Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is the star of my September garden. I planted it on the east side of the pergola that covers our brick patio, and it's taken a couple of years to attain enough height to provide shade. By next year I expect it will reach the pergola top. When the vine explodes into bloom in late summer and early autumn, it is entirely covered in small, fragrant stars. Heavenly.

A perusal of literature about sweet autumn clematis reveals mostly accolades about this extremely hardy, healthy vine. That being said, there are some negative reports. According to my favorite online source for plant info,, all parts of sweet autumn clematis are poisonous if ingested, and some people experience allergic skin reactions to it. Others experience hay fever from its pollen. I've not had any trouble with it, and I tie wayward vines to the trellis without gloves. No sneezing either.

Apparently, the vine is considered a non-native invasive, as well. I might not have planted it had I known that fact. However, I have never seen seedlings in my yard, garden or flower beds. And while I am sure it would be happy to ramble over a nearby redbud tree, I simply train those tendrils to their arbor.

As far as care goes, I let nature take its course. I never watered or fertilized it during this entire season of drought, and it survived unscathed. I have not pruned it. Some recommend pruning back hard in early spring, but I let it go, and new growth eventually sprouts from the previous year's vines--all the way out to the very tips. I think it's best to simply consider the size and scope of this vine, and let it grow as it will. It will reach 20-30 feet in height, which is perfect for a big pergola or privacy fence, but not for a wee arbor. You'll want to make sure whatever structure you train it to is sturdy enough to support it.

Although the reviews of the sweet autumn clematis are mixed, for me it is a gem worth growing. Sweet Autumn Clematis photos by JulenaJo.


  1. I love Sweet Autumn clematis. I had a large one near the house. Some roofers threw plastic over it to catch debris from the roof and cooked the vine. I was so disheartened. Needless to say they killed it. I started a new one this summer so will try it again ;-)
    Yours looks so large and well established. They are fast growers.

  2. Thanks for reading & responding. I lost a sweet autumn clematis when we built our house, too. (Great Relandscaping Disaster of 2002--I didn't save nearly enough of the beauties I had in my yard.)

    I hope your new sweet autumn clematis thrives as well as your former one did. They add so much beauty and fragrance to the late season garden, don't they? Enjoy!

  3. I've never had issues with mine, though some plants I planted took and some did not. It can be picky. Seedlings will appear and are easy to spot but you know, I don't care. I dig them up and share them and folks just love them. That's how I got mine so enjoy your lovely vine.

  4. I've never seen Sweet Autumn Clematis other than internet pictures, can you believe it? I'm taking down info on vining plants for when we put up my new arbour next year, so I'll consider this one too.