The Heartbreak of Clematis Wilt

I was feeling pretty good about the Clematis ‘Multi-Blue’ I have growing on a tuteur in the Herb and Tomato Bed. By May 1, it had reached about 6′ and had a respectable number of swelling flower buds.

wilting clematis
A healthy bud (left), and a droopy sick bud (right). 

Then I noticed that some of those buds and leaves were alarmingly listless and droopy. After a little research, I came to the conclusion that the plant was suffering from Clematis Wilt. The good news is that I don’t have to dig the plant up and throw it away.

Instead, I removed the diseased parts of the plant. That was on Sunday. If the disease has spread to other parts of the plant by the time I return on Friday, I will cut the whole thing to the ground. I’m told that plants can recover from Clematis wilt within a year or two.

2014-07-04 16.20.17 Clematis jackmanii
Clematis wilt, stay away from my Clematis jackmanii.  I mean it!

However, I really don’t want this disease to spread to my other Clematis, especially the C. jackmanii that is just about 20′ away from the ‘Multi-Blue’.  Unfortunately, it’s the large-flowered Clematis like C. jackmanii and ‘Multi-Blue’ that are apparently most vulnerable to this disease.

Have you ever had to cope with Clematis wilt?

43 Comments on “The Heartbreak of Clematis Wilt

  1. Yep and they can recover in a few weeks. I had to cut one of mine down to the ground last month and it’s already taking over the fence at twice the size of the original. Fear not, my friend. All will be well. 🙂

  2. Wow, I didn’t know there was such a thing as clematis wilt. I need to look it up. I’m glad it can be controlled. I have two clematises.

  3. I had a new Clematis start exhibit signs of wilt once. I mercilessly cut it all the way back, added some more compost and waited. It came back and has been trouble free since. Not sure what causes it, but I hope your Multi blue will recover. It’s a beautiful Clematis…

  4. Yes, I’ve had a touch of it on ‘Nelly Moser’ now and then. It grows back just fine when you cut it back, if the rabbits don’t eat it. 😉 (Rabbits are why I have chicken wire around the bottoms of the plants.)

  5. I had never heard of it. I sure hope your clematis will recover.

  6. Clematis wilt ….I’ve never heard of it either, I always thought Clematis was there goes that theory.

  7. The other comments sound encouraging. I have lost a couple of Clematis completely to Clematis wilt over the years, but there may have been other factors involved too. Hope yours recovers quickly – that jackmanii was such a wonderful display last year!

  8. Your C. Jackmanii looks magnificent, I hope it doesn’t catch the disease, although it seems they can survive it. I have a clematis with very insignificant flowers that I keep just to cover a trellis, I wouldn’t mind if it got sick then I’d have an incentive to replace it. I feel very ungrateful and disloyal to an old, old friend writing this.

  9. I have lost Clematis due to wilt. One came back but then died a few years later. Not one to give up, I purchased another last weekend and I will hope for the best.

  10. Can’t “like” this one! Fingers crossed the wilt doesn’t spread.

  11. I was told that you need to plant your clematis deep (deeper than the original planting depth in the pot it comes in) to help avoid wilt and keep the base covered – an old roof slate would do. Base in the shade/tops in the sun. Good luck with it and I hope it doesn’t affect your magnificent jackmanii.

  12. Welcome to the club, Jason. I have dealt with clematis wilt for decades and the only thing I am aware of is to cut the offending branch off at the base and hope. Planting deep is a first step to minimize occurance.

  13. Since my collection of Clematis seems to be on the rise (from 2 to 6) this is very good to know about, although I pray I won’t ever have to use that knowledge. Good for you for getting on it right away and keeping it away from your gorgeous C. Jackmanii.

    • I have 4 Clematis – jackmanii, ‘Multi-Blue’, ‘Sky Blue’, and ‘Betty Corning’. This is my first experience with disease.

  14. It could be that it wasn’t even ‘wilt’. A gardening expert said last week that mostly when gardeners think it is wilt is is slug or snail damage! Do check!

  15. I’ve always heard that group III clematis don’t get wilt, only the group I and II. In my experience that has been the case so now I only grow group III varieties. I believe Jackmanii is a group III so that one may be OK.

    • The Clematis groups leave me very confused. I hope you’re right. I’ve been told jackmanii can be pruned as group 2 or 3,

  16. Yikes. Another problem to be on the lookout for. I am about to plant some clematis today, so now know, thanks to your readers, the importance of deep planting. Best of luck on this and hope that your prolific, gorgeous Jackmanii is immune.

    • I’m more optimistic now, though one of the evil qualities of this disease is it strikes just as the first buds are about to open.

  17. I have never had luck with clematis but have never experienced wilt. My current clematis has yellowing leaves for the second year in a row and is quite ugly. I would rip it out but it was a Mother’s Day gift.

    • Oh, dear. That sounds like a real quandary. Yellow leaves – do you think it might be chlorosis? Could the soil be very acidic or alkaline? Or poorly drained?

  18. Yikes! But on the bright side, it’s a disease that a plant can recover from – a blessing as so many plant diseases usually mean the plant is kaput.

  19. Hello Jason, most, if not all of the Clematis I’ve had had wilted in their first few seasons (I’m rather bad with Clematis). I’ve found that a combination of having them in the ground and having them grow and develop over a good few years means very few of my Clematis wilt these days and if they do, only a part of the plant is affected and they bounce back quickly as they have a large supporting root system.

  20. Just getting into Clematis as they are a specialty at Joy Creek. Multi Blue is my latest heart-throb. I wish him a speedy recovery and many years of gorgeosity in your garden.

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