Clematis and Climbers

12 best clematis for shade – my favourite picks

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As a professional gardener with over 20 years of experience, many of my customer’s gardens still offer unique challenges and opportunities presented by shaded gardens. As someone who’s worked on my family’s small nursery, I’ve seen firsthand the impact some of the most versatile climbers can have.

I’ve talked a lot about shrubs for shade as well as some of my favourite climbers for north-facing gardens, so in this guide, I am sharing my best clematis varieties for shade.

Clematis montana is a stunning clematis that thrives in more partially shades positions
Clematis montana is a stunning clematis that thrives in more partially shades positions

Some of my personal favourites, which I’ve included in this guide, include the resilient ‘Polish Spirit’, with its deep purple hues; ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ with its stunningly double-flowered; ‘Nelly Moser’ with its pink bars; ‘Guernsey Cream’ as a handful of my other favourite clematis I’ve planted over the years I’ve planted over the years.

Each of my recommended clematis varieties below brings unique charm to the garden. So, whether you’re looking to cover a shady fence, create a stunning focal point in a shaded corner of your garden over a pergola, or add some colour to your shaded area.

This list includes 12 of the best clematis for shade, all of which flower at different times and grow to different sizes.

My top 12 clematis I recommend for planting in a partially shaded position:

  1. Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’
  2. Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’
  3. Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  4. Clematis alpina ‘Blue dancer’
  5. Clematis montana
  6. Clematis montana ‘Grandiflora’
  7. Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’
  8. Clematis macropetala ‘Markhams pink’
  9. Clematis ‘Piilu’
  10. Clematis ‘Proteus’
  11. Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’
  12. Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’

1. Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’

Clematis 'Polish Spirit' is one of my favourite clematis for brightening up partially shaded areas,

Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’ is one of my favourite clematis for brightening up partially shaded areas, and I’ve always been impressed with its vibrant, deep purple flowers. It’s a very hardy climber and can easily reach 10-12ft tall by around 3-4ft wide. Although I’ve found it thrives best in a sunny position, I’ve also had alot of success when panting in a more partially shaded position. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, so if you’re growing it in a pot, maybe consider a slightly acid compost such as ericaceous compost. As will all clematis, plant it so the roots are shaded.

When it comes to general care, I recommend pruning back to strong buds 6-8 inches above ground level in late winter or early spring to promote fresh growth and prolific flowering. Regular watering and monthly feeding with a balanced clematis fertilizer during the growing season will help it thrive. For pruning instructions, it’s group 3.


2. Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’

Clematis Purpurea Plena Elegans which thrives in shady positions

Another one of my favourite clematis for more shaded positions is Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’. What I really like are the double, deep raspberry-pink flowers, which is what separates it from most other clematis varieties that do well in a shady position. I have found it to be a good choice for trailing over fences, arbours, or growing along trellises. Unlike Clematis ‘Poliish Spirt’ which can get quite tall Purpurea Plena Elegans is much more manageable only growing to around 6-8 feet tall. Over the years I’ve found that it been a good choice for smaller gardens.

Like most clematis, it thrives in well-drained soil, preferring a position where its roots are cool and shaded, so mulching around the base of the plant helps to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. It’s also a good clematis for growing in containers.

Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ flowers from midsummer and into autumn. Pruning is minimal and should be done either late winter or early spring, where dead or weak stems are removed to encourage new growth on the previous year’s growth. In terms of feeding, apply a general-purpose fertilizer in early spring.


3. Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’

Clematis 'Nelly Moser' Hardy Climber Plant Colourful Flowering Shrub | 9cm Pot

Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ offers large, pink flowers that span 15-20cm across. The plant produces two waves of flowers, one at the end of spring/beginning of summer and the other at the end of summer/beginning of autumn. Once the flowers have come and gone they leave behind a beautiful seed head.

Very shade tolerant, it requires well-drained soil and can reach between 100 and 200cm in height. If you want to encourage the double wave of blooms, it is recommended that you deadhead after the first round. This variety is part of Group 2, and this means it should be pruned at the end of winter or the beginning of spring.


4. Clematis alpina Blue Dancer

Clematis Alpina 'Blue Dancer'

The clematis alpina Blue Dancer is one of the first clematises to bloom come springtime. It is a deciduous plant with bell-shaped, blue flowers that cover a white centre. It blooms from the middle of spring until the end of spring. But the flowers are not all that draws the eye; the seed heads are ornamental and silver in colour. This variety works well over pergolas or fences that are under shade most of the day.

The RHS has awarded this variety the Award of Garden Merit. It thrives in well-drained soil and prefers to keep its feet shaded with the heads in the sun, which is why it works well as a creator of shade for your garden.

This variety can grow up to 180-300cm in height very quickly. It is part of the Group 1 clematis so it will climb unhindered and will not necessitate a lot of pruning. Also great for attracting bees.


