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Q&A - Problems

This section is based on an article that appeared in a recent BCS Journal. It will be updated from time to time as new areas of interest arise.

If you have any questions about looking after clematis, please feel free to e-mail us and we will arrange for them to be answered for you by one of our advisory panel. We do this on the understanding that we may publish the question and answer at a later date without, of course, disclosing your name.

Treating mildew on C. texensis cultivars
Controlling mildew on C. 'Duchess of Albany'
Treating clematis wilt
Protecting seeds
Ants on clematis


Why do my texensis clematis have so much mildew every year and how can I prevent it?

The texensis group of clematis, although among the most beautiful of all, are naturally more prone to mildews than most other clematis. There are two aspects of cultivation that can greatly reduce the severity of mildew on texensis clematis. The first is to grow this type of clematis in open ground, where air can freely circulate through and around the whole plant; (stagnant conditions will cause mildews very early in the season on plants grown close to solid structures). On well-established plants of C. 'Duchess of Albany' it is worth removing some of the many shoots at ground level to ensure adequate ventilation through the plant. The second way to reduce mildew is to keep the root area evenly moist throughout the growing season. This is best achieved by ensuring the plant is really well watered in early spring and then applying thick mulch to retain that moisture content. Never allow the root area to completely dry out, add water regularly if drought conditions persist. (Extremes of dryness and wetness of the soil quickly trigger the onset of mildew). In some years it will be impossible to prevent mildew even with opportune preventative spraying with a good fungicide, but these two simple cultural tips will go a long way in most years to ensuring your texensis display is as beautiful as possible.

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My Clematis texensis 'Duchess of Albany' is a vigorous plant. I nourish her well and take good care of her. Yet she gets covered in mildew every year. She flowers very well, but the plant looks very ugly and unsightly from July onwards. Each year, I have threatened her with eviction, but, she is still here and obviously pays very little heed to my threats! Please help!

The only meaningful way to deal with this problem is to spray with a weaker solution of a good fungicide well before any signs of mildew appear, then routinely repeat the process at regular intervals. A well grown, mildew-free texensis is a joy to behold.

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The only fungicide I have is Nimrod T. I cannot find a product specifically saying that it is suitable for Clematis wilt. Would you recommend anything else?

No specific fungicide is as yet available to deal with the problem of wilt in clematis. Of the existing fungicides, none will give 100% protection against wilt. However, most general purpose fungicides will give some help. Fungicides which help prevent mildew on roses will also render some protection against clematis wilt. It is advisable to plant your new clematis at least 3 to 4 inches ( 7.5 - 10cms.) deeper than they were in the pots ( live buds below the soil will come into growth should the vines or stems above the soil level suffer from wilt. Do not stick to just one brand of fungicide - use two or three different fungicides during the growing season. Spraying against wilt at least once a month from April until August will be helpful. This treatment will also limit some mildew prone clematis from becoming too unsightly as the season progresses. Avoid damage to brittle mature vines by domestic pets and garden tools. Despite all the care, should the plants be struck by wilt, remove the dead stems, drench the remaining stems and surrounding soil with at least a gallon (4.5 litres) of freshly made up fungicide and be prepared to wait for a few weeks, a few months or even a few years before pronouncing that your plant is well and truly dead!

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What is eating the seeds in my pots? These were clematis seeds, set in 4-inch pots, in peat based compost and without any grit on top.

Mice, voles and shrews all love rooting around, anywhere and everywhere, from late Autumn onwards. Once they find one seed, you can say goodbye to them all. However, none of the above pests like hurting their snouts on sharp grit, so always use sharp grit, or be prepared to help a population explosion of these lovely little animals!

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Do ants eat clematis? sometimes my plants are covered in them.

No, ants do not eat clematis. What they do, is "farm" the aphids that are found on the clematis and which secrete a sweet solution that ants love. If you get rid of the greenfly, then the ants will leave your plants alone.

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