Overwatered Clematis: 4 Key Signs, Remedies & Top Tips

Dealing with an overwatered clematis doesn’t have to be hard work as long as you spot the classic signs early on.

These signs include yellowing, browning, or wilting leaves. More serious signs like a foul odor can indicate that the roots have started to rot, which is much more difficult to deal with.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about overwatered clematis, from the symptoms all the way to prevention tips and the recovery process.

Let’s get into it.

Can Overwatered Clematis Survive?

Your overwatered clematis can survive if you take the right steps to help it recover.

It usually takes a week or two for recovery in minor cases and up to a month or two in severe cases.

First, look at the signs and symptoms to make sure your clematis is suffering from overwatering and not another issue.

Some common signs include yellow leaves, brown leaves, wilted leaves, and root rot. We’ll explore the common signs to look for later in this article.

From there, you need to stop watering and move your plant toa more shaded location and see if the soil will dry out. If not, you must repot your plant before root rot sets in.

In this guide, we’ll explore all of the signs and what you need to do for both cases.

4 Key Symptoms Of Overwatered Clematis

Here are the telltale signs that your clematis is overwatered.

1. Yellow Leaves And Discoloration

If you notice that your clematis leaves are turning yellow, it could be a sign that the plant is overwatered.

This discoloration can occur when there’s too much water in the soil, making it difficult for the roots to take up nutrients properly.

The initially yellow leaves may eventually turn brown and fall off as the condition worsens.

2. Root Rot And Foul Odor

Another issue that can arise from overwatering your clematis is root rot.

When the roots are consistently damp, root rot can occur for two main reasons:

  • Roots may suffocate and die due to alack of oxygen, rotting in the process, which then spreads to other roots.
  • Root rot can also occur due to dormant fungi in the soil that is favored in overwatered conditions.

To check for root rot, carefully remove the plant from its pot or dig up a small section around the roots. Rotten roots will appear black, mushy, and emit an unpleasant smell.

3. Wilting and Droopy Leaves

Although counterintuitive, overwatered clematis plants might also develop wilting and droopy leaves.

Droopy leaves on your clematis can signal a problem with the plant’s water intake.

This occurs due to the roots being suffocated by water, and is usually followed very quickly by the leaves turning yellow and then brown.

4. Stem and Crown Softening

Excess water can also lead to softening and rotting of the stem and crown of your clematis.

If you notice the stem and crown becoming soft or mushy or even rotting away, taking action as soon as possible is essential to save your plant.

Remember, prevention is always better than a cure, so be mindful of your watering practices and make adjustments as necessary to avoid overwatering your plant.

Causes Of Overwatered Clematis

Overwatering is caused by watering your clematis too often, but it can be much easier if the soil doesn’t drain well or the pot doesn’t have drainage holes in the bottom.

Improper Watering Frequency

One of the primary causes of overwatered clematis is watering the plant too often.

While providing your clematis with enough water is important for overall growth, overwatering can lead to root rot and other health issues.

White and pink clematis flowers and buds up close

To prevent overwatering, pay attention to the soil moisture around your plants.

Water your clematis when the top couple of inches of soil feel dry.

This is an easy rule of thumb to follow to keep your clematis happy, and remember that your plant will require more water in the summer and spring and less in the winter and fall.

Poor Soil Drainage

Another key factor that contributes to overwatered clematis is poor soil drainage.

Clematis requires well-draining soil to thrive, so if your soil or potting mix holds too much water, it can lead to overwatering issues.

To improve soil drainage, consider adding soil or perlite or using a well-draining potting mix specifically designed for clematis plants.

Inadequate Pot Selection

The pot you choose to grow your clematis in plays a significant role in preventing overwatering.

Choose a pot with drainage holes, allowing excess water to escape.

Avoid pots without drainage holes, as water can easily accumulate in the bottom and cause root rot.

Additionally, consider the pot’s size and material.

A too-small pot can result in the soil drying out too quickly, while certain materials, such as glazed ceramic or plastic, can retain more moisture than unglazed terracotta pots.

How To Save An Overwatered Clematis

If your clematis has been overwatered, acting quickly to save it is important.

Minor Cases

In minor cases, you must stop watering your plant for a week and see how it reacts.

During this time, it’s a good idea to move the plant to a more shaded location as overwatered clematis plants are at a greater risk of sun scorch due to a lack of moisture reaching the leaves.

If your plant starts to perk up during this time – and the soil starts to dry out – then that’s all you need to do.

If your clematis has been severely overwatered and many leaves are turning yellow and wilting, follow the steps below.


In severe cases of overwatering, repotting is the only way to get rid of standing water and dry out the soil.

Gently remove your clematis from its pot and remove as much soil as possible with your hands. Inspect the roots for signs of root rot – mushy/discolored roots and a foul odor are classic signs.

If any roots have rotted, they must be removed, and the rest treated with fungicide designed to treat root rot specifically.

Choose a new pot with adequate drainage holes, fill it with a well-draining soil mix, and replant your clematis.

If your clematis is in the ground, you may need to dig it up and replant it in a location with better drainage.

Pruning Damaged Leaves

Inspect your clematis for any damaged leaves and use a clean pair of pruning shears to cut off any damaged leaves.

This will allow your plant to focus its energy on new growth and recovery.


After repotting your clematis, water the soil so it is moist.

This will promote new root growth and allow the plant to recover.

Preventing Overwatering

Preventing overwatering in the first place is a much better idea, and it’s a lot easier than you would think as long as you take a few precautions.

Choosing the Right Pot And Soil

Selecting an appropriate pot and soil can significantly help prevent overwatering of your clematis.

Choose a pot with proper drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, and avoid using an excessively large container for the plant.

In terms of soil, use a well-draining soil mix by adding sand or perlite to compost. Most commercial mixes do a pretty good job as well.

Proper Watering Techniques

To prevent overwatering, learning how to gauge when your clematis needs water is essential.

A helpful technique is to insert your finger into the soil up to the knuckle. If the top inch of the soil is dry, it’s time to water your plant.

A Clematis bush in front of a house with lots of pink flowers

When watering, aim for a slow, deep soak that thoroughly moistens the soil and reaches the roots without flooding the pot.

Be attentive to seasonal changes and sunlight exposure, affecting your plant’s watering needs.

Monitoring Signs And Symptoms

Regularly inspect your clematis for signs of overwatering, like wilting or yellowing leaves.

The quicker you act, the better the chances that your clematis will survive. Remember that overwatered conditions are a breeding ground for root rot, which can kill roots and the whole plant if left to its own devices.

In Summary

An overwatered clematis can be easy or hard to nurse back to health; it depends on how quickly you notice the signs.

If you use well-draining soil and ensure your pot has drainage holes (if you use one), you drastically reduce the chances of overwatering. – bonus points for checking the soil before watering using the knuckle test.

Overwatering is a common issue for many outdoor plants – check out some of our other guides below:

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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