Some plants have so many species names that you would swear they were fugitives on the run. Clematis terniflora ‘Paniculata’, the Sweet Autumn Clematis, is the latest moniker for this fall-blooming vine, and I hope it lasts. It is, after all, much easier to pronounce than Clematis maximowicziana! Other names it has gone by over the years are C. paniculata, C. dioscoreifolia and C. digitata. I don’t think the Sweet Autumn Clematis is part of the witness protection program but you have to wonder with all those names!
“Scrambling” would best describe the growth habit of Sweet Autumn Clematis. It loves to scramble up and over trellises and through tree branches, reaching 30 feet eventually. It supports itself by twining around anything its stems come in contact with but the stems are fairly small so don’t use anything too large in diameter. You can lay sweet pea netting in behind the plant when starting out to give it something easy to grow onto. Small white flowers are produced in September and October; they are scented like vanilla and produced in great quantities. Like most clematis this one likes a shady root system, with its head growing in the sun but it will also tolerate a bit of shade. As it blooms on new wood it can be pruned hard in the spring, down to a foot high, to encourage new growth. Some gardeners do this pruning in the late fall after the blooms have finished to discourage seed production. Sweet Autumn Clematis has been known to spread itself around by seed, so be aware.
While Clematis terniflora is definitely an autumn bloomer it is only one of many that are still blooming well into September and beyond. Varieties that bloom on new wood, or those that bloom twice on old and new wood will still be flowering late in the season. You can encourage a clematis to bloom more strongly on new wood by cutting back the vine in March, foregoing any spring blooms in exchange for more robust growth and flowers in fall. None of these lingering flowers, however, have that sweet vanilla scent.

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