Originally from China and Japan, Clematis is a genus of around 380 species of flowers.
These popular garden flowers are commonly referred to as “climbing plants”, thanks to the climbing vines that decorate walls, fences, and trellises.
With the right training, however, some clematis species can be grown in container pots to a controlled height.
One of the best benefits of some clematis species is that they are shade-tolerant. This is ideal for brightening up darker corners of your backyard that feel otherwise empty.
Some like a little bit of sunshine throughout the day, while others thrive in complete shade.
If your shady backyard needs a splash of color, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the 11 best clematis for shade!
1. Clematis Macropetala (Downy Clematis)
Affectionately known as the “downy clematis”, clematis Macropetala is a tough, shade-loving species that thrives off of neglect.
This clematis gets its nickname for its bell-shaped, drooping flower heads which tilt downwards.
The downy clematis will need to be trained into a climbing or shrub plant, but will happily grow up to 10 feet tall.
This deciduous bloomer creates small bell-shaped buds that are purple-blue, before blooming into a pink or light purple coloration.
This is a particularly hardy clematis species, as it naturally occurs on mountains in its natural habitat. As a result, it is extremely tough and grows beautifully in shaded areas.
It also does not require frequent pruning, which is ideal for gardeners looking for a low-maintenance flowering plant.
2. Clematis Montana (“Himalayan Clematis”)
If the scent of a flower is a huge selling point for you, you must check out clematis Montana.
This species features distinctive almond-scented flowers that create a lovely aroma in May and June. So, if your shady backyard needs sprucing up with color and scent, this is the flower for you!
Clematis Montana, also known as the “Himalayan clematis”, is a vigorous climber that blooms an array of white or pink flowers in late spring.
Due to its native habitat of mountainous areas in Asia, this is a particularly hardy flower that thrives well in shaded and partially shaded areas.
Without pruning, this plant will grow up to 12 feet along fences and walls.
This is ideal for filling up an empty space, but keep in mind that it will need training if you have a small backyard.
3. Clematis “Gipsy Queen”
A stunning medium-sized clematis, “Gipsy Queen” is a fun and vivid clematis species that will undoubtedly bring color to your shaded backyard.
This clematis blooms velvety bright violet-purple flowers and will grow up to 4 meters tall without training.
As with most clematis species, this is a fairly hardy and tolerant species that can grow in partial shade without any problems.
It can be grown either on a trellis or in a container, and tolerates all angles.
This is ideal for those who have an awkward shaded patch in the afternoon, as the shade will help to protect the beautiful flowers.
The one downside to this species is that, while the flowers bloom throughout summer, the foliage is only mostly present in spring and summer.
The dark green foliage will begin to wilt in fall and winter, so keep this in mind when planning the flowers in your backyard.
4. Clematis Tangutica (“My Angel”)
Clematis Tangutica is a British-native deciduous climber that is known for boasting yellow flowers.
The “my angel” variety features a unique coloration of star-shaped flowers, with a yellowish interior and pink-purple exterior, creating a copper-like color from afar.
This attractive clematis variety is ideal for shaded areas due to its hardy nature. When trained, it can be grown in containers or as a climber, but it will grow fast.
The flowers bloom through summer and fall, and are then replaced with fluffy seed heads during the dormant seasons of spring and winter.
Due to its fairly dark coloration compared to other clematis species, this is good for those who don’t care for brightly colored flowers.
5. Clematis Tangutica (“Bill Mackenzie”)
Another clematis Tangutica variety is the Bill Mackenzie, a brightly colored yellow variety that is ideal for bringing some sunshine to your shaded backyard!
Unlike the “my angel” variety, the Bill Mackenzie is popular for its vivid bright yellow flowers that create a stark contrast against its dark green foliage.
The yellow flowers bloom from summer to fall, to then be replaced with silky seed heads throughout the rest of the year.
This is a fairly large clematis that will need to be trained into a desired size, as it will happily grow into an unruly climber if left alone.
Ideally, this clematis species grows best in partially shaded areas. While the feet of the plant grow well in the shade, the flowers thrive in partial sunlight to maintain that vivid coloration.
6. Clematis “Nelly Moser”
Arguably the most popular clematis species for shaded areas, the Nelly Moser clematis variety is a truly attractive and dependable flower.
