How to Treat a Wilted Clematis
Clematis grows best in a sunny area in rich soil that is consistently moist but never soggy. Also, give this flowering vine a trellis or fence to climb or else it will creep over every other plant in your garden. Clematis is not particularly drought-tolerant, according to Washington State University’s Extension, and consistent watering is needed to feed its large system of stems, leaves and flowers. Sandy soils that dry too quickly and clay soils that hold too much water can both cause clematis to wilt and die back.
- Moderately Easy
- Look for broken or partly broken stems if you notice a section of the clematis suddenly wilting. Follow the wilted stem back to the ground. If you see a broken stem, prune the stem to below the break and the clematis will grow back.
- Test the soil around the roots of the clematis with your fingers. If it’s sandy and dry, the vine may be wilting from too little water. Gently dig out the clematis with a shovel, preserving as many of the roots as possible. Lightly brush the soil away from the roots. Remove a cubic foot of the sandy soil from the area, and replace it with regular potting soil. Replant the clematis in the new soil and water thoroughly.
- Cut back the clematis all the way to the ground with pruning shears if the whole thing has quickly wilted and turned brown. Sudden wilting and stem death is caused by a fungal infection called clematis leaf and stem spot. Fortunately, this fungus does not attack the clematis’ roots, and the vine will re-sprout and recover.
- Cut back any surrounding vegetation to increase air movement and light penetration to the root crown and new stems of the clematis as it resprouts. Fungus is less likely to recur when sufficient air and light are present.
- Fertilize the recovering clematis as you would a healthy one, or once a month from May to July. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of all-purpose plant fertilizer in a gallon of water and pour it slowly over the root zone for best results.
Tips & Warnings
If you need to transplant a clematis, do so in September, when leaf growth has slowed for the season and the roots will have a chance to get established before winter.
Do not fertilize clematis after July. Doing so will cause a new burst of leaves and stems that will not harden off sufficiently before winter.
Remove and destroy all dead clematis vegetation to avoid reinfection from fungus spores. Dispose of it in yard waste bags, and avoid using it for compost, because it will infect other plants.