Sometimes, clematis are reluctant to "wake up: in the spring. Clematis wilt is caused by a fungus that produces reddish lesions on the stems; causing foliage above the lesions to suddenly wither. Answer from NGA November 7, 1999. Clematis vines seldom have disease problems, but occasionally wilt disease infects parts of the plant. The one on the right side of my balcony is very happy and actually has its first flower buds, the one on the left side is tall but the leaves are small, curled and brittle. What are they telling me? On established plants, the older, woody stems are usually attacked first. 0. Then the leaves at the bottom are turning brown and dying completely, and the leaves throughout the plant are getting brown, starting at the tips and spreading through the leaf. Clematis, unlike many plants, can "disappear" for many reasons, but that doesn't always mean they are gone forever. Note that my Clematis died all the way down to the root ball in the Spring after flowering. Sometimes, in transporting a new clematis home and transplanting it into the garden, tender stems are cracked or broken, often without the gardener's knowledge. It could be that the plant is stressed due to lack of water, high heat and humidity or some other issue at the root level. Could be that the clematis is not dying nor suffering from wilt. The root ball was just being drowned in water for some reason (the soil/pot may not have been draining well). If unchecked, the fungus moves up and down the stems, eventually killing the plant. 1) Dug the root ball out and cleaned it up (cut up pieces that looked dead until I got to the white part). It wasn't Clematis wilt. Why do my clematis vines turn brown on the bottom, even though the vine continues to flower? your clematis has a fungal disease called clematis wilt. Wilt happens from the end of the vines down and not from the bottom up. Jackmanni varieties, if not pruned yearly in winter, have about 4/6 feet of brown stems at the base with all the flowers and leaves much higher up. You don't say what variety the clematis is, which is what will dictate whether it needs pruning at some point or not, but leaf loss from the bottom isn't particularly unusual.