Clematis

September 2, 2017

I have seen a small white, fragrant flower growing on a vine in the woods near my home. It seems to be pretty tough. Someone told me it was a native clematis plant. Do you think that is what it is?

Either that or it could be sweet autumn clematis which is very similar. Both are blooming now in gardens and along the roadsides too. Even though they are pretty, they are not small vines. Clematis virginiana, commonly called woodbine, is a fragrant, fall-blooming clematis that is somewhat similar in flower to sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora), but lacks the tough, leathery leaves of the latter. Usually the native species has toothed leaves while the introduced one has a smooth leaf margin. While both will bloom with abandon in late summer through early fall in sun or partial shade, learn to recognize them and limit their spread. Most of what we see growing on the roadsides is probably the escaped C. terniflora or Sweet autumn clematis, which is quite invasive.

July 1, 2017

A couple of years ago we built an arbor and I put trumpet vines on each side. They grew and grew and got way to invasive so I’ve cut it all down and will be digging up the roots. What kind of flowering vine would be good to plant? I’ve thought about clematis but thinking I need something that will vine up the trellis then re-bloom on the old wood. I don’t want to have to cut it all off every year.

What about Armand clematis which is evergreen? Another option would be 5 leaf akebia or Carolina jasmine.

June 3, 2017

I have three Clematis plants (H F Young) that bloomed spectacularly this spring. They are about two years old. They have climbed to the top of four foot tall lattices and are spilling over on to the ground. I was aware of some dead vines hidden in the back near the ground. I started to prune out the dead vines and discovered that they were dying from the ground up, or so I thought till I read your article in today’s paper. Now I’m wondering if I messed up. The vines I cut away had green growth on the top.

Now I’m wondering what I should do. Cut back severely and wait for next spring? Cut back a third, including the stuff laying on the ground? Or leave them alone and let them fill back out?

H F Young is a repeat blooming clematis, blooming in the spring and then again in late summer. Any pruning should be done as soon after the first set of blooms. If your vines are old and woody with all the growth at the top. I think you are ok by pruning out some of the older vines. If should give you green foliage at the base as well as the top. I like to stagger cuts letting some grow tall and some mid-level and some almost to the ground to get flowers and foliage throughout.

September 2016

There is a volunteer vine in my yard which began blooming about a week ago. It has small fragrant white flowers and it produces a prolific vine. The leaves are somewhat heart shaped, with a little silver color along the veins. I thought it must be a weed until it started blooming. What is it and is it desirable? If not, what should I use to kill it?

The plant in question is the sweet autumn clematis, Clematis maximowicziana. It is fairly common throughout the state and is planted for its fall flowers and sweet scent. It can be somewhat invasive, so learn to recognize the seedlings in the spring, and contain it where it you want it. It is very easy to maintain, seeming to thrive on neglect. It will bloom well in sun or partial shade, and has no pests that I know of. It makes a beautiful display in late summer through early fall, but it can get a little too happy!

September 3, 2016

Can you identify this vine for me? It came with the house I just bought and it is not real attractive. It is near the front entry.

The plant in question is a clematis. The fluffy things are the seed pods, which I enjoy almost as much as the flowers. Your clematis does look a bit bedraggled, but it is a deciduous vine and will shed its leaves in the fall. Since there are seed pods now and a couple of blooms, you may actually have one of the varieties that bloom twice a year. If you want to shape it up you can prune it after it blooms in the spring.

August 20, 2016

My wife was talking about moving this clematis because it was only producing a few blooms for several years. I read your article last November 21 and pruned it leaving three vines – one pruned almost to the ground, one knee-high and let one grow. The attached picture of it was taken last May 16. I couldn’t believe all the blooms. Thanks a million. I was going to prune it after blooming but when I finally found your article again dated November 21, 2015 I saw that I must have pruned it sometime after that date. I haven’t pruned it and was wondering now when to prune it. Should I wait immediately after blooming next year or prune it now? It finished blooming several weeks back.

