Questions about climbing plants often centre around evergreen; robust; sunny positions; hardy; flowering; screening; scented; trouble-free; dry soil!
There are not too many plants that spring to mind that cover all of those requirements, but the subject matter of this articled fills most needs – Clematis Armandii – the Evergreen Clematis. There are other evergreen clematis of course, but C. Armandii is the one that most associate with being so.
Clematis Armandii has foliage that is not only evergreen, but also quite attractive, and is worth growing just for that. However, throw in contrasting white flowers that have real scent and you soon see why this Clematis is so sought after.
Ah! Almost forgot to mention that it flowers in late winter or early spring as well! Anything that flowers in late winter is desirable, but if it is a hardy evergreen climbing plant as well, then it soon moves up the list of ‘desirables’!
The Armand Clematis originates in parts of China – and also Northern Myanmar where it is normally found growing in light positions, being sheltered from extremes – especially cold winds and soggy ground. Stony, well drained areas are ‘home’ with a preference towards alkaline conditions. It will grow in most well drained soils – sandy or medium loam. My best was on the side of a chalk hill on the North Downs of Kent.
Once established, it will be a spreading climber – fully clothed with foliage - reaching around 3 or 4 metres in all directions – as long as it has something to climb on. It moves along fairly quickly after the first year of planting so is well suited as a ‘screening’ plant for privacy or to hide something objectionable.
Planting positions can be varied, but a south or southy west facing wall or fence is best. However, as with many clematis, they are happy to be planted in a shady spot if they can send their heads up to the sun. That includes the shade side of a fence, where it will soon romp up to catch the sun. Problem being that is can then droop over the neighbour’s side - wallowing in the sunshine. After a year or so, your neigbour will have more of an advantage than you ars far as flowers are concerned!
Clematis armandii will also be happy clambering up through a light foliaged tree – such as silver birch.
It will rarely require watering – other than in the driest spells, so for that it will be happy at the base of a moisture-sucking brick wall.
It will need a hefty trellis or fence panel on which to clamber, or galvanized wires along a wall with vine eyes. The Evergreen Armandii Clematis is a superb pergola plant, blocking off the extremes of the sun and brightening the place up late winter.
Pruning is rarely required unless you have planted it in the wrong place, or did not allow for its eventual spread. It flowers on wood/growth made the previous year, so if you cut it back too late in the year, it will not have time to produce flowering growths for the next year.
Any pruning - other than panic pruning - should be carried out soon after flowering.
Clematis wilt can strike any clematis, and armandii is no different. I have never experienced it on an evergreen clematis, and it can seemingly be kept at bay with a regular late autumn mulch.
Easiest way to propagate Clematis armandii, is by air layering, or simply peg down a shoot in the late autumn. If you have heated propagator, then softwood cuttings (difficult) or semi ripe cuttings (easier) are a possibility. Keep the cutting material material clean, and apply a general fungicide at start and then a month later. Prevention far better than losing the young plants after they have supplied roots for you!