Is Coleus a Sun or Shade Plant? Full Sun Varieties

Coleus plants are vibrant and can add a lot of color to your garden if you get their water and sunlight requirements right. Also called flame nettles, these plants come in many varieties, with some adapted to shade and others full sun.

So, is coleus a sun or shade plant?

Coleus plants prefer full morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Some varieties can tolerate full sun all day in areas with high humidity. In fairly dry climates, coleus plants can still grow bright foliage under partial shade but when grown indoors, a bright grow light is needed to produce colorful foliage.

From my experience, almost all coleus plants do well in warmth and can form bright foliage in fully or partially shaded gardens. Some varieties prefer full sun while others partial sun.

Here’s the coleus plant profile:

NamesColeus; Plectranthus scutellarioides
Sun requirementsPartial shade to full shade.
Soil pH6.0 to 7.0
Water requirementsOnce every 2-3 days (indoors); 2 times per day in hot weather outdoors.
Soil typeWell-draining soil.
Size6 inches to 3.5 feet; 1 to 3 feet wide (depending on type).
Is coleus a sun or shade plant

Does coleus like sun or shade?

Most varieties of coleus prefer partial shade or dappled sunlight and can tolerate direct gentle sunlight for a few hours in the morning. However, some modern varieties, such as wasabi and ColorBlaze thrive in full sun all day long.

Therefore, coleus plants like a mix of sun and shade. The morning sun is the most important for the proper growth and development of color, but shade is preferred in the afternoon.

Seeded varieties of coleus like shade, while most of the modern vegetatively propagated varieties like full sun exposure.

Sunlight tolerance relates to the general climate in your area.

  • All types of coleus will need shade in hot and dry climates.
  • In cool climates, coleus plants will need more exposure to sunlight.

Some hybrid varieties of coleus flowers are hardy and can withstand full sun from morning to late afternoon without showing any signs of overexposure or sunscalding.

Coleus light requirements

Coleus plants require about 6 hours of direct sunlight in the morning, with shade being preferred all afternoon. They develop brightly-colored foliage when they receive enough sunlight. Some varieties thrive with dappled shade, while some recent varieties can tolerate full sun.

Therefore, it depends on the variety you’re growing in your flowerbeds. Some hybrid versions of coleus will do well in full sun, especially in humid climates.

To get the best coloration, plant your coleus where it will receive enough sunlight. David Graper, a horticultural specialist with the San Diego State University Extension remarks that “(Coleus) plants with darker colored foliage seem to do better in sunnier locations.” (source – Growing Coleus – Sun Cultivars and Requirements)

If your garden receives full sun all day, choose cultivars of coleus with darker colors for the best survival and color display.

List of coleus varieties for full sun

Some varieties of coleus do well in full sun than others. Before you get some seeds to plant in your garden or indoors, you want to ensure you get the right cultivar that is good for full sun.

You can plant sun-loving coleus in fully exposed flowerbeds.

Here are some coleus varieties that are good for full sun exposure:

  • Coleus wasabi
  • ColorBlaze coleus
  • Redhead
  • Coleosaurus
  • Coleus henna
  • Marquee Red Carpet Coleus
  • Coleus Box Office Bronze
  • Blonde Bombshell
Companion Image
Colorblaze coleus
ColorBlaze coleus
Coleus Wasabi
Coleus wasabi loves full sun
Coleus Redhead
Coleus redhead
Coleus red carpet
Coleus red carpet
Coleus henna
Coleus henna

Coleus varieties for shade

For shady or partially sunny areas, choose coleus varieties that are well suited for low light conditions.

Here are some types of coleus best suited for dappled shade:

  • Honey Crisp
  • Cranberry Bog
  • Stained Glassworks Molten Lava
  • Stained Glassworks Eruption.

Some varieties like the Inferno coleus and Campfire are best suited for both sun and shade, meaning you can plant them in areas with a mix of sun and shade.

Can you use grow lights for coleus indoors?

Some varieties of coleus like warmth, so you want to get a grow light that produces a little amount of warmth in addition to full spectrum, sun-like light.

You can supplement the grow light with sunlight by placing the pot near the window in your house that receives bright morning sunlight.

Move the plant to a spot that receives indirect light in the afternoon or simply place it under a low-intensity grow light.

Why is my coleus losing color?

Coleus plants start to lose color when exposed to too much sun. The loss of color occurs due to sunscalding, with the older leaves fading to a noticeable extent. Leaves get bleached and turn brown on the edges due to overexposure to sunlight.

To keep your coleus looking vibrant when in full sun, pinch off the old foliage to allow new, more colorful leaves to emerge. Place the plant where it will receive dappled sunlight to prevent sunscalding.

Varieties of coleus that are suited for full sun may become vividly bright and colorful when exposed to full sun but will turn dull when exposed to low light conditions.


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