There is no set rule for pruning all clematis plants at the same time. Some varieties are spring only blooming plants, while others bloom all summer and some bloom only in the fall. You need to know when yours blooms normally to know when to prune. For spring bloomers, flower buds are set now and pruning would hurt spring blooms, so wait and prune immediately after bloom. For summer bloomers, prune before new growth begins in late February to early March, and for fall bloomers, you can prune as needed until mid to late June. I like to have three vines growing, with one I can prune almost to the ground, one knee-high, and one I let grow so I have a long tall vine with flowers throughout. Use caution when pruning since these are not flexible vines—they are quite brittle and can break easily.

July / Aug 2016

What do you suggest doing with Clematis, after it has bloomed? I have never done anything with mine in past years, but a friend says she trims hers back, and it will bloom again. Do I just take off the poufy things where the flowers were?

It all depends on what type of clematis you have, as to whether they will re-bloom. If you have a spring-only bloomer, pruning after bloom if needed will help. If yours blooms all summer, they should be pruned before growth begins. There are other types that bloom in the spring, and repeat in the fall. They can be pruned after the first bout of blooms, and will usually still bloom again. If yours is a spring only bloomer, pruning won’t help it re-bloom. The poufy things are seed heads, and I think look attractive. They can delay flowering if you have non-stop summer bloomers, but I don’t think you have one if you have never seen any blooms.

November 21, 2015

I have a clematis vine and I never know how or when to prune it. Some years it blooms great and other years I get few blooms. Tell me what to do.

There is no set rule for pruning all clematis plants at the same time. Some varieties are spring only blooming plants, while others bloom all summer and some bloom only in the fall. You need to know when yours blooms normally to know when to prune. For spring bloomers, flower buds are set now and pruning would hurt spring blooms, so wait and prune immediately after bloom. For summer bloomers, prune before new growth begins in late February to early March, and for fall bloomers, you can prune as needed until mid to late June. I like to have three vines growing, with one I can prune almost to the ground, one knee-high, and one I let grow so I have a long tall vine with flowers throughout. Use caution when pruning since these are not flexible vines—they are quite brittle and can break easily.

September 2010

My sweet autumn clematis grows on my patio fence and is a rapid grower as you know. This is its third year and it is not looking so good this year; lots of dead undergrowth showing. It’s been a real showstopper two previous years but this year not so much. I think it needs help and I am having a hard time finding out how to care for it. The fence is 6-7 feet high and the vine has grown to the top and along the top at a corner. Everything I can find gives different formulas for when and how much to cut back, you are the final arbiter.

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a vigorous vine which blooms on the current season growth. Prune it as hard as you want to in late February through mid March. If yours has gotten woodier, it needs a severe haircut—removing at least half. It usually thrives on neglect and seems to bloom unimpeded in full sun to partial shade. It has lovely, fragrant white flowers in late summer, but freely reseeds itself and roots where it is allowed to ramble, so contain it.

August 2010

In your column you mentioned a clematis that blooms all summer. What is the name of it and where can I get one?

The clematis family is quite large with many options. There are spring only bloomers which bloom on old wood from flowers set in the fall. Then there are varieties which produce flowers on the new growth and can bloom all summer, into fall. Probably the most common of these is the Jackman group or Clematis x jackmanii. Varieties include: ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’, ‘Alba’, and ‘Star of India’. Clematis viticella also bloom on new wood and include ‘Ernest Markham’, ‘Lady Betty Balfour’, and ‘Ville de Lyon’. Hybrids Nelly Moser’ and ‘Henryi’ can bloom on both the old wood in late spring and again on new wood in late summer, with the latter display not quite as large as the earlier blooms.

May 2010

What shrub would you recommend as a hedge in the Cammack Village area? I’d like to create a living screen to hide a shed & work area in the backyard. The shed sits at the back of the property which is fairly narrow & deep like a rectangle. What vine would you recommend to use for a small arbor which located just out the back door of the house on the same property?

