The Q&A Archives: Clematis

Question: Last year I bought a Clematis from Home Depot.I was expecting a beautiful Clematis this year . It started to grow beautifully but suddenly it wilted. I cut the wilted leaves and it recovered. But yesterday in a matter of hours it wilted again. Is this a fungus infection? What can I do? Cut again the wilted leaves or apply fungicide?

Answer: I don't know whether your plant needs to be watered more thoroughly or the wilting is caused by a fungal disease called clematis wilt. Clematis wilt fungus is common on large-flowering clematis varieties. The symptoms begin as small, water-soaked leaf spots with red margins. The fungus enters the stem through the leaf petiole and eventually forms a canker near the soil line on the stem, choking it and causing all growth above the canker to die. The roots, however, usually stay healthy and, if the plant is more than two years old, it'll have enough reserve energy to send up new stems. The best defense against clematis wilt is to plant in a site with good air circulation, move mulch away from the stems and pinch off and destroy any leaf-spot-infected leaves. You can also spray the upper and lower surfaces of leaves with a fungicide such as sulfur or benomyl when you begin to notice leaf spot damage. Keeping the plants well watered, especially during hot spells in summer, and cleaning up plant debris where the fungus overwinters will help lessen the chances of getting wilt next year.

Best wishes with your clematis!

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