The Q&A Archives: Newly Planted Clematis Die

Question: About 4 weeks ago I purchased 2 different clematis vines from a department store, each with a 5-inch stem. I planted them immediately in what I thought were ideal conditions -- cool soil with morning sun. I kept them both watered. The green leaves have died and I don't see any new signs of life. Are they dead? What did I do wrong?

Answer: If there are no signs of green sprouts coming from the stems or soil, I'm afraid they're probably not going to make it. It's hard to say exactly what went wrong. The plants may have been stressed by conditions at the department store when you purchased them, and the additional stress of planting was too much for them. You might contact the store to see if they offer any guarantees. It's also possible that you planted them too shallowly. Potted plants should be set in the soil at the same level they were growing in the container. However, bare-root plants (which are usually sold with the roots surrounded by moist sawdust or peat moss) should be planted deeper, with the rootball set 3 to 6 inches below the surface of the soil -- which in your case means burying part of the green stem. Deep planting helps keep roots cool and moist. If you want to experiment, you can dig up the roots and, if you see any signs of life, replant them slightly deeper.

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