Is the area shaded where the hedge will be planted? If so here are some good choices: wax myrtle, illicium (Florida anise), cherry laurel and Sweet bay magnolia–this last one is not evergreen. In sunny conditions you can use Little Gem magnolia, one of the hollies- Foster, Yaupon, Lusterleaf, Nelly R. Stevens; or eleagnus. For the vine, you could use a mix: trumpet honeysuckle, clematis, akebia and some annual vines: moon flower morning-glory, cypress vine and hyacinth bean.

July 2010

I have an overgrown clematis vine. Do I cut the vine back at the end of the season?

It depends on which clematis you are growing. If you have one that blooms all summer you prune before growth begins in the spring. If yours only blooms in the spring, you allow it to bloom and then prune in late spring, but pruning back in the fall shouldn’t be a great option for either one. Then there is the sweet autumn clematis that blooms late summer through fall and it typically dies back during the winter.

May 2008

I am considering putting clematis in a bed which now has an empty trellis. I have never grown one before and have no idea which variety I should choose. Is there one type which grows better in Arkansas than others? Once established, how do I care for it? When does it need pruning, how much fertilizer, etc. I have been under the impression that they require quite a bit of care but perhaps I am mistaken on that notion.

As long as the soil is not heavy, and the drainage is good, I find clematis to be fairly easy to grow. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, and most perform well. What season do you want blooms? Some bloom only in the spring, while others bloom all summer and then there are those that only bloom in the fall. There is also an evergreen form called Armand Clematis. Probably the most popular group is the Jackmanii group which blooms all summer on new growth. ‘Henryi’ and ‘Nelly Moser’ are C. lanuginosa types, and will bloom well in late spring and can bloom again in the fall. The sweet autumn clematis C. maximowicziana is a great fall bloomer, but can be a bit invasive over time. Pruning is based on season of bloom. They are not drought tolerant plants, so water as needed. Add a bit of lime to the planting soil and make sure it has ample drainage and some organic matter worked in. Clematis are heavy feeders, so fertilize with a complete fertilizer two to three times a year.

February 2010

Is there clematis that does not require full sun? Mine has been shadowed by a tree and is not blooming well.

The large showy clematis do need full sun, but the fall blooming sweet autumn Clematis terniflora, with small white flowers blooms nicely in partial shade. Some native woodland clematis with smaller purple flowers also do well in the shade or woodland garden, but may not be as easy to find. Clematis pitcheri is one example.

May 2007

We have clematis about 15 years old that has very large blooms. The last few years the lower leaves start losing their color then turn brown from the outside edges. This problem gradually works it’s way up the entire vine. It has started again this year. Does it need less/more water, fertilizer, or sprayed?

Some of the large flowering clematis plants can suffer from a disease called clematis wilt, but I don’t think that is the problem here. Clematis wilt causes rapid wilting and death of the entire stem. It can cause the leaves to turn brown, but again it is not a slow moving process such as you are describing. Make sure the soil is well drained and for now cut off the damaged leaves. Have a soil test taken from around the plant. Clematis like a slightly alkaline soil with good air and soil drainage. Make sure the pH is in line and that there are not salt buildups in the soil. If the problem continues, take a sample to your county extension office and let them send it to the disease diagnostic clinic to try to isolate the problem.

Why Are Clematis Leaves Yellow: Care Of Clematis With Yellow Leaves

Clematis vines are consistent garden performers that are relatively tolerant of a variety of conditions once mature. If that is the case then, why are clematis leaves yellow even during the growing season? A clematis with yellow leaves may be prey to several insect pests or the soil nutrient content might not be sufficient. In most cases, it is not a cultural problem but a few notes on what makes clematis leaves turn yellow might help you sort out the root cause.

What Makes Clematis Leaves Turn Yellow?

