Why are the leaves on my Clema­tis plant yel­low?

Cecil Whig - - JUMPSTART - By VI­VIAN STACY

Spe­cial to the Whig

Gail C. from Elk­ton asks: The leaves on my clema­tis plant are turn­ing pale yel­low, and have brown spots on the bot­tom of them. Would you be able to guide me in the di­rec­tion of the prob­lem?

Mas­ter Gar­dener: Clema­tis vines are fairly easy to grow and dif­fi­cult to re­sist, given their eye­catch­ing blooms. Some va­ri­eties pro­duce saucer sized blos­soms while oth­ers pro­duce a wild pro­fu­sion of color climb­ing up a trel­lis or spread­ing across a fence. There are over 300 va­ri­eties of clema­tis with a wide range of choices that will fill your gar­den with their beauty all sea­son. Most va­ri­eties are vig­or­ous grow­ers and hardy for this area. Some are sun-lov­ing while oth­ers do bet­ter in a shady gar­den. Many, to our de­light, are scented.

A yel­low­ing of leaves is most likely nu­tri­tional. Dan Long, long­time grower of gar­den vines from Brush­wood Nurs­ery, men­tioned that many clema­tis are bred for the showy flow­ers with lit­tle re­gard to the fo­liage, es­pe­cially for the sum­mers we get here in the Mid-At­lantic. He said, “If it’s the lower leaves and the tops look OK, that’s prob­a­bly just ge­netic and won’t change much. If it’s all the leaves, there could be a fer­til­ity is­sue.” He rec­om­mends Espona Rose-tone for clema­tis.

The long-time rule of thumb

for grow­ing clema­tis (“face in the sun and feet in the shade”) is a way of say­ing welldrained, evenly moist soil that doesn’t dry out is best. An an­nual dose of or­ganic mat­ter and a top dress­ing of mulch will help keep the soil en­riched and the roots shaded, cool and moist.

Clema­tis live up to 50 years or more, so lo­ca­tion and care­ful plant­ing is im­por­tant. The hole should be at least twice as big as the pot and twice as deep. Mix some of the na­tive soil from the hole with a top­soil and com­post mix. Re­move the clema­tis from its pot. Loosen the sides, but never pull on the vine or its train­ing stake to re­move it. Gen­tly tease some of the roots away from the sides. Clema­tis roots run deep so plant the stem about two inches lower than the ground. Plant deeply for ex­tra pro­tec­tion. Water the plant thor­oughly. Set­tling soil can leave the vine ex­posed, so back­fill if nec­es­sary. Care­fully mulch when done — this is im­por­tant be­cause clema­tis need am­ple mois­ture and mulch will help the soil re­tain it. Water new plant­ings reg­u­larly dur­ing the first grow­ing sea­son for a good start.

Prun­ing the clema­tis is not as com­pli­cated as you might think. Use the flow­ers as a guide. Clema­tis flow­ers are di­vided into three ma­jor flow­er­ing groups: spring, early sum­mer and late sum­mer/fall. If you know when it flow­ers, you will know when to prune. Spring bloom­ing won’t re­ally need to be trimmed, but to tidy up the plant, prune right af­ter bloom­ing. Sum­mer bloom­ing clema­tis should be pruned in spring be­fore new growth be­gins. Look for fat, healthy buds on sturdy branches. They usu­ally be­gin 1 to 2 feet down from the top of the vine. Prune just above the health­i­est buds. Also, trim away crowded and dam­aged canes at this time. Late-sum­mer or fall bloom­ing va­ri­eties should be pruned back hard in the spring to two feet off the ground. Look for healthy buds on sturdy canes and cut just above them. To train these into an ar­bor or other struc­ture, they should be left longer.

Clema­tis at­tract many of the same pests as other gar­den plants. Con­sult with your gar­den cen­ter for the ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment of light in­fes­ta­tions. A heavy in­fes­ta­tion of dam­ag­ing in­sects may be best treated by hard prun­ing of your vine. The only ma­jor dis­ease that affects the large flow­er­ing va­ri­eties is called Clema­tis Wilt. One or more stems mys­te­ri­ously wilt and die when infected. If this should hap­pen, cut sev­eral inches be­low the dead stem. If the en­tire vine is infected, trim it to the ground. New buds will emerge from the crown un­der­ground. If you con­tinue to have prob­lems with wilt, consider some of the other species that are re­sis­tant to Clema­tis Wilt.

Each week, a Ce­cil County Mas­ter Gar­dener will write in to share their gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ences or an­swer a gar­den­ing ques­tion. To sub­mit ques­tions to the Mas­ter Gar­dener, send them to ce­cil­mas­ter­gar­dener@gmail. com.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CRE­ATIVE COM­MONS

The clema­tis ob­val­lata.

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