Clematis for the Shady Garden

One of the first sun-loving plants I learned to crave when I became a gardener was clematis. As many of my readers know by now, however, very little of my garden gets full sun (in fact, none of it does, although a portion of it gets western sun and that qualifies as far as I can tell). I have grown, loved and photographed many clematis – and will share more of them in a later post. I have a particularly soft spot in my heart, however, for three that have flowered well for me and my clients in shady sites: Clematis ‘Dawn,’ Clematis ‘Silver Moon,’ and Clematis ‘Blue Moon.’

Clematis Silver Moon, shade clematis

A duo of Clematis 'Silver Moon'

I started with ‘Silver Moon,’ a light-blue colored large-flowered clematis, planting it behind some shrubs next to a fence on the east side of my house. The color was breathtaking, although it probably would fade out in direct sun. It flowered regularly for me for some years, eventually succumbing (I think) to stem breakage once too often during my attempts at a one-person spring cleanup. I have used Silver Moon’s cousin, ‘Blue Moon’ (now apparently known as Clematis ‘Claire de Lune’) on a client’s arbor in serious shade. It took several years to establish but this year is blooming prolifically, benefiting from additional indirect light that now reaches the area because of the loss of a large hickory tree on the other side of the driveway. The early form of the bloom looks like this:

Clematis Blue Moon, Clematis Claire de Lune

Clematis 'Blue Moon'

Mine has never really taken off, but here’s ‘Blue Moon’ on the client’s arbor this year (some five years after planting): Clematis Blue Moon, Clematis Claire de LuneAfter night comes the dawn – Clematis ‘Dawn,’ to be precise. This is my favorite, probably because I love the way it looks as it opens, Clematis Dawn
and its almost perfect form as it presents itself fully.

Clematis Dawn

How can you not love this flower?

Singly or in groups, it never disappoints.

Clematis Dawn

A cluster of Clematis 'Dawn'

I must explain that this clematis – which will probably never bloom as prolifically as the Blue Moon clematis on my client’s arbor – represents to me a real triumph. It gets absolutely NO direct sun; I planted it behind a large old pieris in my front yard, against the brick wall of my north-facing house. Its colors are delicate and its shape gorgeous. I should plant it for clients more often. Speaking of planting, if this post has whetted your appetite for any of these clematis, I can recommend an East Coast mail-order nursery that has supplied me with my plants and does a phenomenal job of packing and shipping these delicate treasures, Completely Clematis ( in Massachusetts) . On the West Coast, Chalk Hill Clematis used to sell clematis online but apparently has become primarily a cut-flower supplier. If any of my readers can recommend other trusted online suppliers, I’d love to know about them.

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11 Comments on “Clematis for the Shady Garden”

  1. gardeningasylum Says:

    Lovely photos and great info – clematis really do just fine with only a little morning sun, but I’m amazed you can grow them with none at all. Hope you’re on the mend and back in action soon 🙂

  2. Liz Reed Says:

    Very timely, as usual. Clematis on my mind. These are beautiful!
    I have a soft yellow one on a trellis, in almost complete shade which is finely producing lovely blooms. I’m excited to see other choices.

    There was a guy from Guernsey Is, off the coast of England who spoke, at a seminar here, about his Clematis Farm where he propagates many many varieties. Apparently many Clematis are suitable for container planting and will over winter, especially some newer varieties, bred for that purpose. I think we need to got o Guernsey and check it out. (-:

    Liz Reed

  3. Liz Reed Says:

    oops, I meant finally, but i guess finely fits too!

  4. Lorna green Says:

    I have just purchased a silver moon clematis, I went to my local centre, looking for shade loving plants.( being a novice gardener) this seemed a task that was bewildering and if I’m honest a little disappointing at the plants that are shade loving. Seem mostly green foliage !
    While seeking shelter from a rain storm, ended up in the clematis tunnel. While there,i was admiring the beautiful flowers on the information labels . On asking advice, was showen silver moon . I am very excited at seeing these flowers in the garden,even more so after reading your article.

    • Judy Says:

      When do you plant silver moon and how big do they get 1st season?

      • Melissa Says:

        You can plant it once the ground is workable. I don’t know how to answer your second question about size the first year there is an old saying about clematis, “The first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, the third it leaps.” Growth will be slow at first but this is a plant that’s worth the wait.

  5. […] Clematis for the Shady Garden « Garden ShootsMay 21, 2011 … I have used Silver Moon’s cousin, ‘Blue Moon’ (now apparently known as Clematis ‘Claire de Lune’) on a client’s arbor in serious shade. […]

  6. Darlene DeStratis Says:

    Would the silver moon Clematis grow well in NC?

  7. EM Says:

    I have a shady yard with a lot of old magnolia and oak trees blocking sun. I live in South Alabama. Will these shade clematises perform in my region? I’ve always wanted to try them, but I’ve been told not to by local nurseries. Can they take an overnight freeze? Thank you!

    • Melissa Says:

      There’s no reason they shouldn’t do fine in your zone since it’s warmer than mine. If the area you’re trying to grow them in gets very little light I’m not sure they would bloom. Mine were planted on a north facing wall but there was indirect light much of the day.

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