Why is the color in that photo wrong?
Why isn't my clematis the same color as the picture?

Color and Clematis

There isn't anything much more frustrating than carefully selecting a clematis, planting it properly, tending it while it grows and then finding you have a 'Clematis of a Different Color'! Why does this happen and how can you protect yourself?

There are a number of reasons that clematis look different in 'real life' than in pictures.
  • You may have purchased a mismarked clematis - in other words, you didn't get the variety you paid for. This happens because somebody - the grower, the retailer or even another customer - put the wrong tag on your plant. If you thought you were buying a pink clematis and you got a white one, this is likely what happened.
  • The photograph of the clematis may be faulty. We're no experts on photography, but we've taken enough pictures of enough plants over the years to know that some colors, especially blues and purples, can be tough to capture accurately.
  • The photograph on the tag may have faded with age. This is especially true if you are looking at an older plant; some purple tags will fade to sky blue with time.
  • Actual blooms on clematis plants often change color with age. For example, Arabella flowers start out life as a mid-purple, but fade to lighter purple and then blue as they get older. With this variety, it isn't uncommon to have several shades on the plant at the same time.
  • The amount of sunlight a clematis receives often makes a difference. Hagley Hybrid is a lovely pink color as long as it gets afternoon shade. Plant it in full sun and it bleaches to an almost-white. And Warsaw Nike is a law unto itself in the color department! This very dark clematis can vary from dark red to dark purple to almost brown, changing through the day as the sun moves through the garden. It seems to be darkest in full sun, but the color changes as the sun comes and goes in our partly shaded courtyard are just fascinating!
  • Occasionally, first year clematis plants will produce odd colored blooms. This is not common, but it happens.

warsaw nike clematiswarsaw nike clematis
Clematis Warsaw Nike in shade (left) and sun (right).

So what's a body to do???

  • Buy from a reputable nursery - and remember that you get what you pay for! If you should get a mismarked clematis, you should be able to return it.
  • Research! Look at more than one photo, especially if you are buying through mail order. A GREAT resource for clematis photos is the web site Clematis on the Web. The pictures there tend to be quite accurate and there is an immense amount of other information on that site, as well.
  • Ask! If you have any question about color, ask before you buy! When we know there is a discrepancy between the picture of a clematis on our web site and the plant's actual color, we mention it in the plant's description.
  • Buy plants in bloom. This is the surest way to be certain you know exactly what you are getting. However, this is not as easy as it seems. First, it only works for plants that are old enough and large enough to bloom. Secondly, many clematis bloom in midsummer, so they won't be in bloom during spring or fall planting seasons.