The Clematis virginiana is commonly known as the Devil’s Darning Needles, Virgin’s Bower, Devil’s Hair, Love Vine and Woodbine just to name a few. It is a woody vine that’s known for its ability to bloom in the shade.
Most clematis need full sun in order to optimally produce flowers. However, the devil’s darning needles thrives even in shaded conditions.
That said, it doesn’t produce large or showy flowers that clematis are normally known for. Instead, its pretty white blooms feature 4 petals that are about 1 inch long each. Its leaves are likewise larger.
The plant itself grows to between 12 and 20 feet allowing them to climb up garden structures like arbors, trellises and pergolas. If you live in zones 3 to 8, you’ve probably seen them in woodland areas when they can spread over surfaces as ground cover.
Clematis Virginiana Plant Care
Clematis Virginiana Light
The Clematis virginiana is one of the few plants that does well in different lighting conditions. While it likes thrives in partial shade away from the harsh afternoon sun the most, it does well in other situations too. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Full sun is the best with 6 or more hours a light daily. But, keep its roots cool especially during the mid afternoon if you live in a warm region. The same is true during the peak of summertime.
- Partial shade. This refers to direct sunlight between 2 to 6 hours of the day. The rest of the time, it isn’t directly under the sun’s rays.
- Dappled light. Kept under a shade or some kind of canopy or covering throughout the day. This can be tree branches overhead or some kind of tarp or covering.
- Full shade. Less than 2 hours a day of direct sunlight. Unlike many clematis, the devil’s darning needles doesn’t mind considerable shade. And, it will still grow fairly well here.
All of these conditions work well for the plant. So, you don’t need to worry if the area in your yard isn’t getting bright light for most of the day.
It is likewise important to note that too much harsh sunlight can cause its leaves to face.
Given this, you are at liberty to choose any direction, be it north, east, west or south, depending on the kind of soil you have in that location as well as what kind of landscape your yard has.
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Clematis Virginiana Temperature & Humidity
Clematis virginiana is hardy to USDA zones 3 to 8. As such, you’ll find it present in many gardens and landscaping designs in these areas. That’s because it can tolerate temperatures down to -35 degrees Fahrenheit.
As such, it is better able to withstand colder temperatures than many clematis variety. However, in the colder areas, make sure to keep it protected from too much frost by using thick layer of mulch.
Interestingly, you may or may not find the plant in your local nursery. I’ve found it fairly inconsistent compared to say the Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) which is much easier to find.
Some nurseries have told me that they don’t stock the devil’s darning needles because of its vigorous growing ability. Others say its because of the plant’s small flowers which make it less attractive to customers who prefer larger blooms.
That said, there are likewise quite a few garden centers that readily have it. So, in case you’re looking for one, don’t feel discouraged if you local nursery doesn’t carry it, just check out other places.
Clematis Virginiana Watering
The Clematis virginiana has average watering needs. That is, it likes to be kept consistently moist but not wet. So, regular watering is key, especially during the warmer months. But, be careful not to overwater it.
Like other clematis plants, it is susceptible to molds, fungus and Clematis wilt. All of these come from issues related to too much moisture.
Similarly, make sure you don’t give it too much water each time. Often regular watering leads to overwatering as you get complacent and “fall into a regular schedule”. The problem is, as the cold season comes around, it is important to scale back on moisture.
As with light, the Clematis virginiana also tolerates different kinds of soil. As long as it stays in rich, moist soil, it will be happy.
It is able to adapt to sandy or clay soil. Similarly, it is okay with both dry and well draining soil. And, soil pH can vary between 6.0 to 8.5 as well without any issues.
That said, if you’re given a choice, loam is the best option. It will likewise have no problems with silty soil. However, it you want the soil to have good drainage as well.
While it the plant is fairly resistant to pests and diseases compared to other clematis varieties, you don’t want to leave it sitting it wet conditions.
As with other clematis, giving it something to climb is allows it to grow at its best. A vertical setup also allows it to showcase its beauty the most.
