Numerous cultivars of clematis vines exist with large, showy pink, red to purple flowers, but a handful of wild clematis species bear smaller, daintier looking white blossoms. To help determine a plant’s identity among these multiple species that bear small white flowers, rely on other features such as bloom time or leaf shape and duration. Because of their prolific flowering, copious seeds form and sprout across a landscape, making some species a pesky or troublesome weed.
Named because it blooms in late summer to mid-fall, the sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) rapidly grows into a cloak-like vine that smothers arbors, fences or nearby small trees. Native to Japan, sweet autumn clematis grows at least 15 to 30 feet tall and its deep green leaves are winter deciduous or partially evergreen. It survives winters in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4b through 10.
Growing 10 to 35 feet tall and blooming in early spring is Armand’s evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii) from China. Also a vigorous plant, its leaves persist across winter, but the plant survives only in warmer regions such as USDA zones 7 through 11. Cultivar Apple Blossom bears white flowers with pink petal undersides, and Snowdrift produces highly fragrant pure white blossoms.
Also called woodbine or devil’s darning needle, virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) hails from the eastern United States, blooms from late summer into mid-fall and grows 20 feet tall. To distinguish it from the sweet autumn clematis, look at the leaves: Virgin’s bower’s green leaves are thinner and not leathery. Also producing fragrant white blossoms, virgin’s bower flowers look like puff balls with their huge numbers of stamens. Grow it in USDA zones 3b through 8.
A herbaceous vine that grows no taller than 6 feet, the vanilla-scented clematis (Clematis recta) is native to central and southern Europe. Also called the upright clematis, its leaves are grayish green. The small white flowers release a strong, vanilla-like aroma, occurring anytime from midsummer to mid-fall. Grow this clematis in USDA zones 4b through 10a. Cultivar Purpurea develops purplish leaves that mature more green.