"Do clematis need full sun?" is one of the most common questions we hear!
The Answer? Not usually.
Most clematis are fine if they have at least four hours of sun a day.
However, as with all-things-clematis, there are exceptions!
These clematis need full, all-day-long sunshine to do their best:
Most other clematis are fine with full sun or less - down to as little as four hours of direct sun a day. Four hours, however, seems to be the Magic Number for clematis - any less than that and the plants won't bloom much, if at all.
If you have between two and four hours of direct sun a day, you still have one good option: Silver Moon. Our Silver Moon gets two hours of direct sun in the morning - and the rest of the day grows in shade so deep it might as well be in a closet! It blooms reliably for us, usually in May and again in September.
You've got a spot with less than two hours of direct sun a day? Sorry, but clematis won't do for that spot. But WAIT! You're not out of options yet. Climbing hydrangea, hydrangea petiolaris, will bloom in near-total shade. Ours climbs a maple tree in front of our house and reaches far into the branches. Here are a few things you should know:
Climbing hydrangea has aerial rootlets that will grab any rough surface, such as tree bark, to help the plant climb.
Climbing hydrangea gets big - it can grow to 40 feet tall. Don't plant this on your light post!
If you think three years is too long to wait for a clematis to mature, you are far too impatient to grow climbing hydrangea. It can take them four or five years to grow large enough to bloom. But remember that you'll have lovely dark green foliage in the meantime.