Plant of the Month for September, 2020

clematis heracleifolia header
Clematis heracleifolia

 (Klem-uh-tiss  hair-uh-klee-ih-FOH-lee-uh)

General Information:

Clematis heracleifolia is an unusual clematis. It doesn’t vine and it’s semi-woody even though it is treated as a perennial. It also flowers late summer or early fall when most clematis are done for the season. If you see it in the garden for the first time you won’t believe it’s a clematis.

clematis heracleifolia China Purple main

Clematis heracleifolia:photo by Robert Pavlis

This plant belongs to a group of clematis called bush, or non-climbing or herbaceous; any of these terms seem valid. Treat them as perennials and cut them back to the ground in spring. They all bloom on new wood.

In colder climates the crown of the plant looks much like any other perennial but in warmer climates it becomes quite woody. Older plants can be divided with care.

clematis heracleifolia, photo by Robert Pavlis

Clematis heracleifolia:photo by Robert Pavlis

Clematis heracleifolia is also known by the common names, tube clematis and hyacinth-flower clematis. The flower color ranges from pale blue to quite dark purple-blue and several named cultivars are available. Many resources describe it as flopping and needing support, but I find that it has quite strong woody-like stems and never needs support. Other bush clematis do require some support.

This clematis prefer full sun with fairly moist soil, but not a wet condition. Plants that are grown too dry tend to be short lived. In my zone 5 garden, which is 40% clay, they get mulched but do not normally get watered. The ones pictured are grown from seed, except as noted. I find bush clematis a bit easier to grow from seed than the vine types.

clematis heracleifolia 'China purple', photo by Robert Pavlis

Clematis heracleifolia 'China Purple':photo by Robert Pavlis

The botanical name is pronounced hair-uh-klee-ih-FOH-lee-uh”,which is a real tongue twister. I find it easier to remember the name by calling it “her-ass-is-a-leaf”.

This is not a spectacular plant compared to some of the showy clematis you are familiar with, but it is very low maintenance and flowers late in the season for a good fall display. Flowers are quickly followed by the classic clematis hairy seed heads.

clematis heracleifolia 'China purple', photo by Robert Pavlis

Clematis heracleifolia 'China Purple':photo by Robert Pavlis

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 90cm (3 ft)

Bloom Time: late summer

Natural Range: China and Korea

Habitat: woodland margins

Synonyms:  Clematis davidiana, Clematis hookeri, Clematis tubulosa


Light: full sun to light shade

Soil: well drained

Water: moist

USDA Hardiness Zone: (3?)4-9

Propagation: seed, division, cuttings

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): common

Sow @ 20°C. Seed germinates within 3 months.
Robert Pavlis