The delicate trailing, climbing stems and leaves of clematis create a fairytale look draped over a trellis or trained to an arbor. Once the elegant flowers appear, the entire vision is of dancing blooms and a riot of color and texture. If a clematis vine has yellow leaves, you might look first to the soil and drainage, site and lighting. If correct cultivation conditions exist, the problem may be pests or even disease.

There is a saying that clematis plants like to have their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade. In other words, clematis needs at least 6 hours of full sun to flower but the root area should be well mulched or have protective plantings around the base of the vine.

Soil should be well draining and not prone to hold moisture. Compost worked into at least 8 inches of soil prior to planting can enhance drainage and add important nutrients. Air movement is also important for healthy plants.

Nutrient causes of yellowing clematis leaves include iron or magnesium deficiency. Iron deficiency means the pH is high. Amend with iron chelate. Magnesium deficiency can be taken care of by mixing 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts with 1 gallon of water. Use the mixture 4 times per month to restore the leaves to their glorious green.

Additional Causes of Yellowing Clematis Leaves

Once you know your site and conditions are correct for the plant, it is time to take a look at other causes of yellowing clematis leaves.

Diseases

Even in areas with adequate drainage, fungal issues can take hold. A variety of rust diseases can cause yellowish spores on leaves and lesions over the foliar surface. Watering only at the base and creating a ventilated plant will help prevent these.

Tomato ringspot virus is transmitted through nematodes and infected plants. Any infected plants need to be removed.

Weather

High heat can cause a clematis with yellow leaves that wilt and drop. The heat stress is usually not fatal and the plant will come back as usual the following year.

Pests

Insects are common garden pests and they can affect even the most stoic plant. When a clematis vine has yellow leaves and all cultural causes have been examined, it may simply be some bad bugs.

Mites are the usual suspects. Their sucking behavior causes the leaves to bleach and yellow. Usually, a good horticultural oil or soap sprayed every few days will take care of these tiny pests. They can be hard to see, but placing a piece of white paper under the foliage and shaking a vine will help with this. The tiny black specks are your culprits.

Most of the causes of leaf yellowing are easy to prevent or remove, and you will have your spectacular vine back in tiptop shape in no time.

In mid to late summer, browning lower leaves can be a sign of dehydration, so it is important to keep up watering through the entire growing season. When a plant does not need a leaf any more, the leaf does tend to be shed by the plant and the first part of that is a browning or yellowing off. Simply remove the discolored leaves with a pinch or a small pair of garden nippers.

Earlier in the season, yellowing or browning leaves that the plant is discarding can be from a variety of natural causes. These include temperature extremes that may have damaged the leaves in question, and water extremes such as heavy rainfall or periods of dryness.

Other leaf discolorations may indicate a problem with the plant’s uptake of nutrients from the soil, or very rarely , a bacterial or fungal condition.

Usually the plant works through minor issues naturally and all we can do as gardeners is make sure that water and nutrition are good, and remove unsightly leaves. In more serious issues, the entire stem or stems is affected. If the plant is growing well above the disfiguration, remove the leaves and watch it to monitor the over all health of the plant.

CLEMATIS PESTS AND DISEASES AND HOW TO COPE!

home or Selection menu at foot of page

  • Diseases – Wilt – Slime Flux – Mildew
  • Pests – Vine Weevils & Other Bugs – Greenfly – Whitefly – Leaf Miner
  • Other Worrying and Frequently Asked Questions

DISEASES

WILT:

Clematis are pretty much trouble free, suffering from just one serious problem known as ‘Wilt’. Suddenly, with no warning, all the plant, or sometimes just a part of it, collapses and ‘dies’ – generally just as the plant was about to flower. It looks as though someone has cut through the stem at the bottom and it can strike literally overnight. Caused by a fungus called ‘Ascochyta clematidina’ which is present in everyone’s garden, (so it’s not your fault – or ours for that matter) it enters the plant via a damaged stem or leaf.

