Climbing clematis vines (Clematis spp.) ramble over fences, creating a living wall of lush foliage and large flowers. Clematis comes in both short-growing and vine varieties, with the vine types better suited for growing along your fence line. The vines grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 11. Prepare your fence to support the vines and plant them from healthy root stock in late winter or early spring when the clematis is still dormant.
Break up the top 24 inches of soil along the base of the fence with a spade. Mix in a 4-inch layer of compost to improve aeration and drainage and add nutrients.
Screw eye bolts into the top and bottom of a wooden fence, spacing the bolts 6 inches apart horizontally. Add a row of eye bolts at either end of the fence running vertically, spacing these 6 inches apart. String galvanized wire through the eye bolt openings, forming a grid with 6-inch square openings. Chain-link fences do not require wiring to support the vines.
Plant the clematis vine transplants along the base of the fence in the prepared soil so the top of the root is 2 inches beneath the soil surface. Spacing varies depending on the variety, but most types require 3 to 5 feet between plants. Cut back the newly planted vines to a 12 inch height to encourage branching and even coverage of the fence.
Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the soil after planting to keep the roots cool, retain moisture and to suppress weeds. Replenish this mulch annually in spring.
Water clematis immediately after planting to settle the soil. Continue to water once weekly, supplying about 1 inch of water each time. Clematis grow best in evenly moist soil, so your bed may require more frequent watering in hot weather or if the soil dries quickly.
Guide the growing vines onto the fence if they don't begin climbing on their own. Tie the vines loosely to the fence or support wires with cloth ties. The vines send out tendrils that anchor them to the support when they begin to actively climb, so they won't require any further tying.
Sprinkle 1/2 pound of 15-5-5 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of clematis bed each spring, keeping the fertilizer 6 inches away from the base of the plants. Water after application so the nutrients soak into the soil.