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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Shiso–Perilla

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Shiso–Perilla frutescens var. cripa–is a member of the Mint family. It strongly resembles a large basil plant. Shiso leaves have the tangy flavor of cumin, mint, nutmeg, and anise combined. There are two main types: green and red. Green shiso can be added to salads and is used in wrapped sushi or chopped into hot and cold noodle dishes. Red shiso is a bit more bitter-flavored; it’s used in cooked dishes and pickling.

Here is your complete guide to growing shiso-perilla.

Many varieties of shiso–perilla

Shiso is the Japanese name for Perilla frutescens var. cripa. It is a cultigen of Perilla frutescens. A related plant is Perilla frutescens var. frutescens; it is commonly known as perilla or Korean perilla. There is also a related form of Perilla frutescens grown in Vietnam. There are many varieties of Perilla frutescens; here are a few: red shiso (f. purpurea) leaves are red on both sides, flat surface; often called simply “shiso; ruffled red shiso (f. crispa) leaves are red on both sides, ruffled surface; green shiso (f. viridis) leaves are green on both sides, flat surface; ruffled green shiso (f. viridi-crispa) leaves green on both sides, ruffled surface; cultivar bicolor shiso (f. discolor)leaves green on the top side, red on the backside, flat surface; cultivar variegated shiso (f. rosea) leaves a mix of green and red on both sides, flat surface.

Articles of interest:

Red shiso leaves
Red shiso leaves

Get to know shiso-perilla

  • Botanical name and family: Perilla frutescens var. cripa (called shiso in Japan) is a member of the Lamiaceae—mint family.
  • Origin: Japan, Southeast Asia
  • Type of plant: Shiso is a tender annual
  • Growing season: Summer
  • Growing zones: Shiso grows in Zones 1-11 as a summer annual.
  • Hardiness: Shiso grows best in warm to hot climates in partial shade; it does not tolerate cold; it is not frost-hardy.
  • Plant form and size: Shiso is a bushy mass that grows 18 to 36 inches (45-91cm) tall and resembles large basil or coleus.
  • Flowers: Shiso has insignificant lavender, pink, or white blooms on spikes.
  • Bloom time: Shiso blooms in late summer and early fall.
  • Leaves: Shiso has broadly oval, textured green, or reddish-purple leaves with a metallic sheen.

Where to plant shiso-perilla

  • Best location: Plant shiso in full sun or light shade; in hot summer regions grow shiso in dappled sunlight.
  • Soil preparation: Plant shiso in compost-rich, well-drained soil. Shiso prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Shiso will grow in average soil.

When to plant shiso-perilla

  • Seed starting indoors: Sow seed indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Seeds will germinate in 7 to 21 days at 70°F (21°C). To improve germination, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. Grow shiso indoors in bright but indirect light. Keep seedlings away from blowing warm air. Avoid soil too damp; seedlings can be killed by damping off fungal disease.
  • Transplanting to the garden: Transplant seedlings out to the garden after all danger of frost is past.
  • Outdoor planting time: Sow shiso seed outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in spring and nighttime temperatures are warmer than 45°F (7.2°C).

How to plant shiso-perilla

  • Planting depth: Set seed ¼ inch deep but do not cover; seeds require light to germinate.
  • Spacing: Space shiso plants 10 to 12 inches (25-30cm) apart.
  • How much to plant: Grow 4 to 6 shiso plants for fresh use.
  • Companion planting: Shiso roots spread via rhizomes; be careful that shiso roots do not impede the growth of other herbs.

Watering and feeding shiso-perilla

  • Watering: Keep the soil just moist; established plants will grow in slightly dry soil but will thrive in soil that stays just moist.
  • Feeding: Side dress shiso with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 3 or 4 weeks during the growing season.

Shiso-perilla care and maintenance

  • Care: Pinch back growing tips to keep the shiso bushy. Remove flowers before they open to keep the plant from going to seed and self-sowing. Keep the planting bed free of weeds which can compete for nutrients and moisture.

Container growing shiso-perilla

  • Container growing: Shiso is a good choice for container growing. Choose a container at least 6 inches deep and wide.
  • Winter growing: Shiso is a tender annual that will not grow outdoors in winter. Grow plants in pots indoors in winter. Place plants in a bright window or grow under fluorescent lights.

Shiso-perilla pests and diseases

  • Shiso is commonly free of pests and diseases.

 How to harvest shiso-perilla

  • When to harvest: Harvest leaves and flowers whenever you need them for fresh use. Start harvesting leaves after the plant is 8 inches tall or taller.
  • How to harvest: Snip leaves and flowers with a garden pruner or scissors.

 Shiso-perilla in the kitchen

  • Flavor and aroma: Shiso has a cinnamon-curry scent and flavor and a distinctive minty aroma.
  • Leaves: Toss fresh shiso leaves into green salads or fruit salads. Add fresh leaves to Japanese and Asian dishes; use leaves as an outer wrap for sushi. Add leaves and flowers to soups and fish dishes. Leaves can also be pickled with raw fish.
  • Culinary companions: Shiso has a distinctive taste and aroma which is a flavoring match for Japanese cuisine. Depending on the variety, the flavor may include hints of mint, cinnamon, clove, citrus, cumin, cilantro, and basil.

Preserving and storing shiso-perilla

  • Refrigeration: Wrap leaves in a damp paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper; leaves will store for 2 or 3 days.

Shiso-perilla propagation

  • Seed: Shiso readily self-seeds. Let the plant flower and save seeds after flowers dry in autumn.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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