Clonal plants play important roles in maintaining wetland ecosystems in China. By analysing 108 wetland quadrats distributed throughout China, we evaluated (1) the importance of clonal growth forms in different Chinese wetlands, (2) how the abundance of clonal plants is related to climatic and geographical conditions, and (3) how plant species diversity is related to the abundance of clonal plants. Significant differences in clonal plant importance values were found between different regions of China. Clonal plants were more important in wetland ecosystems located towards the West and North and at higher elevations and, accordingly, experiencing a colder and drier climate. Plant species diversity showed a significant inverse correlation with the importance value of 'guerilla'-type plants in most of the wetland regions. However, we found no significant correlation between plant species diversity and importance values of 'phalanx'-type plants. In most Chinese wetlands, plant species diversity decreased with increasing importance of guerilla plants and also with an increase of the entire guild of clonal plants. In wetlands with low species richness, however, plant species diversity increased with increasing importance of guerilla plants and of all clonal plants together, suggesting that in these disturbed habitats clonal growth may facilitate the establishment of other, non-clonal wetland plants.