Virgin’s Bower

Clematis virginiana

Description & Overview

Virgin’s Bower is a Wisconsin native vine that naturally occurs along rivers in moist, low woodland areas. It’s a wonderful, versatile addition to a native landscape. You can grow it in full sun, but it also does well in mostly shade. This vine exhibits rapid growth, both as a groundcover and as a climber using elongated leaf petioles. The aromatic white flowers feature rather showy plumes that are very similar to Sweet Autumn Clematis. May also be known as American Clematis, Old Man’s Beard, or Woodbine.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 12-20 feet
Mature Spread: Variable
Growth Rate: Very Fast
Growth Form: Vine
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Moist, well drained.
Flower: White
Bloom Period: Late Summer and Fall
Foliage: Green
Fall Color: N/A
Fruit Notes: Feathery clusters

Suggested Uses:

Use this plant to liven up a landscape. The only limit is your imagination!

Clematis virginiana uses elongated leaf petioles to wind itself up fences, trellises, trunks, shrubs, and anything else where it can find purchase. To encourage growth along a trunk or wall use a narrow trellis to get it started. Use this vine to cover up, or add interest to a trunk, fence, or pergola to make it come alive. You can even allow it to spread along the ground in open spaces or between trees and shrubs.

It can make an otherwise bland or cookie cutter space feel lush and live. This vine does grow rather fast and may need to be rerouted periodically, so it does not take over nearby plantings. It can easily be pruned before the next spring to keep it in check.

Wildlife Value:

Clematis virginiana attracts many pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies with its showy aromatic flowers. The foliage provides cover for songbirds.

Virgin’s Bower also acts as the host plant to the Clematis Clearwing Moth, whose larvae feed on its roots. Clematis Clearwing Moth larvae are parasitized by the Ichneumon wasp spp. Bracon sanninoideae. There are many species of Ichneumon wasps each of which uses a different species of insect as its host. Ichneumon wasps are considered beneficial because many species parasitize insects that are considered agricultural pests.

Maintenance Tips:

Virgin’s Bower likes moist soil. Bark Mulch will help with this.

This clematis is capable of rapid spring growth; a fertilizer may be added to take advantage of this growth. Don’t use fertilizer if you have limited space.

Take care to keep it from overwhelming nearby plantings by rerouting stems, placing a barrier, or simply cutting a runaway stem down to size.

Flowers only bloom on new wood. Rejevenative Pruning would be the best method for this clematis. Prune by cutting down to 8-12″ above ground in late winter/early spring. It will grow quickly in the spring if there is adequate soil.


In general, Virgin’s Bower has few serious issues. Clematis Wilt/stem rot can be potentially fatal however small-flowered clematis such as Virgin’s Bower are much less susceptible. There are some aesthetic non-fatal issues that can arise as well. Powdery Mildew, leaf spots, and rust are conditions that can be treated by adjusting your watering method and/or cutting out the affected leaves.

Creatures such as snails, earwigs, weevils, scales, spider mites, and aphids may be treated with Horticultural Oils & Insecticides before they gain too much traction. Consider the damage being done before using chemicals as some species may feed on leaves but not cause the defoliation necessary to cause this vine actual harm.

Leaf Lore:

Clematis is toxic to mammals. As a result, it’s not browsed by rabbits or deer. It’s tolerant of Black Walnut Toxicity.

The lesser-known common name, Old Man’s Beard, comes from the showy reproductive parts of the flowers. The vine can have either all male, all female, or perfect (with both male and female parts) flowers. The female flowers are the only ones that produce seeds. Flowers of both sexes are showy.

Companion Plants:

Clematis grows naturally along rivers in moist low woodland areas. Choose companion plants that enjoy cool, moist soil. Bladdernut, American Hazelnut, American Elderberry, Silky Dogwood, Grey Dogwood, Buttonbush, Eastern Wahoo, Pagoda Dogwood, Glossy Black Chokeberry, Broad-Leaved Arrowhead, Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, Jewelweed, and so many more! Be advised if planting low-growing perennials Virgin’s Bower may take them over. Provide a structure for the vine that prevents it from swallowing low growing plants.

johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32