Mention clematis, and most immediately envision a frilly deciduous vine with masses of showy blossoms in a wide variety of colors. But there’s another type that doesn’t even look like a clematis, and unlike the others, remains green year-round.
Evergreen clematis, Clematis armandii, is a springtime showstopper in its own right with its unique finger-like, pointed leaves and small, creamy-white flowers that offer a faint vanilla scent. This species, named for 19th-century French plant collector Pere Armand, is native to China and hardy to zone 6.
Although its vines can extend up to 40 feet long or more, evergreen clematis has tendrils that allow it to grab structures and other plants, then drop down and flounce gracefully, rather than reach for the stars like other vines. Its dark green leaves point downward, too, adding to that weeping effect.
For those reasons, the vine is perfect for softening the top of fences or shrouding an archway. Just give it plenty of support with a strong arbor or trellis because with time the vine can become heavy. As it matures, evergreen clematis also becomes quite woody, with all its new growth forming at the top of the plant.
In moderate climates, this clematis blooms as early as late February—early to mid-spring elsewhere—and prefers full sun, though it will tolerate some shade. The clusters of star-shaped flowers typically are white, while other varieties offer pink, dark red and magenta blooms.
A fast grower, evergreen clematis has few enemies, but sometimes parts of the vine will turn brown and die for no apparent reason. And like other clematis, it can be struck by a disease known as clematis wilt, though that more often affects the larger-flowering varieties.
Here are two other evergreen vines to consider:
Confederate Jasmine: Also known as star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides actually isn’t a true jasmine; it just gets its name from the jasmine-like fragrance of its tiny white star-shaped flowers that bloom from mid-spring to early summer. With dark green glossy leaves, it grows up to 40 feet, is extremely drought-tolerant and hardy to zone 8. Like most flowering plants, it prefers full sun but will tolerate part shade. This vining plant must be trained, such as around the eaves of a porch; otherwise, it will just form a bushy plant.
Carolina Jessamine: This fragrant evergreen vine, also known as yellow jessamine, is prized for its spectacular masses of bright yellow flowers in early spring and again in fall. Its leaves are small and nondescript, but the twining vine makes up for it with its explosive growth. Hardy to zone 6, it’s also highly heat-tolerant. Give it plenty of sun for best flowering and prune often to control growth. Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, performs best along a fence, atop an arbor or against a trellis.