Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Clematis viorna

I love Clematis and when I discovered that there were native Clemmies I had to have one or two or more. So far I've planted three in my garden: Clematis virginiana, C pitcheri and C viorna. I wasn't surprised to find out that like other Clematis they can be placed in groups that determine how and when to prune. Clematis viorna is our star and it fits in group 3, which means it blooms on new growth and you need to give it a hard pruning in late winter. Be sure you've harvested seeds or enjoyed their frothy fall look before pruning.

But, I digress, let's start with getting you acquainted with this delightful herbacious vine native to rich wooded banks and thickets throughout the north, central and eastern United States.

Clematis viorna has many common names, but the one I am most familiar with is Leatherleaf. It's a delicate looking vine given to irregular branching that will scramble across the woodland floor looking for someplace to climb. Expect it to reach ten to twelve feet in your garden when given a sturdy structure. "The scattered 1 inch flowers are mostly solitary at a branch tip or a leaf axil. Each is purple-rose in color, the usually 4 sepals (no petals) being very thick and fleshy (leathery) with the shape of the flower being a "closed-looking" vase or urn with slightly turned up sepal tips, usually facing downward." The tips are creamy white. (source)

Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds

One of the many characteristics that I love about Leatherleaf is its long bloom time. The first bloom at Clay and Limestone was May 26 and it still has buds today. That's three months of charming flowers, cool buds and delicate twining stems.

last week in July 2022

 It climbs by twining petioles/leaf stalks, so give it a structure or even a shrub to climb on that will accommodate its mature growth. The flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and then mature to become beautiful, dramatic seed heads for birds to enjoy. The achenes with their feathery tails extend the attractiveness of the vine into the fall, so hard prune it once the seeds have been collected, eaten or wind dispersed. (source)

Seeds starting to feather fluff up which helps the wind disperse them

It's happily growing in a large container in morning sun where I can see it every day and keep it well watered. It likes moist, rich soil that is well-drained. Clematis viorna is a classic woodland plant and would have gotten lost in my habitat of rough and tumble wildflowers which I manage by letting them go to battle for garden dominance. Also, it needs to be watered regularly in what has turned out to be a brutal summer of drought and heat.

I plan to collect and sow seeds, eventually planting them among the smooth Hydrangeas and Hamamelis vernalis.  I think it will look smashing scrambling along the ground and eventually climbing into the shrub's branches. Planted in that bed assures that this delicate Clemmie will get the filtered sunlight and moist soil that makes it happy. 

I sure hope you give this sweet Clematis a try. It's worth the hassle of trying to locate one online! Nashvillians try GroWild. While you are looking try a few other native Clemmies. Thanks for stopping by.


 The Particulars

Scientific Name: Clematis viorna L.
Common Names: Leatherflower, Vasevine, Northern Leatherflower
Family Name: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
Plant Type:  A small, mostly non-woody, herbaceous perennial vine.
Light Requirement: Full sun, Partial/sunny, Partial/shady
Bloom Times: May, Jun, Jul, Aug
Flowers (or reproductive structures): Single, bell-shaped, perfect flowers 1" across by 2" long, in various shades of pink, violet to dull purple, with thick, fleshy, reflexed, petal-like sepals (no petals), creamy white interior. 
Flower Color: Pink/rose
Soil Conditions: Moist, well-drained soil with a neutral to a slightly alkaline pH. 
Fruit: Large seed head with many individual seeds, each seed attached to a fuzzy plume of a tail for wind distribution. 

Natural Distribution: rich woods, thickets 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9 
Comments: Great for naturalizing, meadows. Showy fruit, with great fall interest
Wildlife value: Bumblebees pollinate the flowers. Other insects (thrips, midges) feed destructively on the flowers. Butterfly, moth and fly larvae feed on the foliage and stems. The foliage is probably poisonous to mammalian herbivores. All Clematis provide useful cover and nesting habitat for many songbirds in open wooded areas.  Attracts bees, Attracts Hummingbirds, Attracts birds, Showy fruit, 
Pharmacology: All parts of this plant are toxic, causing internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested in large amounts. Foliage has bitter taste and is therefore safe from pets. It is also reported to be deer resistant.  
Propagation: From seed/Achene (dry, flat seed, in this case dark brown) or, by semi-hardwood cuttings, or by layering.     

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks Gail. There are many ways to start small and create an environmentally friendly area for wild life. Watch what insects, spiders, birds and other wild life are drawn in and try to build on it. There is no wrong place to start.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Beautiful plant! I think maybe even I could plant it; I'm very close to the Illinois border, so it's almost native here. ;-) I will do some research on native Clematises--thanks for the encouragement! In the meantime, for Wildflower Wednesday...

  5. I love this Clematis, too. We don't currently have any; alas, a vole snagged the one I'd found, but glad yours is doing well.

  6. Still have our Clematis brachiata on my list

  7. Nice post thank you David

  8. Would you happen to have any seeds? I had to dig mine up when they ran fiber optic to our house and unfortunately it did not like being moved. Thanks!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson