11 Full Sun Coleus Varieties For Sunny Gardens

Thinking of planting some coleus in your garden, but aren't sure if they can take full sun? The good news is, there are several coleus varieties that can handle more sunlight than others, despite what you may have heard. In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner takes a look at her favorite sun-friendly coleus varieties.

Sun Friendly Coleus Variety


Coleus is often touted as queen of the shade. Used for brightening up dark corners and adding pops of colors to an often uniform green shady space. However, the newer varieties of coleus on the market are actually made to handle sun conditions.

It’s worth noting that you can’t just plant a coleus in direct sunlight and expect it to thrive. You’ll want to take some carfeful consideration as to the sun orientation in your garden, and the times of day your coleus will be exposed to the most amount of sunlight.

The good news is that sunlight is tolerable for many coleus varieties, as long as these factors have been taken into consideration. In fact, their colors get more intense when exposed to full sun. So it’s time to bring coleus out of the shade and into the sun where her delicate foliage can really shine!

Sun Expectations

Golden Dreams in Full Sun
Coleus plants can’t just be dropped in full sunlight right away.

We already know that coleus doesn’t like the cold, but they don’t love extreme heat or too much sunlight. You can’t just take a Coleus and put it in the baking sun and expect it to have a normal coleus lifespan. There are definitely some considerations to making your coleus perform- and not burn- in a sunny spot.

Watering will be even more important. Coleus across the board can take more sun as long as they are getting a good amount of water. Coleus will tell you when they need a drink when their leaves start drooping. Don’t wait to give them a drink when this happens. They go from droopy to the crispy point of no return rather quickly. Having great soil that is light and fluffy and can absorb and drain water freely is important to keep your coleus healthy.

If you are placing your coleus in a container, pick a larger container that can hold more water. You can use a small container, but you might be out watering up to three times a day on an extra hot summer day. Use potting soil in containers, it is the perfect blend of water retaining/draining that coleus love.

Lastly, even a coleus in full sun will appreciate a bit of afternoon dappled shade. Even if it is only some protection from another plant. Perhaps a grass next to it in a pot, or under a tree that will give it some shade in the heat of the afternoon. If you have bleached out and crispy leaves it is too much sun.

Sun and Coleus Color

Coleus Color Changes With Sun
The color of the plant will change depending on how much sun it gets.

The amount of sun a coleus receives will change the colors in its foliage. I will talk about this individually as it pertains to the varieties, but I thought I’d mention how it generally works. More sun will bring out the darker, more intense, colors in their foliage like burgundy, magenta, and sharp golden yellow.

In less sun the colors will become gentler and more subdued, with greens, creams, and pale yellows. This is something to consider when you choose a coleus for a certain aspect.

For example. If you love how a Colorblaze Golden Dreams is a golden yellow with bright red running through its veins then you should keep it in partial sun. It does perform well in full sun, but the entire centre will fill in a bright red color and it will lose that red vein feature. In too much shade, it will lose its intense golden color and change to a more greenish hue with only a small hint of red definition in the veins of the leaves.

Bright red varieties will be a more intense red color when they are more exposed to the sun, and will appear a more faded rust color in shady conditions. This is all a matter of personal preference and the look you’re going for.

So keep in mind, sun=sharp, shade=subdued. If you find your color too dull and faded, move it to more sun and it will brighten back up. Or vice versa for trying to subdue bold colors that have taken over the leaf, move it to a shadier location. The colors are never set in stone and can be played with by moving them into different light conditions.

Sun-Friendly Coleus Varieties

Now without further ado, here are 11 varieties of coleus that are sun lovers. As mentioned, most of these varieites will grow very well in the sunlight, but should have at least some type of protection from too much direct sun at all times. You can add these to your sunny pots and gardens for a beautiful pop of foliage.

ColorBlaze Golden Dreams

ColorBlaze Golden Dreams Sun Friendly Coleus
The golden dreams cultivar is visually quite stunning, and the coloring is brighter in the sun.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

I have to mention this one first, it is one of my favorites. It has bright golden leaves with red in the centre and through the veins of the leaf. As I mentioned earlier, the red will be more prominent when this variety is in the full sun. It will lose some of the red in the veins for a solid red. It still makes a very striking contrast. This variety grows large and would look great paired with a red phormium or next to a pure red coleus such as Rediculous.

ColorBlaze Sedona Sunset

Sedona Sunset Cultivar
Sedona sunset has a beautiful orange hue.

