PERILLA, WILD BASIL, SHISO

FAMILY: Lamiaceae | GENUS: PERILLA frutescens

TYPE
  • Annuals
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11

Plant Details

This longtime Southern favorite is native from the Himalayas to eastern Asia. It's a sturdy, leafy, warm-weather plant that grows quickly to 23 feet tall, 1 feet wide. Leaves are broadly oval, pointed, and deeply toothed, reaching about 5 inches long. The kinds most commonly seen have bronzy or purple leaves resembling those of purple-foliaged forms of basil (Ocimum basilicum). Extremely easy to grow. Self-sows freely, winding up in all sorts of unlikely places. Tiny white flowers appear in spikes to 6 inches long; seedheads of dead plants are prominent in winter.

Perilla makes an attractive addition to summer borders, and various parts of the plant are also edible. Use leaves as a vegetable or flavoring (they taste something like mint, something like cinnamon); fry the long, thin clusters of flower buds in tempura batter, and serve as a vegetable. In Asia, the seeds are pressed for edible oil. Plants marketed as 'Magilla' perilla are, in fact, coleus (Solenostemon).

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