Plant of the Month: Sweet Autumn Clematis

Nov 5, 2015 | Growing Tips

by Jan Koehler, SCMG

Sweet Autumn Clematis

 Scientific Name: Clematis terniflora
Other Common Name: Sweet autumn virgin’s bower
Type: Perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Japan
Growth habit: Vine
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 15 to 30 feet
Spread: 15 to 30 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Creamy white, petit
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Trellis, arbor, post, fence, dense ground cover
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Tolerate: Shade

This delicately fragrant prolific fall blooming vine is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Unlike almost all other species of clematis which require shaded roots and sun-drenched vines to bloom profusely, this plant will actually thrive and bloom well in considerable shade. The plant blooms on new growth and thrives when pruned hard in fall after flowering or in early spring. As with most varieties of clematis, this plant is also a heavy feeder. A low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-10 in the spring of the year will be appreciated by this garden delight.

Noteworthy Characteristics
The deciduous Sweet Autumn Clematis is a vigorous, twining vine with an extremely rampant growth habit. When given a support, it climbs rapidly with the aid of leaf petioles tendrils to 20-25′ in length. Without support, it will sprawl along the ground as a dense, tangled ground cover (to 6-12″ tall and 10′ wide) which typically chokes out most weeds. The delicate looking profuse blooms are aromatic, 1″ diameter, cruciform, and pure white (each with 4 narrow petal-like sepals) in terminal panicles from mid-August to mid-September typically covering the compound, leathery-textured, shiny green leaves (3-5 oval to elliptic leaflets with cordate bases). The flowers give way to attractive, plume-like seed heads. Sweet autumn clematis can aggressively self-seed in the landscape, and has escaped cultivation and naturalized in many parts of the U.S., particularly in the East and Midwest, but has not found its way onto the invasive species list in the arid Southwest. C. terniflora has become synonymous with and sometimes sold as C. maximowiczianaC. paniculata and C. dioscoreifolia, although technically C. paniculata is a separate species native to New Zealand.

No serious insect or disease problems have been noted for this garden delight in the NM garden. Spreading of this sometimes hard-to-control vine has been known to cover nearby shrubs to a point of smothering the shrub. Vines should and can be pruned at anytime to control this unwanted spread.

Root softwood cuttings in spring, semi-ripe cuttings in early summer

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