brown evergreen clematis

Asked August 12, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT

Why is my evergreen clematis look like its dying? I see most of them have some brown leaves but mine is almost completely dead. One month ago it was thriving and a deep beautiful green. now I have removed so many brown leaves it is almost bare. Please help. Thank you. Bobbie

Marion County Oregon

1 Response

Hello and thanks for the question. I wish you had given me the name of the clematis you have as some are classified evergreen and some are semi evergreen (as well as deciduous types). Several things could be causing the problem you are experiencing with your clematis. First our weather has been unusually hot and dry. Be sure that your clematis is getting adequate water. Clematis should receive at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight during the day. They require shade in the hottest part of the day and the root zones should always be kept cool and moist. This can be achieved by planting shrubs or other plants around the base of your vine to shield the root zone from direct sunlight AND by mulching the root zone. Ensure that the mulch is NOT touching the stems of your clematis. Clematis will tolerate most any soil but they prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soils that are moist and loose. They should be planted with two buds below the soil level. This can be accomplished by planting the whole root zone deep or laying the root zone horizontal and gently bending the stems up. The plants should always be given adequate support to ensure that they are not damaged or broken under windy conditions. Also ensure that the root zones are kept evenly moist and water so that the leaves are not wetted, only the root zone. Don’t allow your plant to become water stressed. There are three pruning groups the vines can be part of. Depending on the type of clematis you have depends on how it should be pruned. Hopefully you have the tag from your plant and know which group your plant is part of and therefore how to properly prune it.

If all these things are happening properly there is another possibly and that is a disease. There is a fungal disease called Clematis Wilt that could be causing the problem. This disease is characterized by black fungal spots appearing on the leaves and stems. The foliage and stems then dry and wither. Trim the dead stems below the level that they have dried and collect the leaves and dispose of them. Try to improve any air circulation that the plant is getting by removing dead plant materials. You can also thin healthy plant material to allow for better air circulation to reduce conditions that encourage a fungal disease to grow if the canopy of the plant is thick. You want to ensure that the leaves and stems have a chance to dry out after a rain or heavy dew. Keep the root zone watered and hopefully the plant will come back next year.