pretty face flower
Lovely clematis (pretty face flower)

Lovely clematis flowers

Do you ever find yourself transfixed by a pretty face flower? I have. In fact, I’ve rarely seen a flower that I didn’t like. However, sometimes it’s easy to get fooled by a pretty face, or in this case, a flower.

pretty face flower

Over the weekend, I made a quick trip to my local grocery store where I noticed a display of beautiful flowering plants that stopped me dead in my tracks. 

Right by the entry was a collection of lovely clematis vines. Their lush green foliage and large purple flowers were gorgeous and enticed passersby into taking one home.

This made me mad, and I don’t get angry quickly. So, why was I upset? It’s not because I have anything against clematis – I think that they are lovely and have taken some photos of them throughout my garden travels including:

Minneapolis,  (pretty face flower) Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Olbrich Gardens, Wisconsin

Olbrich Gardens, Wisconsin

Butchart Gardens, in British Columbia, Canada

Butchart Gardens, in British Columbia, Canada

Astoria, Oregon (pretty face flower)

Astoria, Oregon

Aberyswyth, Wales (pretty face flower)

Aberyswyth, Wales

If you have paid attention to where I have taken the pictures of clematis, you may begin to understand why I was upset to see this outside my Phoenix area grocery store. 

The reason is that clematis are ill-suited for growing in a low desert climate. They struggle to survive without a lot of fuss, and you’ll be lucky if you see any blooms. 

The problem is, the average person doesn’t know this and envision how nice the clematis will look in their garden, so they hand over $25 and carry their new plant home with the assumption that the store wouldn’t sell plants that very difficult to grow in their area. 

Sadly, they are wrong. Unless they are a very experienced gardener, who is knowledgeable about clematis, they will have a vine that is barely clinging to life in a few weeks and blame themselves for its condition.

Sequim, Washington (pretty face flower)

Sequim, Washington

The moral of this story? Don’t be fooled by a pretty face. Avoid impulse buys and research before buying plants for your garden. If you see a plant that you have never seen before, there is a greater chance that it may have difficulty growing in your climate.

For information on how to choose the right plants for your garden, I invite you to read my post, 5 Tips for Choosing Plants From the Nursery

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
6 replies
  1. Amanda S.
    Amanda S. says:

    Great post – especially now that the Phoenix area has hit 100 degrees. Plants like this won’t last long as the weather continues to heat up. Your website is so helpful for us desert dwellers! Any advice for what to plant in color bowls in May that will last through the summer? I usually plant vincas since they tolerate the heat well, but would love other suggestions.

  2. says:

    Hi Amanda,

    I like to use lantana in summer pots. You can often find them in 4-inch size containers at the nursery. Treat them as annuals, as they do in colder climates. I also like Victoria blue and red salvia for pots. I hope this helps!

  3. Yelena Lando
    Yelena Lando says:

    I grew clematis here in Scottsdale,it was my pride an glory to see blooming ones from early springs to early summers. I learned a lot about them and realized that location and gardener ‘love made them happy and blooming in Arizona.Mulching and afternoon shade were my secrets.,that’s all.If I was more skillful with computer I will add my pictures.Yelena Lando.

  4. Jane
    Jane says:

    This happens all the time here too where I have a challenging climate to deal with, although perhaps not quite as challenging as yours. One of our local nurseries sells quite a number of unsuitable plants. I’m guilty of buying a clematis myself recently. Time will tell whether it will survive or not!

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