Cut off and burn all the affected parts, down to ground level if necessary and drench the remaining plant the the earth around with a systemic fungicide, carefully following the manufacturers instructions. THIS IS WHY YOU PLANT DEEP. Get those leaf nodes down – they will produce new shoots from under the ground and act as your insurance policy, not just against wilt, but all the other terrible things that can happen to slender stemmed clematis – strimmers, hoes, footballs, dogs, builders, jobbing gardeners etc.

It has to be said that not all plants that appear to have Wilt actually do. Often a slug has eaten through the stem, or it has been snapped in some way, giving the impression that the problem is more serious than it is. We have found that plants in their first year of growth can be affected more frequently than established specimens and also plants in high water areas seem to be less affected than those in drier areas. Paying attention to watering is, therefore, a part of the solution.
Planting well in order to encourage strong plants is also extremely important. A healthy strong plant is a disease resistant plant. Wilt mainly affects the large flowered hybrids, especially the earlier ones, so if you have found this to be a discouraging problem, grow the species varieties instead which, although not wilt-proof are certainly wilt resistant to a remarkable degree.

SLIME FLUX:

Mainly affects montana varieties. A yellowish substance leaks out from the base of the plant generally after a hard frost. It would seem that when the sap is rising and a sharp frost occurs, the stems burst much in the same way as a pipe. It can kill large old specimens. Cut back growth to below the affected part to ground level if necessary. New shoots may grow from below the ground. Best thing it to wrap the stems of your montana’s with fleece, or even an old blanket to protect against those late frosts.

MILDEW:

In particularly humid summers texensis and herbaceous varieties can acquire a dusting of mildew – spray with fungicide if necessary. Planting them where air can circulate freely helps too.

PESTS:

What is eating your clematis flowers? Probably earwigs, creeping out at night (have you noticed how much damage is done at night?) Was that really clematis wilt – or slug/snail damage? These are not really major problems and they are certainly no more than any other plant suffers from. It’s a case of living with the enemy and to a large extent controllable. Doubtless you have evolved your own methods.

Do protect new emerging shoots as they must be particularly tasty – mice and slugs love ’em. Some people have thought their plants have died during the winter, or that they have never produced new shoots after being cut back after suffering from wilt. Alas, the new shoots are struggling to come up, but are being eaten off the instant they appear. Making a plastic collar from an old lemonade bottle is not a bad idea – it can be removed when there is enough woody growth.

VINE WEEVILS & OTHER BUGS:

Vine weevils cause havoc in gardens, most especially to plants in containers. They are beetle larvae, a creamy colour with a dark head, fat and ‘C’ shaped and they eat the roots of plants. Certain things are especial favourites (Heuchera’s, Ivies, Primula’s) and fortunately clematis are not in that category. However, they can and do damage clematis, especially those in containers, and wherever possible preventative measures should be put in place. Using a compost which has added chemicals to deal with the larvae helps somewhat, but they are by no means as successful as the manufacturers would have you believe. Likewise control by biological methods is only truly successful in greenhouse/conservatory environments and is also very expensive. If your plant looks miserable for no apparent reason it is worth checking for these menaces especially if it is in a container. Of course we, at the nursery, do all we can to make sure the plants are bug-free. However, we find commercial preventatives are only about 60% effective and adding old fashioned methods (try flea-powder in your compost), noxious smelling but ‘green’ sprays and sacrificial crops (Mother of Thousands) cannot guarantee immunity.

GREENFLY:

Fast multiplying sap-sucking insects which cause stunted growth. Use systemic insecticide against them and keep the plant well watered (dryness increases the problem).

WHITEFLY:

Getting harder and harder to control as they have developed increased resistance to sprays. Parasitic wasps are a ‘green’ alternative.

LEAF MINER:

Not a serious life-threatening problem unless completely out of hand! The larvae tunnels through the leaf leaving a lacy effect. Nip the leaves off and burn them.

