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I have a huge, and obviously very old, clematis that has grown up the side of my house.  The woody trunk is about 3 inches in diameter.  I would like to move this magnificent plant to a new location.

What's the best way to move it?  What time of year should I do it?  How much of it should I cut back before moving it? What else do I need to know to ensure that the plant flourishes once relocated?  Many thanks for any advice you can offer.

ANSWER: The best way to get clematis in a new area is to purchase one.  Moving such an old vine will be very difficult.

Instead of trying to move such an old clematis right away, I suggest taking cuttings from an area that hardens off this summer.  This will give you backups of the vine if it doesn't survive the trauma.  There is a very good chance it will not survive a move.

Take a piece of vine that is either this spring’s growth or later in the summer, growth that has stiffened a little. Cut the vine into pieces with two strong buds at the top and two buds at the bottom.  The buds are just above the leaves on the stem.  Don't use spindly, wimpy end growth.  A long piece of vine should give you several cuttings with buds at each end. 

On each cutting, cut off all but one of the leaves at the top, and trim that leaf by cutting it in half.  Make sure you do not injure the growth buds.

Dip the bottom end in a rooting hormone and pot it into a small, 4 in, sterilized pot filled with sterilized potting mix.  Remove the bottom leaves.  Plant the cutting with the bottom leaf nodes and buds below ground.  Water it well.

Cover it with a mason jar or a plastic domed lid.  Make sure the cover does not touch the leaves or vine.  Set it in the shade in your garden.  After 8 weeks, gently tug on the stem to see if it has rooted.  If it has, move it into a larger pot.  Plant it out in the garden the following spring.

Be sure to read the article, PROPAGATION-AIR LAYERING, at the GardenSMART ARTICLES page.

To move your large clematis vine, look for suckers with roots, young growth that you can detach from the main vine.  Cut through the connecting tissue, dig, and move these in the late winter/early spring.

After you have as many backup vines as you can get, only then cut the vine back to just above its last set of leaves (two sets would be better) but no shorter than 24 inches above ground.

Dig your main vine with as much of the root ball as you can get.  Plant it in your new area at the same depth it was growing.  Be careful not to injure any shoots that might be below ground.

Keep the newly planted old vine well watered every day.  Even then, the move will most likely not be successful.  If it is, it will take several years to begin vigorous growth. 

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