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Clematis virginiana (old man's beard) Clematis virginiana (old man's beard)
Species Distribution Map
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Clematis virginiana

old man's beard or virgin's bower

A native replacement to the invasive sweet autumn clematis (Clematis ternifolia), you can tell the difference between the two plants by the foliage. Native Virgin's bower has trifoliate leaves with coarsely toothed edges and the leaf's surface feels smoother in texture while sweet autumn clematis has trifoliate leaves that are entire (smooth) around the edges and has a coarse texture to the leaf surface.


Clematis viriginiana supports much wildlife. Hummingbirds and bees enjoy the nectar while songbirds roost in the foliage. The stems, stalks, and leaves of the plant are toxic and are unmolested by mamals. "The nectar of the staminate flowers attracts Halictid bees (including Sphecodes clematidis), wasps, and various kinds of flies. Insects that feed destructively on Virgin's Bower and other Clematis spp. include larvae of Contarinia clematidis (Clematis Bud Gall Midge) and Prodiplosis floricola (Clematis Flower Midge), larvae of the leaf-mining fly Phytomyza loewii, caterpillars of Horisme intestinata (Brown Bark Carpet Moth), caterpillars of two moths, Thyris maculata (Spotted Thyris) and Thyris sepulchralis (Mournful Thyris), and Myzus varians (Peach Leaf-Roll Aphid). These vines are the summer hosts of this introduced aphid." - Illinois Wildflowers

Blooming in late summer-early fall, this vigorous native Clematis virginiana is covered in showy, sweetly-scented white flowers that are 1" across. A fine addition to fences, on trellises, or trained up trees, Virgin's bower grows 12-20' tall. Commonly found in moist, woodland edge areas east of the Mississippi, it grows well in full sun but also can tolerate dry shade. 

SIZE
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Height

12-20 ft

Spread

3-6 ft

Spacing

3-6 ft

Bloom Color

White

USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9

old man's beard Interesting Notes

"While Clematis species are very popular in the nursery trade, this one is conspicuously absent, much due to its incredible vigor and small flower size. It should not be so easily overlooked. Most people think of trellises as a 2'x6" meshed frame purchased at Menards or other garden center. I have strung wires from the base of older trees and strung them to the lower branches and let the vine go where it will. The effect can be stunning—a large vertical column of foliage and effervescent white blooms with very interesting seedheads into winter. This provides untypical vertical structure and a excellent habitat for insects and birds in your garden. Also unlike many non-native Clematis species this is widely adaptable to most garden soils and suffers few nutrient issues as is common in the hybrids." - Minnesota Wildflowers

Clematis virginiana Growing and Maintenance Tips

C. virginiana has a vigorous, twining habit. Blooms show best when given adequate support and access to sunlight. Can sucker and self-sow. If using nearby shrub as support, be sure to check in on the plant that the Clematis isn't overpowering it. Trim back as needed. Plants can be given a hard cut of 8-12" from the ground in late fall-early spring to rejuvenate growth and to curtail spread. Plant does not require cutback - as the plant ages, the green stems will turn woody. No serious disease or pest issues. 

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Full Shade
Full Shade
Part Sun
Part Sun
Moist
Moist
Pollinator-friendly
Pollinator-friendly
Songbird-friendly
Songbird-friendly
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Fragrant
Fragrant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Average
Green Infrastructure
Woodland
Wetland Indicator Status
Falcutative (FAC)
Plug Type
Horticultural Plug
For Animals
Caution: Toxic
Attributes
Native to North America
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Fall
Propagation Type
Open pollinated