OTHER WORRYING AND FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

BROWN LEAVES at the base of the plant: These were the first leaves to appear, so are now the first leaves to die. It is a natural occurrence – hiding this deficiency with a shorter growing plant is probably the best option.

YELLOW LEAVES: Caused by magnesium deficiency – a good dose of Epsom Salts is the cure. Yellow leaves and little growth can also be caused by too much water. Either water less or check that the site isn’t a bog and move the plant if necessary. Don’t forget that the majority of clematis look like dead sticks in the winter, and they prepare for this metamorphosis in the normal fashion during the autumn.

GREEN FLOWERS: Happens mostly with white and paler coloured varieties after especially cold weather and can look very unusual and attractive in its own right. Direct sunlight will help the flower develop properly along with a dose of Sulphate of Potash, though proper regular feeding should minimise the problem anyway. (Duchess of Edinburgh and Alba Luxurians are supposed to have green in them).

WHY HASN’T MY CLEMATIS FLOWERED?

Sometimes, although a clematis has made lots of growth and looks perfectly healthy, it produces no flowers. This could be due to overfeeding (too much is just as bad as too little), or pruning at the wrong time – for instance, a montana pruned back in winter will have no flowers. An early flowering hybrid that has been hard pruned will also flower later than it should – and a hard winter will prune your plants for you, like it or not, and this will also affect their flowering capacity. Finally, awkward plants that they are, your clematis could just have decided to have a year off!

This article was originally published on the web at ukclematis.co.uk, however that website is defunct at January 2009. The copyright is with the original owners of ukclematis.co.uk.

Amy,
My clematis struggled for the last two years. But finally, this year, it’s turning out big purple blooms one on top of another. In the last couple of weeks, I noticed that something is eating large chunks out of the flower petals.
While the damage looks similar to slug damage, there are two reasons I think it might not be slugs: (1) the clematis grow up a tall metal obelisk trellis, and all of the flowers sit on the very top, which is a long way for slugs to climb, and (2) the leaves appear untouched, with only the flowers exhibiting the damage. Could it be earwigs? How would I find out?
Take a look:

I searched for caterpillars and slugs on the foliage and undersides of the blooms. Nothing. So I don’t have anything for you to identify. Do you have any ideas what it could be?
I did notice a spider with a web across one portion of the plant (and did not photograph it because I know you hate spiders), but it didn’t look like it was causing any damage to the foliage. Anyhow, my philosophy about spiders in the garden is that they are generally good.
–Rachel
Answer –
Rach,
I think you’re right. Without seeing the culprit, I would guess earwigs. They feed at night and move down to the soil during the day, which is why you wouldn’t see them. And they seem to have a hankering for clematis flowers too. Slugs would be eating indiscriminately, and they don’t generally enjoy climbing metal. Caterpillars would probably be eating the leaves as well. If you look closely at the flowers, do you see any small (very, very small) pellets or dots of dirt? That would be frass, or caterpillar poop. If you see any webbing (that isn’t from spider mites) or any pupae, then it would be caterpillars as well. The spider is definitely helping as a generalist predator, so best to leave it. (Thanks for not taking a picture, I’m light years better than I used to be, but “surprise spiders” still make me jump).
Earwigs usually aren’t a problem in mature gardens, despite the scary name. They actually eat aphids and eggs of other pests, so they can sometimes benefit a garden. They like cool, moist places during the day, which is why you can find them in basements or bathrooms on occasion. They can’t really hurt you with the “pinchers” on their abdomens, and they aren’t really prone to crawling into ears. They eat all sorts of things: detritus, aphids, insect eggs, and mites; but they will also sometimes feed on young plants, flowers and fruits. When that happens, there are some fairly easy ways to control them.
Earwig Control:
One thing you can do is to eliminate a lot of the hiding places they use in the daytime. If you have any potted plants, logs, or anything they can hid under during the day, you might move those to a different part of the garden for a while. Clean the area around the ground if you have any leaves or ivy around the base of the plants that you can sacrifice. If you can afford to without hurting the plants, you might remove any mulch under the plants temporarily. You probably won’t be able to eliminate every place they would hide, but every little bit helps. The nice thing about earwigs, though, is that they are easy to trap. Insect traps are so satisfying, when they work, because you get to see the results of your labor. People have all sorts of earwig traps they swear by. Some people think they are more attracted to beer than anything else. Others think a little fish is in order. Some people just put a rolled up newspaper or cardboard in the garden and let it get wet during watering, so that earwigs move there during the day. I personally like oil traps. You put out a couple of cat food cans and either fill them with 1/2 inch of some kind of fish oil or vegetable oil with a dollop of bacon grease. Earwigs are highly attracted to fish oil, but you might also attract cats and other creatures. Of course, the bacon grease might attract other things too. This trap will attract them while they’re feeding. In the mornings, you can empty them and refill. At the same time, you might try a trap for resting earwigs, such as the aforementioned newspaper. In the evenings, you shake the earwigs out into a pan of soapy water.

