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 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. Leaves are broadly oval, pointed, and deeply toothed, reaching about 5 in. 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 in. 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).