Plant of the Week: Bellflower Clematis

The Vegetal Screen is a seated bench area located near the Tenth Avenue Square with trellises for perennial vines, such as Major Wheeler Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler') and Autumn Revolution™ American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens 'Bailumn'). Among these climbers the bellflower clematis, Clematis pitcheri, is in bloom and has been for a while.

Clematis pitcheri is an herbaceous perennial vine reaching lengths of approximately 12 feet. Twining petioles help stabilize the vine to climb to maximize its sun exposure and disseminate seeds from a high vantage point, covering a broader area of soil. The leaves are in opposite formation, divided in 3 to 5 leaflet pairs. The flowers are found nodding on long stalks (penduncles) growing from the leaf axils.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

The flowers are leathery urns that are dark purple on the exterior with a dark purple, reddish or greenish interior, measuring approximately ½ to 3/4-inch in length. The purple "petals" are actually 4 sepals (modified leaves, typically green, that cover and protect the flower petals); the petals are absent. They are recurved (bending backward) near the tips, and shelter many pistils within.

It has a wide nativity range distributed across multiple states including Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Clematis pitcheri is a hardy plant for the cultivated garden. The blooms are long-lasting, with a bloom time of approximately two months under ideal conditions. It is heat tolerant and drought resistant, preferring sun to part shade, well-drained moist, slightly alkaline soils. It is adaptable, however, and can grow well in a range of soil conditions.

The stems are delicate, so ideally it should be planted and trellised somewhere it will not be moved during the growing season, but can be cultivated in containers with support.

Seeds can be collected after seed heads are no longer green, but prior to the dispersal of the achenes (small, dry, single-seeded fruits that does not open to release the seed). Seeds can be planted outside in the fall for the following season. Or, they can be germinated indoors by planting seeds in containers and keeping them moist and chilled at 40 degrees for a period of 60 to 90 days, then raising container temperatures to 70 degrees (moist, cold stratification). Clematis pitcheri can also be propagated through rooting softwood cuttings taken in the summer.

Bellflower clematis can be found trellised vertically on the northernmost Vegetal Screen, diagonal to the the 18th St. park entrance.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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