By Jennifer Poindexter
Perilla is a gorgeous herb with a multitude of uses.
Whether you’re interested in growing a medicinal herb garden or one for culinary purposes, perilla would be a great addition. This herb has a unique flavor combination of mint and nuttiness which makes it a good choice to use in the kitchen. It can also be used as a home remedy for asthma or an upset stomach.
Whatever your reason for growing perilla, here is how you go about it:
Growing Conditions for Perilla
Perilla is an annual which thrives in all planting zones. It can grow from two to three feet in height and resembles a larger version of basil.
It will grow in full to partial sun but should only be planted outdoors after all threat of frost has passed. This herb needs well-draining soil and warm temperatures to thrive. If you can provide these elements for perilla, it should grow well for you.
How to Plant Perilla
If you choose to start perilla indoors, to give it a head start on the grow season, start the seeds approximately two months prior to transplant.
The seeds can take anywhere from one to three weeks to germinate. Perilla seeds should be started indoors as most other seeds are. Place them in moist potting soil inside grow trays. Don’t cover the seeds heavily with dirt because they need some light to germinate.
Once planted, place them in a warm location to encourage the germination process. When the seeds have reached three inches tall, it’s time to move them outdoors.
The seedlings should be placed approximately one foot apart in rows. Their grow plot should be a place where the soil drains well.
If you aren’t interested in starting perilla seeds indoors, you can direct sow them. Don’t cover the seeds because they need sunlight in order to germinate.
It may take close to two weeks for the seeds to begin to sprout. Once sprouted, thin the seeds to where they’re approximately one foot apart.
These are going to be large plants, so they need plenty of space to grow.
It’s important to pay attention to what else is planted near perilla. Where it’s a larger plant, it has a bigger root system.
These roots can sprawl out and cause issues for the root systems of plants placed around it. For this same reason, perilla isn’t the best plant for container gardens.
If you prefer container gardening and would still like to grow perilla, be sure the container is large enough to support the plant’s size and root system.
Caring for Perilla
Perilla isn’t a high-maintenance plant. Perform a few basic tasks, and your plant should be a gorgeous addition to your garden. You’ll care for perilla as you would most other plants by making sure the weeds are under control in the grow space.
When weeds take over, your plant must compete for nutrients. Avoid this by regularly weeding the area perilla is growing in to ensure the plant gets all it needs.
It’s also a good idea to mulch around the perilla plant. This will deter weeds from growing in its area and should also help the plant retain moisture. Perilla must be watered regularly. It needs approximately one inch of water per week. This doesn’t all need to come from you.
If you have a way to measure the amount of rain you get each week, you’ll only need to supplement what doesn’t come from nature. However, if you’re in the midst of a drought, it’s a good idea to have a regular watering schedule to ensure the crop gets what it needs.
I like to recommend using the deep watering method. Instead of watering a little each day, it’s a good idea to water heavily a few days per week. This provides moisture all the way down to the roots and allows the plant to continue to draw from the moisture around it as it needs it.
It’s also a good idea to water the plant at the roots by using an irrigation system. By doing this, it avoids the foliage from getting wet and helps to deter disease.
If you choose to water overhead, be sure to water early in the day. This should give the plant enough time to dry before the cool night temperatures come about. Wet foliage and cool night air create a great breeding ground for fungus and disease to form on your plant.
The only other tasks you’ll need to perform to ensure the health of your perilla plant is to fertilize it once a month, deadhead the flowers on the plant to encourage new growth, and remove the tops off the plant.
By pinching the ends off the plant, it will encourage the herb to grow out and become full. If you don’t pinch the tops, the plant will become tall and lanky.
Perilla doesn’t require a ton of care to keep it healthy and happy.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Perilla
As mentioned above, perilla has a minty flavor. This is because perilla is part of the mint family. Most pests don’t like mint which is why many people use it as a pest deterrent.
Perilla can have a similar effect as other types of mint which is why most pests and diseases leave it alone. However, there are a few issues you could possibly run into when raising perilla.
