When looking for a versatile, beautiful perennial to adorn a porch, trellis or arbor, look no further than the clematis vine. With blooms that range from the most common purple to shades of pink, red and white, clematis varieties are abundant, so finding one to fit your particular growing zone should not be difficult. Clematis is relatively disease and pest free, but a few problems may exhibit themselves. Addressing them early is the key to success.
Poor Air Circulation
Root rot and powdery mildew are both signs of poor air circulation to the base of the plant. A white spore, powdery mildew can spread to other plants and cause chaos in the garden. Treat powdery mildew with a general fungicide as directed to stop the spread of the disease, but thin out other plants or move the clematis to another area to allow for better air movement at the crown to prevent it from returning. Move the clematis to another location that has better drainage and is less crowded to prevent root rot.
Wilting leaves on your clematis could be the result of a water or nitrogen deficiency. Well-established plants are rather drought-tolerant but all plants need some water supplement during dry spells. Feed your clematis with a general fertilizer or regularly amend the soil with nutrient-rich compost or composted manure.
If a good watering and feed doesn't solve the problem, look to the plant's location. Clematises prefer to have "their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun," but the intense afternoon heat of the late summer may be too much for your plant. Consider moving it to an area with morning sun and late afternoon shade for better results.
Another common problem with clematis that causes wilted leaves is known as "clematis wilt," caused by the fungus Ascochyta clematidina. Clematis wilt happens in plants where damage has occurred to the lower portion of the stem. Above the lesion, the plant will wither and turn black while the lower portion stays healthy. Remove the wilted parts by cutting back 1 inch below the start of the wilted section. As is usually the case, general plant sanitation--removing plant debris--will help reduce the spread of clematis wilt.
Insects and Pests
Well-settled clematis is seldom hurt by insect invasion. Young plants are more susceptible to slug damage and are a tasty snack for rabbits, but once established, clematis can withstand their munching. Aphids and spider mites can be controlled with an insecticide soap or just a good shot of water from the hose.