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When Life Hands You 'Little Lemons'

Despite my vow to avoid purchasing any more clematis —well, this year at least—I couldn't resist snapping up Clematis ‘Little Lemons' when I saw it on sale.  This charming super-dwarf clematis has yellow nodding blooms that turn into fluffy, silvery-gold, Dr. Seuss-esque seed heads that shimmer in the light. The lacy leaves are dark green.  The plant is a non-vining variety that does well in containers, hanging baskets, or as a groundcover in the front of a border.

photos by Erin Mahaney

‘Little Lemons' is a Clematis tangutica variety.  While the full-size variety can grow up to 12-15 feet, this variety is a “super-dwarf” plant that is described as 18-20 inches tall and wide.  My plant has grown much wider, approximately 36 inches with its trailing stems, but the height seems to be as described.  It has bloomed all summer, from May into September, and will likely continue into early October. 

As with other clematis, ‘Little Lemons' prefers well-drained soil and regular water.  It needs full sun to part shade.  The plant can cause contact dermatitis for some people, so it is best to use gloves when handling it.  The clematis belongs to Pruning Group 3, which means that it blooms on the current year's growth.  In the winter, plants in this group should be pruned back hard to 8-12 inches from the ground.  This variety, however, will typically bloom earlier and longer if the plant isn't cut back so hard. 

While I would love to see ‘Little Lemons' in a hanging basket where the nodding flowers could be better appreciated, it's not feasible to maintain a hanging basket in my windy yard.  But so far, the plant has done well in a pot tucked out of the wind.  While the cheerful blooms are a welcome addition to the yard, it is the silly, fluffy seed heads that make me smile when I walk by.  They provide an interesting addition to floral arrangements too.  All in all, I'm glad that life handed me ‘Little Lemons!'

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Posted on Friday, October 15, 2021 at 2:30 PM

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