Downey mildew is a potential threat to perilla. It shows up on the foliage of the plant as yellowing spots. Dark fuzz also grows on the underside of the leaves. In time, the dark fuzz will take over and eventually the plant will look as though it’s covered in mildew.
To avoid Downey mildew, water the plants from beneath. If the foliage doesn’t stay wet for long periods of time, this shouldn’t be a threat to perilla. It’s also a good idea to remove any impacted plants and keep debris out of your garden to avoid giving Downey mildew a place to hide or thrive.
Rust is another slight concern with perilla. This disease is exactly what it sounds like. The perilla plant will begin to have spots appear on it which resemble a rust color.
The best way to treat and avoid rust is to remove any parts of a plant which may be infected. Don’t compost these parts as it could spread to other plants which receive the impacted compost. Rust is a fungus and can be treated with a fungicide. To avoid rust all together, try to keep the foliage of your plants as dry as possible.
A pest you may need to watch for is the aphid. Aphids are a common pest in most gardens. They come in a variety of colors and will suck sap from your plants.
This can cause the plants to become discolored and even die. The best way to treat aphids is to spray your plants with soapy water to dislodge the pests. Repeat this process as needed to protect your perilla plants.
Cut worms are another potential threat to perilla. They can cut through the stem of your young perilla plant which will obviously kill it. The best way to get rid of cut worms is to hand pick them, place diatomaceous earth or coffee grounds around the base of the plant or use an insecticide.
Flea beetles are another possible threat. They are small black or tannish bugs with strong back legs which enables them to jump from plant to plant. They chew on plants causing them to wilt.
You can rid your garden of flea beetles by using insecticides, row covers to stop them from jumping between plants, or you can plant perilla with basil or catnip. Flea beetles don’t like either of these herbs which may help deter them all together.
You should also be on the lookout for leafrollers when raising perilla. They’re tiny caterpillars which create nests inside the foliage of a plant. Once these pests are snuggled safely in their nests, they begin to feed on the plant. A few leafrollers aren’t a huge deal. You can cut the damaged foliage from the plant and pick the leafrollers out.
If you have a larger infestation, it’s a good idea to use an insecticide to rid the plant of them before they cause serious harm.
Our next pest is one which commonly gets overlooked. Spider mites are tiny bugs which you may not even realize you have in your garden until there’s a large infestation. If you have an infestation, you’ll begin to see webs amongst the foliage. You’ll also begin to see damage to your plants. Spider mites will drink the sap of your plant causing discoloration.
To get rid of spider mites, spray perilla heavily with soapy water. Be sure to get all sides of the foliage and dislodge any webs you see. You can also apply neem oil to the plant.
The final pest you may run into when raising perilla is the whitefly. Whiteflies can appear as tiny moths flying around your plant, or they can be tiny insects which are immobile on the plant. It depends upon how mature the whitefly is as to what form you may find it in.
Whiteflies suck sap from your plant causing it to become discolored and can stunt the growth of the plant as well. You may also find a sticky substance they leave behind, known as honeydew, on the plant.
The best way to get rid of whiteflies is to spray your plant with insecticide or apply neem oil. You can also try placing bug control spikes on the ground around your plant to get rid of them.
As stated above, perilla isn’t prone to pests. However, if your plant is struggling, looking for these mentioned pests or diseases could be a great way to troubleshoot the problem.
How to Harvest Perilla
Harvesting perilla is an easy process. It can usually be harvested approximately eight weeks after planting. At this time, the plant should be around eight inches tall. If these two requirements are in order, you know your plant is ready for harvest. The plant should be harvested by using scissors to remove the leaves.
You can use the perilla leaves fresh or dry them for later use. If choosing to dry them, be sure to store the leaves in an airtight container.
The perilla flowers can be harvested as well. Cut them from the plant with scissors in the same way you would the leaves. The flowers are edible and can be used in soups or deep fried. Some use the seeds from the perilla plant in pickling recipes.
Perilla is an interesting herb. It’s intriguing from its unique flavors to the benefits it possesses as a medicinal herb. Considering how simple the plant is to raise and harvest, you can get a nice return on your investment of time with this herb.