You can buy earwig bait and some sprays for earwigs, but it seems unnecessary when the home solution seems to work better. So I recommend that you try some traps. Unless, of course, you see some frass on the leaves. Then you should apply some Bt for caterpillars. 🙂
–Amy

Clematis – Ascochyta clematidina Leaf Spot and Wilt

This photo shows leaf spot on Clematis caused by the fungus Ascochyta clematidina. This fungus also causes stem rot and wilt. Symptoms begin as water-soaked areas on the leaves. These spots are dark brown to black, and irregular in shape. The fungus grows down the petiole and into the stem causing stem cankers which results in the sudden collapse and wilting of individual shoots. Note that Clematis vines can also wilt back due to environmental conditions, or due to mechanical injury from rough handling. Thin out the vines to improve air movement and ventilation in the planting. Remove and destroy all diseased leaves as they occur so the disease doesn’t spread to the stems. Likewise, prune out and destroy infected vines to reduce inoculum being sure to prune low enough on the vine to remove all of the infected tissue.

Prevent the disease by applying fungicides before symptoms begin.The fungicide thiophanate-methyl (Cleary’s 3336 F) is labeled for Ascochyta wilt. Formulations of wettable sulfur can also be used. Applications should be made early in the spring and special attention should be given to getting good coverage of the stumps from previous years growth which may harbor the fungus. Clematis hybrids and cultivars vary in their susceptibility to Ascochyta blight. Clematis types such as Clematis alpina, Clematis macropetala (blue, early spring), Clematis montana (pink), and Clematis viticella and some of their cultivars are reported to be resistant. These are all small-flowered varieties and less exciting to most gardeners. If the particular cultivar in the landscape consistently dies back, perhaps it is time to change to a new cultivar and perhaps a new planting site. There are reports that clematis plants sometimes recover from this disease because the fungus generally doesn’t attack the roots. Thus, new healthy shoots can appear later, perhaps even into the next year

Clematis Is Beautiful, Then Turns Brown

I have a Nelly Moser clematis that is over 10 years old. It is absolutely beautiful for a week or two, then the plant starts to turn brown and the petals get brown spots and fall off. I think it is some kind of wilt or disease. But it comes back every year. I have transplanted it to a different spot but with the same results. What should I do?

Several leaf spots, stem blights and root rots can cause the symptoms you describe. The dreaded stem wilt that most clematis growers fear has markedly different symptoms. Start managing the clematis disease with a thorough cleanup each fall. Remove diseased materials to reduce the source of disease the following season. If this doesn’t work you may want to use a fungicide labeled for clematis in the spring. Start treating as new growth emerges and before the symptoms appear. This is important since most fungicides prevent not cure diseases. Consider using on of the more eco-friendly products labeled for controlling leaf spot on clematis. Fortunately I have seen plants decimated several years in a row, recover after good sanitation is followed for several seasons, and continue to grow and flourish for many years.

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