Clematis virginiana, Virgin’s-bower

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Although small in size, the flowers of Clematis virginiana are large in number and attract a variety of pollinators – bees, wasps, butterflies and moths. They also seem to be a good hunting ground for mates as evidenced in this video by the activities of Eremnophila aureonotata. If you observe a rather large insect flying around in summer near abundant wildflower clusters – Pycnanthemum, Daucus carota, Rudbeckia, Clematis virginiana, Eupatorium, Solidago – look closely, because it may actually be a pair of these thread-waisted wasps flying together – the male on top just hitching a ride or busy mating. Video © 2019 Mary Free

In eastern North American lowlands, this vigorous native vine quickly climbs by twining or trails along the ground in twisted fashion. A prolific bloomer, its white flowers attract pollinators late summer into fall followed by showy seed heads reminiscent of an “old man’s beard,” another of its common names.

Print Version: Clematis virginiana, Virgin’s-bowerVine Height: 6–20 feet Spread: 3–12 feet Bloom Color: White Characteristics Climbing, woody, deciduous to semi-evergreen vine Dioecious: each plant with either staminate (male), pistillate (female), or perfect (male/female) flowers Bright green, (mainly) trifoliate leaves with dentate margins; climbs by twining stems or leaf petioles Axillary panicles of fragrant, ~1-inch white flowers with four petaloid sepals from July to September Seed heads (on female vines) with hairy, green styles that turn brown provide winter interest Unremarkable yellow-green to purplish fall foliage Spreads rapidly by self-seeding and root suckers Attributes Tolerates full sun, shade, black walnut; no serious pests or diseases; deer seldom severely damage Plant parts are poisonous; leaves may irritate skin Attracts bees, wasps, Lepidoptera, and birds Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Average, well-drained Light Requirements: Partial Shade Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Wet Prune after flowering late fall to early spring; leave lowest 2–3 buds; may prune down to 1 foot Use as a climber on arbors, walls, and fences, in woodland gardens, or as a tangled ground cover Hardiness: USDA Zones 3–8 Excellent Replacement for Akebia quinata - Chocolate Vine Celastrus orbiculatus - Oriental Bittersweet Clematis terniflora - Sweet Autumn Clematis*** Lonicera japonica - Japanese Honeysuckle is native to DC and to areas in Maryland. In DE, it is common in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. It is native to all but one county in PA. In VA, it is common in the mountains, frequent in the Piedmont, and infrequent in the Coastal Plain. Developed by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, serving Arlington and Alexandria Images by Mary Free and Elaine Mills, Arlington, VirginiaLearn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants:  Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets