transplanting.

Also, be attentive after transplanting to be sure the roots stay moist and the plant is somewhat protected from harsh environmental conditions that can overly stress it.

What about non-vining varieties?

Basically, you can transplant any variety of Clematis by following the same steps outlined here. If you have a shrubby clematis, you will not need to do any additional pruning. Just transplant the root mass and crown during the dormant season, keep it moist, and it should re-sprout the following spring!

Final Thoughts

It can be a daunting task to move a favorite plant. The good news is that Clematis can be transplanted. Timing and advance preparation are important. Time your transplanting for when the plant is dormant and take care to be gentle with the roots during transplanting.

It is also very important to keep the roots moist the entire time you are transplanting to minimize shock. You can also help your plant by pruning your plant before moving it, and timing your transplant for a cool, overcast day.

With extra care and a bit of luck, your transplant will be successful, your plant will recover completely, and you can continue to enjoy an abundance of beautiful Clematis blooms for many years to come!

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