How do I move or transplant an existing Clematis?
The best time of year to move an existing clematis is while the plant is dormant before the new seasons growth begins - usually in late winter as long as the ground is not frozen. At this time of year the plant's energy is stored in the root system. Prune back the top growth to about 12 to 18 inches and dig at least a 12 inch diameter root ball as deep as possible.
Mature clematis roots can reach 4 feet down into the ground so the more roots you can save, the better. It is best to dig and prepare your new location before you dig up the plant to be transplanted. Dig a large hole, and dig it deeper than needed to make some room for compost or rotted manure in the bottom. You will also want to plant the clematis two to three inches deeper than the old level. One can use a post hole digger tool to get a nice deep hole. It is best to bury one or two pairs of latent buds, leaves and all, so that the plant can sprout from under the ground. It becomes a good insurance planting policy. The buried stem will develop roots.
Before you place the plant into the new hole, throw in a handful or two of bone meal or other fertilizer high in phosphate to aid in root growth (see the FAQ entitled "How to feed a clematis - choosing fertilizers" for more detailed information on the feeding requirements of clematis). Bulbtone, an organic fertilizer, can be added to the hole without fear of burning the roots. Mix the bone meal and fertilizer with compost in the bottom of the hole, fill the hole with water, and place the new plant in it's new home, submerging it in the water. Fill in around the plant with the best compost or enriched top soil you can find, and water it in.
Keep the plant well watered and fertilized the first few years until a deep root system capable of supporting the plant through dry times has had time to develop. It is best to mulch a large area around the base of the plant to keep the soil moist and reduce evaporation. Watering your plant is critical to its survival!