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Fremont’s Clematis: A Rare Beauty

The other day, I began transplanting seedlings of Fremont’s Clematis for our FloraKansas spring plant sale.  I was thrilled that we actually will have some to offer this year.  In the past, we have struggled to achieve germination, but this year we have been successful.

Fremont's Clematis Seedlings

Fremont’s Clematis Seedlings

The seed from which these plants germinated was collected last summer, as our staff took a detour on our way back from a retreat at the Flinthills Discovery Center in Manhattan.  The seed germinated last fall and overwintered in the seedling flats.  Over the past few weeks they have really come to life and it was time to move them before their taproot grew too large.

Fremont’s Clematis, or Clematis fremontii, a rare prairie native from Kansas and Nebraska, is quite different from the traditional climbing clematis species.  It forms a small bush that is covered in spring (late-April) with sugar-bell shaped flowers of purple and white.  Each flowers curls at the end.  The oval leaves are leather tough and covered with fine hairs, almost fuzzy in appearance.  These plants, once established, are resilient.  They develop into large clumps.  We have had several plants in the same spot for over 15 years, in one of the xeriscape beds just outside the Visitor Center entrance.


Fremont’s Clematis loves sun.  We collected the seed from plants on a rocky hillside in central Kansas.  They are thriving in that windswept exposed prairie.  If they are thriving there, then all they need is plenty of sunlight (at least 6 hours) and a well-drained soil.

I always look forward to their arrival in spring.  They are one of the first plants to emerge and bloom in our rock garden here at the arboretum.  If they are happy, they will give you years of consistent beauty. Be sure to come early to the FloraKansas Plant Sale and get some while they are available!