Atragene group Clematis

Princely lianas

To the uninitiated, the Atragene group clematis in the pictures looks like a rather modest clematis (and given the constant reshuffling in botanical nomenclature, I would not be surprised if soon these two genera are joined). Well, yes, the florals are floral, if not, well, yes, the small flowers, not very open, looking mostly downward. According to the photos, the varietal clematis unequivocally wins.

But this competition in reality would be unfair, like a competition between swimmers and figure skaters.

Despite their similarity and biological proximity, clematis and atragene are fundamentally different from a horticultural point of view. Clematis flowers from midsummer on young shoots, which means that they regrow their entire mass every year. Atragene, on the other hand, grows their liana more and more every year, it does not freeze for the winter, getting longer if there is a place to grow, or more tangled if the size of the support is limited. And if the varietal clematis is unlikely to climb above three, well, okay, some – four meters, but mostly much lower, the atragene goes through the trees in their crowns or braids the fence of the rabbit for many meters.

In the garden this is one of its main uses. When asked what would be such, taking up little space, to block the neighbor’s windows, for example, or something not too tall and unsightly, one of the easiest solutions in the forehead – trellis with atragene clematis. Even in winter, because of the density of the branches, the late fall of the leaves and the many heads with seeds, the liana is little permeable to the eye.

Another fundamental difference is that atragenes bloom early, in the middle belt in May, on last year’s shoots. Then, from the second half of summer, permanent blooming is possible, but it is not as impressive as the spring fireworks.

Thus, atragene and clematis are complementary. I even have both growing on the same support, on both sides. Atragene has long gone up and clumps there a huge cap, and clematis every year grows and weaves on the trunks of the prince. The main thing is to remember to feed the other one.

Atragene Group Clematis

To me, atragene seem to be an underrated oriental plant. Possible, though doubtful, in my opinion, disadvantages are compensated by the absolute unpretentiousness and carefree culture. All care is actually planting (without pits, special soils, etc.) and the construction of a strong support. After that, you can do nothing at all and never do anything at all. In my 15+ years of atragene growing, I have only once severely and cruelly cut one bush because it threatened to topple the fence. Well, I now know it’s best not to do that: old trunks give almost no buds and it’s extremely difficult for the plant to recover. If there is a task of keeping the prunus in check, it is better to prune it annually or every other year after the spring flowering or early spring. But it’s better to just plant pruners so that no pruning is required.

“So” is to give the plant a support, preferably in the form of thin twigs, slats, rope or netting, as the atragene clings to the petioles of its leaves and wraps its shoots around the thin support. It won’t climb a plastered wooden wall. Sturdy framed fence or wooden trellises and pergolas are ideal.

If a vines escapes into a tree, it doesn’t choke it, it just lives on it, making its way through the crown to the light. Flowering, of course, goes upward, too.

Atragene Clematis flowers

In fact, in nature, atragene live like that: on shrubs and trees, using them as a springboard to the sun. They are quite tolerant of penumbra (and this is another advantage over clematis). There are only a few natural species of atragene, they are very similar and there is no point in listing them. But it is worth mentioning that in the nature of our country there are several. All can be used in landscaping – really, you can’t get enough of them.

A long time ago, for example, I sowed a Atragene sibirica or Clematis sibirica and I grew a liana with white, very large for a kniazhik flowers with fluttering and glowing petals in the May sun. I love it. Now it has already escaped from the fence in the shady corner of the plot up into the forest trees behind the fence, but there are enough shoots left on the netting to spoil me every spring as well.

Mostly available are varieties of Clematis macropetala and Clematis alpina. They are absolutely all beautiful, and although, in spite of the name, the flowers lose in size to the Clematis sibirica , but the power and abundance of flowering is impressive. The choice is easy – be it in bloom at a garden center or by roots from a picture (it’s a rare case when you can do it!), as long as the source is reliable. Any variety will please you. Light-flowered varieties look a little better – they can be seen from afar.

Atragene growing

There is nothing difficult in planting Atragene: you just need to plant them from a pot, if they are sold in the WBCs, or dig a hole and plant the rhizome, unlike clematis, placing the root neck just a couple of centimeters below the soil level, not deepening. Of further care only watering. In terms of moisture, Atragene need a standard place without stagnation of moisture and not too dry. Ideal penumbra, forest edge, but also in full sun on loam in the presence of watering all fine.

In the first couple of years after planting, the stalks of Atragene not bad to distribute on the support, if you need a wider coverage. Direct the ends of the vines in the right place, reweave, you can pinch and prune them for tillering.

Propagating this crop is also not difficult. My first lianas came from seeds collected from varieties. Almost all nearly repeated their parents, and I got a beautiful palette of terry and simple varieties. However, all sorts of hybrids grew from the seeds I collected later in the garden. Even the Atragene sibirica, growing some distance away, was reached by hungry May bees and carried pollen from varietal lianas, and its seedlings came out in different shades of lilac and varying degrees of macerness, taking from my mother only a large flower.


Now I do not sow them at all, just dig up spontaneously formed in the garden self-seeding. Yes, our heroes form a huge number of seeds, and in the presence of mulch self-seeding is formed not in frightening, but a decent amount. Seedlings bloom quickly, in 2-3 years from seedlings, so it is quite possible to select the pretty ones, and the rest just weed out in the direction of neighbors and friends.

If you want to be sure to keep the variety, then cuttings and grafts are at your service. Branching can be made from any reachable to the soil with leaves, pinning it and pouring this place with soil and mulch. Cuttings are made by standard green cuttings in June-July, cuttings with 1-2 nodes.


What else…?

Ah, yes. Diseases and pests. No wonder I forgot about them. Theoretically, of course, they are, without them there is no crop. But practically you don’t notice them. Yes, somewhere in the thicket can sit aphids, occasionally in an unfavorable year overcome powdery mildew and other fungal leaf diseases. But it happens somehow imperceptibly. Slugs, it happens, severely robs the leaves of young plants. More damage can be caused by scabs, which are usually brought in with the planting material, then the young shoots become weak and flowering is not abundant. Here you will help systemic insecticides. Well and of course you should beware of all kinds of diggers: mice, voles, honeybees. To destroy the atragene, in my opinion, is extremely difficult. To do this, you either have to cut off all the tops, or eat all the roots, or plant it in extremely unfavorable conditions, in standing water or in the desert. So, in spite of the exquisite name, our hero turns out to be quite a shirt-boy, simple and reliable.

About the author

Olga Bondareva
Introducer, traveller, naturalist, breeder, garden and nature photographer, author of a million (or slightly less) articles on various garden topics in almost all classic Russian garden magazines and five books, not counting their reprints.

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