This care-free member of the mint family has many virtues. Here is the lowdown on this leafy delight.
Singing the praises of the perilla
- Perilla has bronze leaves that are crinkled, scented and hemmed with serrated edges.
- It’s absolutely beautiful when sunlight causes its leaves to shimmer with a metallic sheen.
- In Asia the leaves are used as a seasoning.
- Once you plant perilla, seedlings will sprout in future seasons.
- Birds dine on the seeds that follow quickly in the wake of pink flower spires in mid-season.
- Use perilla as a colourful accent within eyeshot of plants that thrive in similar conditions.
- Standing bolt upright, perilla forms a slender 0.6-metre-tall to one-metre-tall (two-foot-tall to three-foot-tall) plant.
- For a fuller effect, nestle several perillas closely together.
Few plants are as easy to please as perilla. It needs only sun or partial shade and will thrive in just about any soil that happens to be underfoot. Additional watering is seldom necessary; only plants growing in hot, sunny places will wilt. The best show is accomplished by grouping several perilla plants. Weed out excess seedlings to control the bounty of seeds, with a flick of the wrist, or prune flower spikes before they go to seed. Perilla isn’t bothered by disease and is pestered rarely by insects, but remove plant debris from the garden to eliminate places where pests can hide and overwinter.
Increasing the bounty
You can propagate existing plants by rooting 10-centimetre-long (four-inch-long) cuttings taken from the growing tips of the plants before they begin to flower. Perilla is also easily grown from seed. Here’s how:
- Refrigerate seeds for one week.
- Sow them indoors six to eight weeks before your last spring frost, or directly in the garden bed when spring is in full swing and the soil is warm.
- Scatter the small seeds on the surface of a pot of moistened seed-starting soil or outdoors over finely-raked garden soil.
- Perilla seeds require light to germinate, so leave the seeds uncovered.
- Mist the soil immediately after sowing and keep the soil moist until germination occurs, in one to two weeks.
- Pinch off the tip of the main stem when the second set of mature leaves develops to encourage branching.
- Seedlings can be thinned or transplanted when they have several sets of mature leaves.
Perillas are resilient and easy to care for, making them a popular choice for many gardeners.