Clematis plants can be wonderful for bringing some light and brightness to a shady spot.
It is a versatile genus of flowering plants, which offers options for almost any setting.
However, it is important to choose the right varieties for the right spots. These shade tolerating Clematis climbers will be great options for many shady spots, such as up against north-facing or east-facing walls or trellis fencing, or allowed to grow over and through a somewhat shaded hedgerow on your property:
Spring Flowering Clematis for Shade
Spring flowering Clematis are prized for their beautiful, often delicate blooms which appear early in the season.
Many Clematis which flower in spring are tolerant of a more shaded spot. Some options to consider are:
Clematis montana var grandiflora
This is one of my own personal favourites.
We have an extremely large and abundant plant of this type growing along a hedgerow at one side of the garden.
It flowers prolifically, not just on the sunny south side of the hedge adjacent to the road, but also on the north side of the hedge facing the garden.
The pristine white flowers emerge in late spring and early summer. It is a very vigorous climber which can quickly grow to brighten up a shady spot.
Clematis montana var. rubens ‘Tetrarose’
Another of the Montana group of Clematis, ‘Tetrarose’ has beautiful flowers with mauvish-pink petals and light yellow stamens.
With similar characteristics to the above, other than the flower colour, this can be another wonderful early season Clematis to consider for a partially shaded spot.
Clematis alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’
Clematis alpina also offers a number of cultivars that can cope well with some shade. This is an Atragene Group clematis, and has nodding flowers.
The deep purple flowers, around 7cm wide, emerge from mid to late spring, and fluffy seed heads follow.
This is a Clematis which is even hardier than the two options mentioned above. It will survive across all of the UK, even in extreme winters.
Clematis alpina ‘Helsingborg’
This is another Clematis in the Atragene Group, and also has nodding bell-shaped flowers.
This particular cultivar has beautiful deep pinkish-purple flowers around 5cm long. Like the above, these appear in mid to late spring.
Clematis macropetala ‘Wesselton’
A third selection from the Atragene Group Clematis, “Wesselton’ is another early-season option that really stands out from the crowd.
This also has nodding, bell-shaped flowers but the flowers on this Clematis are unique.
The outer petals are a beautiful violet shade, and a number of staminodes within the flower, blueish with white undertones at the base, give it a double appearance.
What is more, these stunning flowers can be up to 10cm across.
Early Summer Flowering Clematis for Shade
Late spring or early summer flowering Clematis are also valuable flowering climbers for a somewhat shady spot.
Ideally, place the roots in shade and allow the plant to climb up so its head is in the sun.
Flowering can be disappointing in a very shady spot, but these cultivars tolerate and even look best in partial shade:
Clematis ‘Marie Boisselot’
We have to admit a partiality for Clematis with pure white flowers, which stand out really well against deep greens in a more shaded location.
When it comes to summer flowering Clematis for shade, our top pick is ‘Marie Boisselot’.
The large, flat single flowers are a lovely pure white, with light yellow stamens. These blooms can be up to around 20cm in width.
With a first and often second flowering, this clematis can be in flower from early summer right through to late summer or even early autumn.
This is another early large-flowered Clematis to consider for a shady spot.
The large, star-shaped flowers of this cultivar are an unusual deep pinkish-red, with a hue that deepens as they age, and contrasts with their greenish-yellow stamens.
They can be around 15cm across.
Clematis ‘The President’
This cultivar also has large (up to 18cm in width) and dramatic flowers.
In this case, the flowers have eight overlapping sepals with a violet almost shading to silver, and pink and red stamens.
This cultivar like the above will flower in early summer, and often again in late summer/ early autumn.
Clematis ‘General Sikorski’
Another beautiful large-flowered clematis that can cope with shade, this cultivar also has large flowers up to 20cm or so across.
This option stands out for its brilliant deep purple petals which have a tinge of red at the base.
These deep petals contrast dramatically with vibrant and prominent yellow anthers.
It is H4 hardy.
Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
Perhaps one of the best-known Clematis for a shady spot, ‘Nelly Moser’ is famed for its stunning 20cm wide flowers, which have eight distinctive petals, with pale pinkish mauve around the sides and darker pink stripes down the centre of each one.
In fact, since the flower colour fades in strong sun, it can be best to grow this Clematis in a more shaded position.
Summer and Autumn Flowering Clematis for Shade
Summer and autumn flowering clematis are fantastic for adding late-season colour in your garden.
Here are just a few of the varieties from this varied group of climbers that will perform well in light or partial shade:
Jackman’s clematis has been enchanting gardeners since it was developed, as one of the earliest Clematis hybrids, in the 19th Century.
This is a vigorous, medium-sized climber that will lose its leaves in the winter months, but look great all through summer.
The flowers are around 10cm across, in a beautiful shade of violet-purple and a velvety appearance.
When it comes to late-season clematis, this is one of our favourites that can cope with a moderately shady spot.
Clematis ‘Gipsy Queen’
If you love purple flowers, then this cultivar is another great later season Clematis to consider.
The flowers are 12-14cm across, with velvety purple petals and reddish-brown stamens.
This Clematis flowers from midsummer to early autumn.
Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’
This cultivar also has purplish flowers, around 10-12cm across, though these are of a lighter, more blueish-violet hue, with purple petal bases blushing a hint of pink on bars down the heart of each one, and yellowish stamens.
It is known to bloom prolifically.
Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’
This late large-flowered Clematis has charming rosy pink, somewhat striped flowers, with creamish-yellow stamens.
It flowers from early to late summer and is another cultivar whose colour can fade in a sunnier spot and so which can look best in a little shade.
Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’
The pretty pink flowers and pinkish-red anthers of this cultivar are also born in abundance on this late-season Clematis.
They open between midsummer and early autumn to bring an enchanting touch of delicate beauty to a shady spot.
These are not the only options to consider, but they are amongst the best choices for a shady spot.
Remember, Clematis will rarely flower well in seriously deep shade. But for a somewhat shaded location, the above options are all good ones to consider.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.