Height: 36″ Spread: 36″

You will notice quite a few on this list are from the ColorBlaze series. This series of coleus was made for sunny conditions. I love the rusty orange color of Sedona, it is so easy to pair with other plants in a container to create interesting and eye popping combinations. For example, pair Sedona sunset with purple petunias or raven ipomea to bring out the Rusty color.


Wasabi Cultivar
The wasabi cultivar has a bright green color and can offset other colors in your garden.

 Height: 30″ Spread: 34″

Wasabi is a great coleus. The fringey texture and bright chartreuse color adds a pop of color to pots and gardens. This one can take a variety of conditions, including full sun. It will become a more intense golden green. Place Wasabi next to dark red or purple plants to provide an even greater contrast. Or place the fringey texture foliage next to a more structured foliaged plant like a cordyline dracena for a dramatic contrast.


Inferno Cultivar
The inferno cultivar has bright red foliage.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

Inferno is a blaze of hot red foliage when exposed to regular sun. It has large bright red leaves with serrated edges. This hot red pairs beautifully with purple flowers and chartreuse foliage. It looks great in pots and as a garden border plant.


Redhead Coleus
The redhead cultivar looks exactly as the name would suggest.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

Redhead coleus is a vibrant red coleus that will become an even more vibrant shade of red when regularly exposed to the sun. It has smaller pointed foliage with a serrated edge. It looks great next time chartreuse foliage, try is in the sun with Wasabi Coleus.

Electric Lime

Electric Lime
The electric lime cultivar is a medium green color with yellowish colored veins.

Height: 24″ Spread: 24″

Electric Lime is a very versitile coleus, it has a medium green leaf, with lemon yellow running through the veins of the leaf like a jolt of electricity. The colors intense will and contrast nicely with a variety of darker leafed foliage and flowers.

ColorBlaze Newly Noir

ColorBlaze Newly Noir
This variety has a deeper burgundy color, that gets more intense in sunlight.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

Newly Noir has dark burgundy wine colored leaves that is intesified in the sun. I love this color when it is paired with baby pink flowers like Pink Lemonade petunias. Add some chartreuse foliage like a lime green ipomea and it is a stunning and unexpected combination.

Main Street Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive Variety
The Rodeo Drive is chartreuse with a deep burgundy outer edge.

Height: 18″ Spread: 18″

This full sun variety has very striking foliage. The leaves are deeply ruffled and chartreuse. Then it is speckled and outlined around the margins in a deep burgundy color. More sun will intensify the burgundy. Pair this with other burgundy plants, like raven ipomea, or a purple fountain grass to make the speckles really pop.

Wicked Witch

Wicked Witch Cultivar
The wicked witch cultivar has a dark red color towards the center of the leaf.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

This is another of my personal favorites. In full sun its center leaves turn a dark red wine colour with just a thin margin of medium green that perfectly frames its ruffled leaf. This would look great in a pot with Wasabi coleus, the contrast of chartreuse playing off the green margins and dark red foliage would be garden harmony.


Saturn Coleus
The Saturn cultivar has lime colored leaves with a burgundy outer edge.

Height: 36″ Spread: 24″

Saturn coleus has very intense lime green colored leaves, with a bold ring of burgundy whirling around the margins making it worthy of its planet’s namesake. There will be spots and speckles throughout the margins giving it the same space details of Saturn’s rings. This one pairs beautifully with other coleus with a similar color, Wasabi, or Golden Dreams come to mind. But it is so intricate and pretty, Saturn can definitely stand alone in a pot or garden bed.

Pink Chaos

Pink Chaos Cultivar
The pink chaos cultivar is easily recognizable by its bright magenta center.

Height: 18″ Spread: 18″

Pink Chaos coleus has a bright magenta center, that goes to burgundy, and then a thin green margin. In less sun it will also feature some white. It has elongated and pointed leaves. In full sun Pink Chaos is a vibrant explosion of pink and burgundy, with just a hint of green. It is lovely in pots and in gardens, you don’t even need flowers when you have foliage this bright and sensational.

Final Thoughts

Adding colorful foliage to your garden adds interest and contrast into your garden. Flowers can be unreliable and require deadheading and care throughout the season. But plants like coleus that have showy foliage can provide contrast and interest to most gardens steady through the season with minimal maintenance.

Coleus has always been thought of as a shade garden. But being able to grow them in full sun gives them a whole new use to play with the colors of their foliage against full sun flowers. The intense sharp color that happens in full sun coleus plants is stunning and should be added to your garden. Just remember, water, water, water! Have fun, happy gardening!

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