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The clematis is one of the most popular climbing plants for the garden and is often referred to as the "queen of climbing plants". Clematis is actually very easy to care for. In addition to a partially shaded location, it only needs occasional fertilizing and watering. If the clematis suddenly drops its leaves, something is wrong. Now it's time to check carefully!


The reasons for the wilted leaves can be very different and range from simple dryness to the dreaded clematis wilt. The first step is to examine the plant in detail. The current weather situation can serve as a first indication. Has it been damp and rainy for a long time or rather hot and dry? In both cases, there are different causes for the hanging clematis leaves.

lack of water

Maybe the pretty climbing plant just needs to be watered? A good water supply is important for the perfect growth of the clematis. Because a sufficiently supplied plant is particularly resistant. In general, clematis are very thirsty plants that need regular watering. This is particularly important in spring and summer. When watering, only the soil around the roots is wetted if possible, since moisture on the shoots and leaves promotes the spread of fungi. If the clematis lacks moisture, the entire foliage usually hangs down. In individual cases, however, only the shoots lying in the sun are affected.

tip: Dig a small hollow near the roots with your finger. If the soil is dust-dry even at a depth of ten centimetres, the plant probably only needs water.

Too warm feet

Because the wild forms of clematis live in forests, they do best in similar conditions. In practice this means:

  • shaded on the ground
  • further up sunny

If the blazing sun shines on the root area for too long, clematis usually acknowledge this with withered leaves. You should therefore cover the ground area with mulch or stones, or plant a flat ground cover that provides shade and cool roots. The soil is often too dry at the same time, so the plant should then be watered carefully.

tip: When planting ground cover, make sure that these do not develop strong roots that then compete with the clematis.

Kinked shoots

The filigree flowering plant should generally only be planted in sheltered locations where the air can still circulate well. In unfavorable locations in the garden, the tender shoots can easily snap off in strong winds or a storm with storm and hail. If the leaves only hang down on one side or certain shoots of the clematis, it is likely that one or more shoots have suffered mechanical damage and the water and nutrient supply in the pathways has been interrupted. This leads to withering and dying of the affected region and initially manifests itself in the leaves hanging limply. Examine your climbing plant very carefully for breaks or injuries. The dying shoots are not only unsightly, but pathogens such as fungi, viruses and bacteria can also penetrate the plant through the wounds and damage them irrevocably.

First aid measures:

  • Cut the shoot below the break point
  • use clean, sharp tools

clematis wilt

If all of the above causes for hanging leaves on the clematis have been ruled out, you must assume that the clematis is affected by the dreaded clematis wilt. The disease can really spoil the joy of a spectacular play of colors in the garden for a hobby gardener. Because if the clematis is infested, it dies down to the ground within a short time. However, what very few people know is that clematis wilt is actually two different diseases. Both diseases are caused by fungal pathogens caused, but take a very different course. Infection is favored by excessive moisture in the soil or warm, humid conditions such as fog or long periods of rain. An illness is therefore possible despite the best care.

1. Phoma clematis wilt

The more common form of wilt is Phoma clematis wilt. It is caused by a fungus called Ascochyta clematidina. The fungus also spreads to stems and shoots. If the weather is warm and humid, entire shoots will wither within two weeks. In general, any clematis can be affected, but the fungal pathogen leads to the complete death of the above-ground shoots, especially in large-flowered clematis hybrids. It is important to recognize the Phoma clematis wilt in good time. Because once the fungus has reached the inside of the shoot, the infection progresses quickly and can hardly be stopped.


  • Time: early summer
  • small light brown spots on the leaves
  • yellowish yard
  • first on the underside of the leaves in the lower area
  • Spots get bigger and darker
  • death of the entire leaf

First Aid Measures

  • Check regularly from May
  • remove infected foliage
  • treat with a commercial fungicide

If the wilting of the clematis is already far advanced and the leaves are hanging limply or have died, the only thing that helps is an immediate, radical pruning to just above ground level. Fortunately, almost all clematis that have been pruned so vigorously make a full recovery. However, they need time to do so.
Tip: Some plants only sprout again in the second year. So be patient and continue caring for the clematis as usual.

2. Fusarium wilt

Fusarium clematis wilt is caused by another fungal pathogen: Coniothyrium clematidis rectae. It occurs much less frequently than the Phoma clematis wilt and only affects the large-flowered hybrids of the clematis. The fungus penetrates through wounds into the interior of the plant and clogs the pathways of the climbing plant. Such injuries are often caused by mechanical damage or large temperature fluctuations in the winter months. Since water and nutrients can no longer get into the shoots and leaves due to the clogged pipes, the affected parts of the plant die.


  • Time: from mid-June (mushroom needs high temperatures)
  • Sudden wilting of whole shoots
  • no spots on the leaves (like Phoma wilt)
  • instead: brown discolouration from the edge

First Aid Measures

  • immediate radical cutback
  • down to ground level
  • no fight possible
  • Dispose of infested parts of the plant in the household waste

Here, too, there is a good chance that the clematis will recover from the wilt. The fungus primarily damages above-ground shoots.

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