The Q&A Archives: Wilting clematis

Question: I bought a Clematis armandii, which is supposed to be evergreen. I planted it perfect, trellised it, mulched it, and have been feeding and watering appropriately and STILL it has progressivley wilted, and yellowed and looks as though it has decided to die in spite of my efforts. I am almsot a master gardener and I am stumped. I have landscaped several yards both for myself and others and to date have only had one specimen ever die on me...and the deer helped with that. Read for input!!

Answer: How disappointing to have your clematis behave badly after all you've done for it! I'm sure you know that clematis likes its roots in the shade and its tops in the sun. A heavy layer of mulch will help keep the roots cool and for added protection you might want to plant a small shrub or place a decorative rock in front of the plant to help shade the roots.

If you've done everything you can in regards to care, I wonder if your plant is showing signs of the dreaded clematis wilt? The cause of clematis wilt is really unknown but the most common theory is that it is caused by a fungus. Presumably this is a very selective fungus that can attack shoots, leaving the root system healthy. Another theory is that snails or slugs attack the stem of the plant causing a portion of the plant to be cut off from its water. Other possible causes are genetic weakness due to hybridization or damage caused burrowing animals such as moles, chipmunks, or voles(mice) that disturb or feed on the root system causing the plant to prune itself accordingly. Others have observed that clematis, even large flowered hybrids, that are planted in a spot where there is a subsoil water source such a spring, a stream or at a river bank, wilt is almost non-existent. The wilt is truly a mystery. University studies, supported by the British Clematis Society and others, into the exact cause(s) of clematis wilt are presently under way in England. The good news is that wilt is rarely fatal to the plant. It might take up to a year, but the plant will usually sprout a vigorous shoot from under the ground to live another day. If you cut away all the wilted stems and remove them from the garden, healthy new shoots should emerge from the crown of the plant.

Hope this information is helpful! Best wishes with your clematis!

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