Is Clematis a Perennial or Annual?

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Updated: August 22, 2023
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Clematis are popular climbers that cover fences, walls, and obelisks in a sea of vivid color. There are many cultivars of this pretty and tenacious climber ranging from dinner plate sized flowerheads to tiny fragrant bells, but is clematis a perennial or annual?

Let’s find out if a clematis will grow back or if it dies off in the winter.

Clematis: Annual or Perennial?

Clematis is a perennial, not an annual. It’s a flowering vine that blooms in spring, summer, autumn, or winter depending on its species. Clematis vines flower once or twice a year in their season of interest, rest, and then bloom again the following year. Many species put on a lot of growth in their blooming season.

What Is A Clematis?

Clematis are part of the Ranunculaceae family alongside buttercups! The genus contains around 300 species because they are very popular with botanists who have hybridized them over centuries. They were first classified in the 1753 by Carl Linnaeus in the Species Plantarum.

Different species have different common names. Traveler’s Joy is the English wild variety C. vitalba. American common names include Virgin’s Bower, Leather Flower, and North American’s native clematis C. viorna is called vase vine.

Clematis are native to temperate zones including areas of China, Japan, the Americas and Europe. The most exotic-looking clematis are native to Japan and these started to make their way across to Europe in the 1700s.

The first attractive flowering clematis C. Vitacella arrived in Britain from Spain in 1596 but it wasn’t until the 18th century that the spectacular Japanese and Chinese clematis arrived there.  Until then, Britain only had one native clematis, but its flowers were far from exciting.

In Victorian Britain, clematis was incredibly popular and given attributes from the language of flowers. Clematis stood for art and poverty amongst others.

When settlers moved to the Americas, clematis went with them and they were grown alongside native American clematis such as Clematis virginiana and Clematis texensis.


Clematis with colors and luster that match the refreshing season.


Are Clematis Evergreen?

We know if clematis is a perennial or an annual now, but are perennial clematis evergreen?

There are evergreen and deciduous species! Evergreen species tend to grow in warm, temperate climates and the deciduous species in cooler areas. Both species grow best when their roots are cool but their vines and foliage are in full sun.

What’s The Difference Between A Perennial And An Annual Plant?

What does perennial and annual even mean?

Perennial: A plant that grows each year. It may stay evergreen or die back to its root ball, but it will grow the following year.

Annual: Annual plants germinate, flower, seed and die all within one year.

There are also biennials! These plants germinate in year one and then finish off their cycle in year two. At the end of year two, they die off.  

Where Is the Best Place to Plant a Clematis?

Most clematis like full sun. There are a few cultivars that cope with shade such as Nellie Moser, but ideally, a clematis will get six hours of sun a day.

Although they like their heads in the sun, clematis prefer their roots in shade!

Moist soil is important because clematis hate drying out. One of the best ways to achieve this is by placing broken terracotta pot shards or stones across the roots. If this attracts slugs and snails, choose a low-growing perennial such as lavender or rosemary to shade the soil.

Clematis like neutral to alkaline soil and if the planting spot is against a fence or wall, plant it at least one foot away from the fence line. This ensures the plant gets enough rain and air circulation.

Plant it about 6 inches deeper than its nursery pot and water it really well for a few weeks. Adding lots of organic mulch will help keep clematis roots cool and moist too.

terracotta pot shards

One of the best ways to prevent clematis from drying out is to place broken terracotta pot shards across the roots.


How Do You Support a Clematis?

Clematis are twisting vines, but they need something to hold on to. Good supports are trellis, obelisks and arches, but they will grow against a fence or wall with sturdy wire supports too.

As the vine grows, wrap it around the support, or use twists, ties, and clips to keep it in place.

It’s best to use a strong gauge wire because clematis can reach ten feet in height and the foliage becomes heavy. You may find birds nest in the tangle of foliage too!

clematis climbing a tellis

Using a trellis is a great way to support a clematis.


Do You Cut Clematis Down in Winter?

Some clematis such as Wisely Cream flower in winter! These cultivars need a sheltered spot that’s clear of harsh winds.

Whether you cut down a clematis in winter depends on its type. Here’s a handy chart.

Early Flowering

Early flowering species such as Montana don’t need pruning. Remove some of the tangled growth after flowering if you want to keep it tidy.

Late Spring to Early Summer Flowering

This type grows on last year’s vines. Prune lightly in winter for structure, but don’t remove too much growth.

Late Summer Flowering

Late flowering clematis flowers on the current season’s growth. They can be pruned back to a pair of buds in winter.

If you’re not sure what you got, perhaps you’ve inherited a yard of plants, then leave it for a year to see when it flowers. Missing a year’s prune doesn’t harm a clematis.

Does Clematis Come Back Each Year?

Yes, clematis comes back each year. They are perennial vines that are either evergreen or deciduous depending on their species. If you want to know if clematis comes back each year the question to ask is ‘is clematis a perennial or annual?’.

Is Clematis Poisonous For Pets?

Clematis is toxic to pets including dogs, cats, and horses. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and salivation. All parts of the plant are potentially toxic.

However, despite its toxicity clematis is an ingredient of Bach’s Rescue Remedy! It’s also used by native Americans to treat headaches and skin infections. This article from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology explains how clematis is used in modern medicine.

Clematis Cool Facts

  • Clematis has fluffy seed heads, so it’s sometimes called ‘Old Man’s Beard’.
  • The species C. Ligusticifolia was used as a substitute for pepper when pepper was an expensive import.
  • The name clematis is ancient Greek ‘klema’ which means ‘vine’
  • There’s a clematis that flowers every month of the year!
  • Clematis is one of the most popular garden plants because it can climb verticals, scramble through other plants, and cover soil.

So we’ve learned that clematis is a species of vine that lives in a variety of different places. They can be evergreen or deciduous and flower any month of the year, but what do they all have in common? Clematis is a perennial!

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © MITCHELL

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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