Take swift action to save your clematis if it shows signs of fungal clematis wilt.
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What is clematis wilt?
Clematis wilt is a fungal disease that affects clematis plants and causes them to die back to the roots. Early, large-flowering varieties are most prone to attack, while smaller-flowering species such as Clematis montana are more resistant. Some clematis can recover and will survive die back to regrow from the rootball. However, sustained attack from the fungus will weaken the plant and could cause it to eventually die.
Clematis wilt is caused by a fungus that enters the plant through a wound made by an insect or an abrasion, such as rubbing from a plant tie. It's works by blocking the uptake of water in the stems of the plant, causing them to collapse and die back. Infected clematis foliage must be disposed of immediately, as the fungus can survive on the plant if left lying on the ground. Clematis wilt spreads by water splash, meaning you can make the situation worse by careless watering.
Symptoms of clematis wilt
The top of a clematis suddenly wilts, collapses and dies back, and the problem quickly spreads downwards through the plant. When the problem spreads from a leaf, its stalk turns black.
How to deal with clematis wilt
Cut back affected stems to healthy growth, even if this means to below ground level, and the clematis should send up new shoots. Bin or burn the infected material, don't compost it as the fungus will then remain in your garden to reinfect your clematis plants. If the problem recurs, replant your clematis in rich, fertile, well-drained soil, with the top of the rootball 8cm below ground. Avoid stressing the plant by keeping it well watered and shading the roots - try covering over the root area with slates or stones to keep it cool.