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How Do I Choose the Best Clematis for Shade?

By O. Parker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Planting a clematis in the wrong spot leads to a weak, unhealthy plant. Most clematis plants require full sun, but there are varieties that grow well in partial shade. It is important to look for shade-loving cultivars when picking a clematis for a shady spot. The species itself contains more than 250 varieties, and horticulturalists often create cultivars, or cultivated varieties, which adds new options from which to choose. The best way to choose clematis for shade is to select a cultivated variety that is identified as loving shade and to purchase from a reputable nursery or mail order plant supplier.

The amount of sun that an area in a garden gets affects which type of plants will thrive there. Most clematis requires a spot in full sun to grow well. Full sun is considered six hours or more per day. Part sun is different from part shade. Part sun is considered four to six hours, and part shade is considered two to four hours.

Shade-loving clematis varieties require some shade. Through the selective breeding process, these varieties developed sun sensitivity. When planted in full sun, a clematis for shade is likely to experience leaf scorch and damage to the flowers. Although they are listed as shade-loving, most of these clematis varieties need some sun. They are commonly listed as suitable for part shade.

Some varieties of clematis for shade do not tolerate direct sunlight well and are best suited for full shade. An example of a clematis that tolerates full shade is the Clematis "Sugar Candy" cultivar. This variety blooms repeatedly throughout the growing season and prefers a spot out of direct sunlight. The Clematis "Silver Moon" cultivar can grow in part shade or full shade.

It is easier to pick clematis for shady areas that get at least two hours of sun per day or that get dappled or filtered sunlight. Some varieties that grow best in part shade or part sun include "Nelly Moser," "Hagley Hybrid," "Multi-Blue," "Hybrida Sieboldiana" and "Pink Flamingo." The list of possibilities is long. The best way to select clematis for shade is to inquire at a local nursery. Internet suppliers and mail order companies supply catalogs and web sites that list clematis varieties along with sun requirements for each.

Clematis for shade and sun are climbing vines that grow well as ground covers or will scale a wall, trellis or other structure. Air circulation is important when growing clematis to minimize insect infestations and fungal problems. Deep, humus rich soil with a potenz hydrogen (pH) level of about 7.0 is ideal. Clematis plants benefit from a 2-inch (5.1-cm) layer of mulch over the area around the roots to regulate soil temperature and retain moisture.

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Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Jun 15, 2014

I have a clematis for shade that does well with just a little dappled sun. It's a nice splash of color for the area, and mine blooms as long as the weather stays warm.

It's been a challenge for me to get things to grow in my shady spots, too. Everything needs a little sun once in a while. I have a lot of "deep shade" spots where not much grows at all -- even moss has a hard time!

When I found a shade loving clematis, I was really pleased because I couldn’t believe it would grow as well as it did with no more sunlight than it got. I’d recommend it.

By Pippinwhite — On Jun 14, 2014

I didn't know any clematis were bred for shade! I have a very shady yard, so I will have to think about getting one for my yard. I have several places where a shade-loving plant will grow well. I do have some spots that get a little sun, so I will look at the local garden center to see if they have any clematis for shade.

I've mostly stuck with impatiens and green-leaf begonias to add some color to the really shady spots in my yard, and that may be what I'll continue to do, since they don't get much sun all day, but for some places that do get a little sun, I will definitely try a clematis.

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