Clematis virginiana, Virginia Clematis (Virgin's Bower)

Flowers of Clematis virginiana.

Clematis virginiana is a flowering vine like, and unlike, the fancy garden clematis with which many are familiar. They are related and have similar leaves, but the flowers are smaller and most similar to the flowers of Clematis vitalba, Clematis flammula, and Clematis terniflora -all exotic species which have shown invasive tendencies outside of their natural ranges. Fortunately, Minnesota native plant gardeners can have a Clematis all their own -Clematis virginiana!

Although delicate in appearance, do not mistake this Clematis for diminutive or weak. It is a strong grower, capable of spreading 12 to 15 or more feet in a growing season. For this reason, some do not want it in their garden -perfectly reasonable! However, it can be great at the edge of a woodland, where it will provide a great floral display and habitat for birds. Alternatively, use it against a trellis or other landscape structure or even plant it along a vegetable garden deer fence, so that it can twist its way upward. After flowering, female plants produce wispy seed heads not unlike Prairie Smoke. The male plants flower profusely, but do not set seed. We cannot tell which is which until flowering.

Many find pruning garden variety Clematis confusing, but our native Clematis is simple: you can prune to a lower set of branches after flowering, in late fall, or early in spring. It will regrow with vigor from the next set of leaf axil buds, just below the cut. If you do not give it something to scramble up, it is perfectly willing to scramble horizontally, often rooting where it touches the ground. It would do well scrambling up a stony slope or even over a stone wall with something provided to twine around. The best thing to do in a structured landscape setting is provide something for it to climb.

Blooms: white with creamy yellow, July into August

Height: variable, 6 to 20 feet

Conditions: mostly sun to pt shade, moist-medium to medium well-draining soils

Banded Hairstreak on Clematis leaves.

Clematis Leaves and stems