One thing worth considering is that the plant’s vigorous growth can make it invasive if you don’t keep it maintained.
Clematis Virginiana Fertilizing
To support its fast growth, the Clematis virginiana needs enough nutrients to grow. And giving it the right kind of fertilizer at the right times will help it do so.
Use a low nitrogen fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 5-10-10 during spring to fuel its growth. You’ll want to reapply every 2 to 4 weeks through the growing season. Make sure to begin at the more conservative end and adjust as needed.
Because the soil in your garden will be different from anyone else’s, it is a good idea to have it tested to see which nutrients it has or lacks. This will allow you to supplement or lay off certain elements.
Pruning Clematis Virginiana
Before discussing pruning, it is important to be aware that the plant can spread on its own via self-seeding and suckering. As such, it can take over your garden if not properly pruned since its seeds will be able to spread via the wind and start sprouting.
This is why many people consider the plant a nuisance. And, you’ll find a good number of people looking for ways to remove it rather than plant it.
That said, it is a good way to populate a large yard that looks blank. The plant’s rapid growth also lets you cover walls and other vertical structures.
Clematis virginiana blooms around summer to fall and blooms only on new wood. This puts it in pruning group 3. And, as such, it is a good idea to prune it hard early in the spring.
You don’t have to worry about aggressively trimming it back since this doesn’t affect its ability to produce lots of flowers.
Since it grows rapidly, you may also way to prune it lightly during different times of year. Any time during its growing season will do when shaping and controlling its size. While you’re at it also remove tangled stems.
Clematis virginiana can be propagated via seeds and stem cuttings. Of the two, stem cuttings is much easier. It also takes much less time before you’ll enjoy the plant.
How to propagate Clematis Virginiana from Seed
That said, if you want to start from seed you can pick up seeds from your local nursery. Or, an easier, free way is to collect seeds during the fall. Then, store the seed heads in a dry place. These will last for a few months.
Likewise, starting seeds indoors or in a cold frame also yields better germination rates compared to sowing them outdoors directly into the ground.
How to propagate Clematis Virginiana from Stem Cuttings
Propagation via stem cuttings is best done during the plant’s growing season. Here, you want to a stem cutting and plant it into soil. When doing so, choose a stem that is healthy and has a few leaves.
You’ll also want to keep the soil moist without overwatering it.
Clematis Virginiana Transplanting & Repotting
When transplanting or repotting the plant, you want to be careful because it has a deep but delicate root system. As such, it is easy to damage it when you tug or pull it.
That said, the best time to plant is in spring. Although, you can likewise do so in the fall. In the spring cut the plant back to 15 inches from the ground to prepare it to grow the current season. During the fall, cut it back to 10 inches when planting.
Since it grows best climbing up a structure, it is a good idea to put it close to a trellis, arbor or fence. Keeping it about 8 to 12 inches allows it to easily climb the structure once it start growing.
Also make sure to choose a spot where it is able to get ample protection from the intense sun. While it doesn’t have an issue with direct sunlight, mid afternoon and peak of summertime is too intense for it.
Keep young children and pets away from Clematis virginiana because it is toxic to humans and animals. You’ll also want to wear gloves when pruning or propagating because it irritates skin.
All of the plant’s parts are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. If ingested, it will cause mouth ulcers and irritation. Similarly, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and convulsions in humans if its sap, leaves or flowers are ingested.
Pests and Diseases
Once your Clematis virginiana is established, you shouldn’t experience much pest or disease problems. This includes the dreaded Clematis wilt.
However, like all plants, lack of proper care can make it vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Thus, the best way to avoid this is to give it the right living conditions as listed above.
When it comes to pest, the plant can be infested and damaged by aphids, earwigs, whiteflies and spider mites. Additionally, snails and slugs can also come visit it. And, rabbits like to chew on its young shoots.
On the other hand, disease is closely linked to moisture issues. Here, powdery mildew is a common issues. As such, it is a good idea to allow enough air circulation around your plat, which helps it breathe as well lets excess moisture dry faster.