This deciduous vine blooms an array of stunning pink-lilac star-shaped flowers, which are sure to brighten up any shaded areas in your backyard.
This species grows best in partially shaded areas, where the feet of the plant can relax in the shade and the flowers can show off their beautiful coloration in the morning sun.
The flowers bloom from late spring to early summer, and sometimes even throughout the summer to fall.
The Nelly Moser clematis is an easy flower to care for and prune, as it can be easily trained into a container or trellis.
If you want to promote a second bloom of flowers through to fall, you will need to prune after the first flush of flowers in the middle of summer.
7. Clematis “Jackmanii”
Introduced in 1862, Surrey, the clematis Jackmanii cultivar is a popular shade-loving clematis for those who love purple flowers.
This is a climber that creates vivid purple-violet star-shaped flowers, which can grow up to 20 centimeters in length.
Aside from its stunning coloration, the Jackmanii cultivar is popular for its hardy and dependable nature.
It grows best in the East and Midwest United States due to the hardiness zones, and will happily grow in shaded or partially shaded backyards. As long as the roots are in the shade, it will thrive.
The best time of year to prune a Jackmanii clematis is in early spring before the plant blooms its flowers in early summer.
It will grow to a maximum height of 4 meters, so make sure to plant it against a trellis or fence for structural support.
8. Clematis Montana (“Grandiflora”)
Another clematis Montana variety, “Grandiflora” is a large deciduous climber plant that produces dainty white flowers.
Sometimes, simple white flowers help to brighten a backyard without cluttering the area with too many colors. The white also works well to brighten shaded areas.
While the flowers only bloom in summer, the dark green foliage remains throughout the year (except for winter).
It will happily grow up to 12 meters tall without any training, so make sure to train it with a trellis or container.
Just like most other clematis Montana varieties, the Grandiflora creates sweetly scented flowers that provide a lovely aroma to walk past.
Plus, their hardy nature means they grow well in full shade, partial shade, and sometimes even full sunlight.
9. Clematis “Piilu”
A good early flowering clematis is clematis “Piilu”. This species blooms light pink-mauve flowers starting in March or early May, and lasting throughout summer.
It’s a hardy species that doesn’t need much pruning, other than some deadheading in summer to promote more flower growth.
Pruning is an essential step for ensuring a double bloom in late summer.
When the plant blooms another batch of flowers, the once-double flowers will become single flowers that appear lighter during the second flush.
Its low maintenance is the key selling point of this flowering plant.
Not only this, but the Piilu variety typically only grows up to 1.5-2 meters tall, so you won’t have to worry about training it to grow to a particular height.
Instead, it will happily grow on a small trellis without being too much of a hassle.
10. Clematis “The President”
With such a prominent and domineering appearance, it makes sense why clematis “The President” has its name.
This species produces large star-shaped violet-purple flowers that contrast beautifully with the dark green foliage.
While you might think the colors would darken a shaded area, the vivid purple provides a splash of color instead.
This is a medium-sized climber that can produce two flushes of blooms in later spring and late summer (according to the pruning guidelines).
It grows best in partial shade with morning sun, and prefers a shaded afternoon in the heat of summer.
While a climber, this clematis doesn’t grow too tall, with a maximum height of 2 meters. It can be easily trained in a container.
11. Clematis “Polish Spirit”
Lastly, an equally impressive purple star-shaped flowering clematis is “Polish Spirit”.
This species boasts large violet-purple flowers that create a stark contrast with the dark green foliage and pale green stamen.
The flowers bloom in late summer and fall, making it a good option for those who wish to maintain some color in their backyard towards the latter part of the year.
After the flowers have bloomed, they are replaced with fluffy seed heads during fall. It grows best in full sunlight, but can tolerate partial shade.
The best part about this clematis is that it is easy to train, whether on a trellis or in a container. It looks particularly stunning growing up a tree or pergola.
So, there you have it! Clematis flowers are certainly one of the most popular species for gardeners, and it’s no surprise why.
Thanks to the range of species within the genus that can tolerate shade, you can use these flowers to brighten up the shadiest parts of your backyard.
As with any plant species, it’s important to do your research into the pruning and maintenance requirements before purchasing.
Some of the species on our list thrive in complete shade, while others only tolerate partial shade.