5. Clematis montana

Clematis Montana VAR. 'Rubens' | Pink Clematis Perennial | Hardy Climbing Flowers | Height 55-65cm | Pot Ø 15cm

There are many varieties of the clematis montana with most offering sweet scents from their pink flowers that reach 5-7cm across. The blooms arise at the end of spring to the beginning of summer and are so profuse that you likely won’t catch a glimpse of your green foliage until such a time that it has transitioned to bronze. This particular variety is known for its delightful scents.

Many varieties have been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. They thrive in well-drained soil with partial shade and is resistant to pests and clematis wilt. If left unchecked it will span between 9 and 12m wide and 2 to 3m high. It is part of Group 1 so it does not require regular pruning and is virtually maintenance-free


6. Clematis montana grandiflora

Clematis Montana Grandiflora Deciduous Scented Flowering Climbing Shrub (20-30cm (Incl. Pot))

The Grandiflora is a deciduous climber that prefers shade and offers white flowers spanning 7cm, with bright yellow interiors. It will bloom at the end of spring and beginning of summer, with blooms so large that the green leaves can hardly be seen underneath. This is part of Group 1 which means you need to do very little by way of pruning.


7. Clematis Guernsey Cream

Clematis Guernsey Cream creamy white flowers late spring and late summer 1 litre pot

The Guernsey Cream, part of the Group 2 clematis, grows quickly and produces two rounds of flowers per season. As such, you can deadhead after the first flush and prune it at the end of winter or the start of spring and then again in between flushes.

This is a magnificent variety with large flowers that start out yellow and fade to cream. They are about 12-15cm wide and thrive in well-drained soil. This is a fast grower too and if left unchecked will reach 180-240cm.


8. Clematis macropetala Markhams Pink

Clematis macropetala 'Markhams Pink' AGM

This deciduous climber has cotton candy-coloured flowers that give you 7-10cm wide blooms and creamy yellow interiors. The blooms appear in the middle to the end of springtime. It has received the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS. You can easily propagate it by using semi-hardwood cuttings. Part of Group 1 this clematis requires no pruning but does require well-drained soil and partial shade.


9. Clematis Piilu

Clematis Piilu Climbing - Large Flowering Clematis Plant - 25-40cm in Height Ready to Plant (1 Plant)

Clematis Piilu is considered one of the best clematis for containers, and for shade. It has two waves of flowers, the first of which happens in late spring and are double, while the second happens in late summer and are single. The flowers are pink, spanning 7-10cm each.

This is one of the heaviest varieties too and will flower so prolifically that it obscures your view of the foliage below. When in containers, it is ideal to place upward on a trellis. Like other varieties, this one needs moist soil and will tolerate shade, particularly if the bottom is in shade and the top of the plant is in sun. It will grow quickly, reaching up to 180cm high, which is around 6ft.


10. Clematis Proteus

Compact Clematis 'Proteus' Old Man's Beard Climbing Deciduous Hardy Shrub Flamboyant Mauve-Pink Blooms Shade Tolerant Easy to Grow Garden Flowers 2X 2-Litre Potted Plants by Thompson and Morgan

Clematis Proteus can reach a height of 3-4 metres, making it an excellent choice for covering walls, fences, or other structures. It prefers well-draining soil and full to partial sun exposure, and it’s generally low-maintenance. To keep Clematis Proteus healthy and flowering, it’s essential to prune it properly. Prune in late winter or early spring, cutting back any damaged or crossing stems and leaving 2-3 buds on each remaining stem. This will encourage new growth and a fuller, bushier plant.

Clematis Proteus can be grown in a container or in the ground, and it’s generally hardy down to around -15°C. However, it’s always a good idea to protect it from harsh winter weather by covering it with a frost blanket or burlap.
So there you have it – Clematis Proteus is a stunning and easy-to-grow clematis.


11. Clematis Rouge Cardinal

Clematis 'Rouge Cardinal' Hardy Deciduous Climber Plant Garden Shrub | 9cm Pot

Clematis Rouge Cardinal is a red clematis, with velvety flowers that are rich in colour, adorned with cream-coloured stamens and spanning 12-18cm. They fall under Group 2 and this means you get to enjoy the beautiful red colour twice each season. This variety is shade tolerant but requires moist soil.

It will grow fast, it is approximately 50-100cm wide and 200-400cm high. Given that it produces flowers in two waves, it is recommended that you prune twice and deadhead in between the flushes so that you can encourage more growth. Also ideal for growing in a pot.


12. Clematis viticella Alba Luxurians

Clematis viticella 'Huldine' AGM

Flower shapes come in many forms and with this variety, it comes in the form of a pinwheel. The buds are elongated and the flowers are a beautiful white and appear from July through to September. The variety is deciduous and ideal for training over fences or other trees. It will cascade easily once it reaches maturity and will reach 12ft.

Extremely hardy and also ideal for growing in pots. This variety needs to be pruned hard and is part of the group 3 clematis.


Last update on 2024-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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