Notes from the annual flower trials
As you plan your garden this year, always consider the amount of sunlight an area gets before you make your plant selection. Coleus are often thought of as shade plants, good for brightening areas where most flowers find it difficult to bloom and thrive. At the Kansas State University flower trials we plant the Coleus cultivars in both the sun and shade to evaluate their performance in different conditions. What we have found is that some Coleus really need full sun to look their best. The brighter sunlight reduces the need for exposed chlorophyll and results in increased visibility of the colored pigments. So while the plants will indeed grow in the shade, some are better suited for sunnier spots.
Some Coleus cultivars require shady conditions, like the Kong series. In fact, the breeder recently changed the series names of their different Coleus to 'Premium Shade' and 'Premium Sun,' which helps clarify the difference between the light needs of the cultivars. (The online version of the Prairie Star list reflects this change, but the PDF publication won't be updated until next January.)
We run the annual and perennial flower trials for Kansas State University