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How to Grow Shiso

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 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.

Shiso is the Japanese name for Perilla frutescens var. cripa. It is a 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.

How to grow shiso: green shisoGet to Know Shiso

  • 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.
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How to Plant Shiso

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

How to grow shiso: red shisoHow to Grow Shiso

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

 Troubleshooting Shiso

  • Pests and diseases: Shiso is commonly free of pests and diseases.

 How to Harvest Shiso

  • 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 in the Kitchen

  • Flavor and aroma: Shiso has a cinnamon-curry scent and flavor and 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

  • 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.

 Propagating Shiso

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

Also of interest:

How to Grow Mint

How to Grow Thyme

How to Grow Oregano

How to Grow Parsley

How to Start a Herb Garden

Growing Herbs for Cooking

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14 Comments

  1. It is important to distinguish shiso–perilla frutescens var. crispa–the shiso plant described here, common in Japanese cuisine, from perilla frutescens, which is used in Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, and other continental Asian cuisines, where it goes under a variety of names: silam in India, kkaennip in Korea, etc. Their origin, flavor, and culinary uses are completely different, even though both may be known as “perilla” in translation. They are no more similar than cottage cheese and head cheese.

    • If you allow the plants to flower they could cross-pollinate. You would see no effect this season, but the seed you collect after flowering may grow a cross next season. Shiso is usually grown as an annual for use as a green; if you harvesting the plants will likely never flower.

  2. Hey.
    all of me green shiso leave tips turn brown, finally drying out.
    ita grown in a container, i water it when top soil gets dry.
    soil is fairly light. i changed the soil just to make sure there is no issue with nutrition, but the plant still dries out quickly.

    weather ia sunny, around 25c here.

    any idea what i might be missing?

    • The temperature is a bit on the warm side for shiso, but not too extreme. It is likely a soil issue; light soil will dry quickly. Try watering from the bottom: place a saucer under the container, and set the container in place; fill the saucer with water; if the water has wicked up completely in 15 minutes the soil is dry; fill the saucer again. Do this until the water remains in the saucer after 15 minutes, then empty the saucer. The soil may be drying and leaving the roots without moisture.

  3. Hi, my green shisos are growing well and have beautiful leaves. However the leaves have no taste at all even though they do have that signature fragrance (quite faint too though). Is there anything I can do to help boost the flavour? Thanks!

  4. Hi. This year my shiso seed can’t germinate in my indoor seedbed. Temp. is 20-22°C (68-73.5°F), I sowed on January 13th, and 0 plant are born. Soil is wet but not soaked. Seeds are sown about 1-2 mm deep (0.04-0.08 inches). NO moulds are present. The last 2 years germination took about 6-7 days since sowing…
    Is it possible that due to the storage temperature of the seeds (0-4°C from November to January) it takes longer to germinate?

    Any idea?

  5. Thank you for this post! I just bought a plant at my local big box hardware store and had no idea hiw best to grow it! Your article was very helpful.

  6. Hi! I recently received a small shiso plant that I would like to put in a container. I have a large 5gal pot & a long herb container. Which would be best & what else can I plant with it? Thank you for any advice!

    • A shiso plant will grow 16 to 20 inches tall and half again as wide, so choose the container that will give the plant room to reach maturity. Shizo roots spread via rhizomes so they can crowd other plants. That said they can be planted alongside most herbs and also with tomatoes and other fruiting crops. but give them room for root growth.

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