Holes In Clematis Leaves (4 Reasons & Solutions)

If you are stuck with holes in clematis leaves and don’t know what to do next, read on.

Holes In Clematis Leaves (Causes & Solutions)

One of the commonly seen problems reported by gardeners regarding clematis vines is the presence of holes in the leaves. 

Random holes in one or two leaves are fine. However, if most of the leaves including new shoots have holes and spots, then there is something wrong with your clematis vine and it needs some immediate inspection.

If you are wondering why there are holes in clematis leaves, here’s the short answer.

The primary cause of holes in clematis leaves is insects and bugs eating the leaves. The commonly seen bugs include slugs, snails, caterpillars, earwigs, mealybugs, aphids, etc. In addition to these pests, bacterial or fungal infections, incorrect handling and care, fertilizer burn, etc can also trigger holes.

This article explores each of these causes in full detail. Additionally, each cause is provided with proven symptoms and scientifically backed solutions so that you can easily identify the cause and fix them immediately.

1. Pests eating

If you are growing plants for quite some time, then you already know that pests and bugs are a serious headache for gardening most of the time. 90% of the time, bugs and insects eating the leaves of your clematis vine are the reason for holes.

Since clematis is mostly grown outside, they are frequently visited by common garden bugs like slugs, snails, caterpillars, cutworms, earwigs, etc. If the plant is actively blooming, flies like beetles, common flies, etc will also take a bite occasionally.

The best way to identify whether your clematis has these bugs is by inspecting the backside of the leaves or under the rim of the pots. It is recommended to use a magnifying glass so that even the smallest bugs do not escape during this manual inspection. If you don’t see any pests during the inspection, they are likely visiting at night. So, check them during a few nights as well using flashlights. 

If manual inspection is not possible for you, then you can guess the pests by identifying some patterns in the holes. Different pests leave different kinds of holes. For example, the holes made by cutworms are small dots, while snails and slugs eat a majority of the leaves leaving large incisions.

To prevent these bugs from attacking your clematis in the future, you can apply low-concentration peppermint oil, neem oil, or insecticidal washing solution to leaves and stems. If the new shoots are damaged even after doing this, you must identify the exact pest and use a chemical pesticide formulated for that specific pest.

2. Diseases

If your clematis is not eaten by any pests, then the holes may be due to some bacterial or fungal diseases.

The commonly seen disease among clematis vines is Clematis Wilt which is caused by a fungus called Ascochyta Clematidina. Apart from that, other agents like phoma (fungus), mildew (fungus), etc can also cause problems for clematis vine.

These bacteria and fungi won’t initially produce holes. As the infestation spreads, the clematis leaves first turn yellow and then turn brown. The brown spots will gradually turn into holes as the affected leaves mature.

You can easily identify disease in a clematis vine by analyzing the leaves for yellow or brown spots along the leaf surface or tips.

If you are fast enough and found that the infection is just getting started, use mild fungicides like horticultural oil, baking soda, neem oil, etc. However, strong chemical-based solutions are needed once the bacterial infection is very severe and settled. In extreme cases, recovering the plant may not be an option at all.

3. Fertilizer Burn

It is a known fact that fertilizer is essential for clematis vines to grow faster and produce healthy flowers during the season. However, if you are using chemical-based plant foods, then there is a high chance that they might have fallen on the leaves while you apply them. 

The high salt content in the chemical fertilizers may burn the delicate layers of the leaves, resulting in holes.

To find whether the curling is due to fertilizer burn, take a look at the leaves properly. Leaves burnt by fertilizers will be crunchy and delicate. Additionally, yellow and brown spots are formed before fertilizer burn turns into holes.

Fixing the fertilizer burn is straightforward. All you have to do is thoroughly clean the leaves using water to remove the salt from the leaf surface. But make sure that water is dried quickly, if not, it can attract fungus and other pests. Also, do not apply too much pressure and damage the leaves physically while cleaning.

To prevent this from happening in the future, make sure that fertilizer is not falling on the leaves whenever you fertilize.

4. Accidental Damage

We had been blaming mostly insects, bugs, and chemicals up to this point. But, if you are very certain that your clematis vines are free of pests or bacterial illnesses, then holes may be the result of inappropriate handling and care.

Now that handling and care are your responsibilities as the plant owner, it is time for you to accept the blame. Not every variety, but there are quite a few hybrid ones that have very delicate leaves and even a strong wind can easily harm them. Therefore, depending on the variety you have, make sure the plant is never kept in a location with strong winds.

Also, if your garden is often visited by pets or wild animals, there is a chance that they might have caused the damage. Cats are always interested in jumping over fences and their paws are more than capable of making holes in clematis leaves.


Seeing holes in clematis leaves can be disheartening and there is no way you can reverse the damaged leaves. However, in most cases, you can do something to prevent the damage from happening in the future.

For that, finding the root cause is the first step. 

Using the signs and conditions mentioned above, find whether the holes in your plant are caused by bugs, diseases, fertilizer, or accidental damage. And, depending on the severity of the problem, fix them on priority using the recommended solutions.

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To back up the information we provide in our articles, the Plantials team only uses high-quality sources published in peer-reviewed university or scientific research journals.

  1. Evidence For The Involvement Of Ascochitine In Phoma Leafspot-Wilt Disease Of Clematis, Physiological And Molecular Plant Pathology Via Sciencedirect.
  2. Leaf Spot And Wilt Of Clematis Caused By Phoma Clematidina (Thum.) Boerema (1987), University Of Canterbury.
  3. Prepenetration Stages In Infection Of Clematis By Phoma Clematidina, British Society For Plant Pathology.
  4. Plant Pests, University Of Florida.
  5. What’s Eating My Plants, University Of Massachusetts Amherst.

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