Dictionary of Flowers: Perilla Frutescens (Beefsteak Plant, Chinese Basil)

Chinese Basil or Beefsteak Plant, aka Perilla Frutescens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Nancy Magnusson and Flickr

Chinese Basil or Beefsteak Plant, aka Perilla Frutescens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Nancy Magnusson and Flickr

  • Perilla Frutescens
  • Common name: perilla, beefsteak plant, Chinese basil
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Category: annual
  • Height: 18" to 24"
  • Width: 12" to 24"
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: grown for foliage
  • Growth habit: upright, clumping. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, kitchen garden
  • Diseases: disease resistant
  • Pests: no serious pest problems

Fast growing annual, it is both cultivated for ornamental purposes and for culinary use.

The foliage is ruffled, has deep serrated edges and the green leaves with purple undersides make it an attractive addition to the garden. The flowers are small, white and grow on thin stems.

It is an alternative plant to coleus for areas in the garden that receive too much sun. 

The leaves are widely used in Asian cuisine but are poisonous to animals if ingested.

Perilla grows in average to fertile, moist and well drained soils that are slightly acidic. It prefers full sun, though it can grow in part sun.

It is an easy going annual that grows without much care. Water regularly to keep soil moist. Mulching works to help with moisture level.

It is a fast grower and leaves can be harvested a month after planting. Deadhead to avoid self-seeding. It is an aggressive self-seeding plant and it is considered invasive in some states.

The flowers are small and detract from the overall appeal of the plant. Pinch back during growing season to maintain bushy habit.

Fertilize perilla regularly through the growing season with a balanced liquid formula fertilizer

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Perilla can be propagated by seed or cuttings. If propagating by cuttings, take six inch stems, remove bottom leaves and place in water or moist potting mix.

To grow from seed, sow on moist starting mix, barely covering seed. Kept at about 70F, perilla germinates in about two to three weeks.

If germination doesn't start in three weeks, place propagating containers and seed in the fridge for a month and bring back out.

Transplant to their permanent position after all danger of frost has passed.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Perilla is not likely to get diseases nor get attacked by pests.

Popular varieties:

  • Perilla frutescens 'Atropurpurea' - dark purple leaves, up to two feet tall
  • Perilla frutescens 'Britton' - green leaves, up to two feet tall
  • Perilla frutescens 'Aoshiso' - green foliage, up to two feet tall
  • Perilla hybrid 'Magilla' – non-seeding hybrid with beautiful variegated foliage, pink, burgundy and green. Up to three feet tall

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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