Clematis cirrhosa, a fragrant winter vine

Clematis cirrhosa - Early Virgin's bower

Clematis cirrhosa, or Early virgin’s-bower, is a clematis with fragrant winter flowers.

Key Evergreen clematis facts

NameClematis cirrhosa
Common – Evergreen Traveller’s Joy

Type – Vine
Height – 6 to 9 feet (2 to 3 m)
Soil – ordinary

Exposure: full sun   –   Foliage: evergreen   –   Flowering: mid-fall to early spring

This Christmas clematis is one of the few species that bloom in winter. The range of colors is extensive, with patterns such as pink-studded cream and bell-shaped flowers. Its evergreen leafage is also beautiful: it looks like small fern leaves.

Planting Clematis cirrhosa

planting clematis cirrhosaTraveller’s joy clematis (also called Virgin’s bowler) is planted indifferently in fall or in spring.

Clematis cirrhosa, like all other clematis vines, loves being rooted in a shaded spot while the head basks in the sun, especially during the winter blooming. It will still bloom even without much sun, luckily.

In summer, if sunlight hits the root collar, then cover it with an old tile or form a tent with a few flat rocks.

How to grow Clematis cirrhosa:

Cirrhosa Clematis requires some kind of structure to climb up along, it must be set at a distance of about 8 inches (20 cm) away from the root collar.

  • Dig a hole more or less 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter.
  • Lean the young seedling towards the wall or lattice that is will hang from later on.
  • Backfill the hole with a blend of soil mix and garden soil. If the soil is very heavy, add in ⅓ river sand.
  • Fertilize the plant right at the moment of planting with a little compost or dehydrated manure: this will allow for stronger growth.

Potted Clematis cirrhosa

It is perfectly possible to grow your winter clematis in a pot, even though some varieties such as Clematis alpina are better suited because they grow even more slowly.

  • Proper flower plant soil mix is required.
  • The pot must have a drainage hole at the bottom and must be wide enough.
  • Repotting every 2 or 3 years will be a necessity for your potted clematis to keep growing and blooming.

Caring for Clematis cirrhosa

cirrhosa clematis careAn easy plant to care for without much maintenance, this winter clematis actually won’t need any attention at all once it’s properly settled in.

  • No pruning is actually needed, particularly so because Christmas clematis growth isn’t very fast.

However, at some point in time, you might wish to reduce the size of the branches or balance out the growth of your Evergreen Traveller’s joy. Best do this at the beginning of spring or in fall after the blooming.

  • Shorten older stems without pruning young new ones.
  • Cut to the shortest stems that have died off and weak stems.


clematis cirrhosa pruningChristmas clematis is quite easily multiplied, either through layering of young stems or via cuttings.

  • Marcotting is performed in spring.
  • Cuttings should be prepared in spring from young stems, or at the end of summer with semi-hardened stems.
  • Layering works well at the end of winter/early spring.

Watering Christmas clematis

From fall through winter, you won’t need to water because rainfall will cover the plant’s needs.

However, if in pots, you’ll have to water your Evergreen Virgin’s bowler as soon as the soil feels dry to the touch.

Watering in spring and summer:

watering cirrhosa clematisEvergreen traveller’s clematis can’t withstand drought.

It cannot cope with excess water that might make roots rot away, either. A delicate balance to strike!

  • Regular watering is recommended over the first year after planting.
  • Maintain moisture in the soil.
  • Always protect the base of the plant to keep it cool. For example, you might lean an old tile against it, or use mulch.

Learn more about Clematis cirrhosa

Cirrhosa clematis varietiesThe botanical name of this clematis, “cirrhosa”, has nothing to do with the liver. The latin meaning of the word relates to how it latches on to branches and trellis: it has small tendrils.

Experts place this variety in the small-flowered clematis group.

Since it’s a relatively slow grower, it’s well-suited to growing in small spaces on a terrace, for instance.

Clematis cirrhosa varieties

Garden stores sell a few varieties and cultivars of Evergreen traveller’s joy, but most are difficult to find.

  • C. cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’
  • ‘Jingle Bells’ winter clematis (a timely fragrant bloomer for Christmas!)
  • Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’, possibly the easiest to get your hands on (very worthwhile)
  • A subvariety of its own: C. cirrhosa ssp. balearica
  • ‘Landsdowne Gem’ has uniform violet petals

Clematis cirrhosa balearica, a freckled species

Clematis cirrhosa balearicaA species native to the Balearic islands, in Europe. This small group of islands is in the Mediterranean ocean, off the coast of Spain.

C. cirrhosa balearica has beautiful cup-shaped flowers with wine-colored freckles. The fern-like leaves stay on the vine during winter.

It blooms right in time for Christmas and New Year’s (December-January).

Like most clematis varieties, this one is also toxic to horses, cats and dogs.

Smart tip

You can attach your traveller’s joy clematis to a lattice to ensure it grows the way you hope it will as it develops! Clematis cirrhosa can resist freezing and cold temperatures down to 5°F (-15°C), and even -4°F (-20°C) if it’s only a short while.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
adobestock: akif
CC BY 2.0: Lies Van Rompaey, Miltos Gikas, Motohiro Sunouchi
CC BY-SA 2.0: Steve Law