This sweet autumn clematis vine has scaled a dogwood (Cornus florida) tree and smothers its crown with a foamy froth of fine fragrant flowers in late summer.
The beautiful sweet autumn clematis is a vigorous semi-evergreen (or deciduous) vine than can climb up to 30 ft (9.1 m) on a semiwoody main stem that can get up to 4 in (10 cm) in diameter. Branching smaller stems usually form a rampant tangle of growth that sprawls over every available structure. The compound leaves are glossy and rather stiff, arranged in opposing pairs with each of the 3 or 5 leaflets around 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) long. The star shaped white flowers are about an inch and a quarter across and sweetly fragrant. They are borne in numerous branching panicles from late summer through autumn. Vines can be so laden with billowy masses of white flowers that they look like they're covered with snow! The seed heads are pretty, too, with their silvery-gray featherlike styles. 'Purity' is a male clone with especially large flowers that bloom in spring.
Sweet autumn clematis hails originally from Japan.
All climbing clematis vines should be pruned hard after the first year of growth to encourage branching and bushiness. Cut back to a pair of strong buds about a foot above ground level. Like the other species, sweet autumn clematis climbs by twisting itself around supporting structures. It doesn't have tendrils or root hairs like some other climbers, so you'll need to help your clematis stay on its support. Sweet autumn clematis blooms on growth of the current season, so you can prune whenever it's convenient. Light: Sweet autumn clematis (like other members of the genus) likes to have its roots in the shade and its foliage in the sun. Plant so that the top of the root ball is 3-4 in (7.6-10 cm) beneath the soil surface, preferably in the shade of a rock or tree trunk. Mulch well. The foliage of sweet autumn clematis needs full sun. Planted at the base of a tree or wall, it will find the sun it needs! Moisture: Sweet autumn clematis needs regular watering, especially in hot weather. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10. Keep the roots shaded and cool, and the foliage in the sun. Cover the root zone with a flat rock or a shallow-rooted ground cover. Propagation: Sweet autumn clematis can be grown from seed; plant as soon as ripe. It also can be started from cuttings taken in early summer, and by layering in late winter or early spring.
Sweet autumn clematis flowers are followed by feathery seedheads that are as pretty as the flowers. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Sweet autumn clematis is probably the easiest clematis to grow. It thrives on neglect and can even become a nuisance, engulfing less robust plants and self-seeding itself all over the place. This is a great vine for a privacy screen (with fragrance!) or to cover an arbor. The sweet smelling flowers are beautiful, and the interesting seedheads, with their plumose "tails", are useful in dried floral arrangements.
There are more than 200 species of Clematis; most are woody climbers and sprawlers, native to the world's temperate climates. Hundreds of Clematis hybrids and fancy selections have been developed. See Floridata's profiles on the Jackson hybrids (Clematis X jackmanii) and Armand clematis (Clematis armandii).
The Florida Exotic Plant Council lists this vine as a Category II invasive species in Central and North Florida. This is defined as "Invasive exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. These species may become ranked Category I, if ecological damage is demonstrated."
Check locally in your area before planting to insure that sweet autumn clematis in not invasive where you live.
Steve Christman 10/2/01; updated 10/11/01; updated 8/24/03, 7/24/04, 2/11/05, 8/21/06
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Tallahassee, Florida USA