Tackling Clematis Wilt

Clematis wilt is a major disease of clematis and one that is feared by most clematis growers. But before you panic, you need to determine if your plant definitely suffering from clematis wilt?

Most people think they have this disease in their garden when actually they don’t. A clematis can wilt a number of reasons so do not automatically assume it is a disease. Very few clematis varieties are prone to the disease, as only a selected few varieties are susceptible to this disease. You can be sure as clematis wilt disease will suddenly completely collapse overnight. The foliage turns black, not brown, and the veins take on a purple colour. If those are the symptoms then the plant does indeed have clematis wilt.

Affected stems should be cut down to ground level and the remaining stems and the surrounding soil sprayed with a fungicide. Plants can be protected from further attacks by regular sprays in spring and early summer with the fungicide. Providing the clematis was planted deep enough (you should always bury the plant around 15 centimeters deeper than it was growing in the pot), there will be plenty of underground buds to produce new stems.

Wilt is always worse on plants under stress, so it is vital to plant them in good soil (slightly alkaline, well-drained with plenty of added humus) and keep the soil moist during droughts. Heavy clay soils are the worst for clematis and an area measuring at least one square metre (square yard) should be thoroughly dug over and plenty of humus added before planting.

Clematis can wilt for other reasons and when the foliage turns brown rather than black, with no purple veining, there is another cause such as|:

The stems of clematis are brittle and can often twist and shatter in windy conditions. So, it is vital they are strongly secured to their support. Plastic mesh (sold as clematis netting) is the best as there are plenty of places for the clematis to grab hold of, resulting in a strong hold and no twisting.

Drought conditions can cause wilting. Some gardeners assume that after a rain that is enough water and forgo additional watering. If we are experiencing very dry conditions, then make sure to water your clematis frequently. They like to be planted in the full sun so the soil can dry out quickly in these areas.

Over watering can also cause wilt. A plant that is situated in soggy soil cannot absorb nutrients properly and wilt may occur. Make sure your clematis is planted in well draining soil and does not sit in soggy soil or standing water.

Slugs and snails will often chew through stems or even just remove the outer layers of stem again resulting in damage which leads to wilting.

Careless hoeing or weeding around the base of the stem can make wounds which will lead to wilting.

Placing a section of plastic pipe or a cut-up milk carton at the base of the plant (sliding it over the stems to make a collar) will protect the stems from a careless hoe and slugs and snails (sprinkle a few slug pellets inside). It also shades the base of the plant which can also give some benefits.