Perilla frutescens
Common Name: beefsteak plant
Type: Annual
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Asia
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: August to October
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis, it is grown as an annual. Best performance occurs in moist, loose, humusy, organically rich soils in full sun. Plants also tolerate light shade. Plants have excellent resistance to heat and drought. Pinch plant stem tips as needed to keep plants compact and to promote bushiness. Plants will freely self-seed in the garden. Deadhead spent flowers promptly to avoid any unwanted self-seeding. Inexpensive starter plants (in small pots or flats) can be purchased from some nurseries in spring for beds and for containers. In the alternative, seed can be started indoors 8-12 weeks before last frost date or planted outdoors at last frost date. Containers may be brought inside in fall before frost for overwintering. Similarly, favorite plants may be dug and potted in fall for overwintering as houseplants. Plants may be easily propagated by cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Perilla frutescens, commonly called beefsteak plant, is an upright, bushy annual that is native from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia. It is related to coleus and basil. It has become a very popular foliage annual and salad herb plant. It grows to 1-3’ (less frequently to 4’) tall. Wrinkled, serrate, broad ovate, medium green leaves (to 4” long) are sometimes tinged with purple. Leaves are aromatic. Two-lipped nettle-like white flowers in spike-like inflorescences (to 4”) bloom at the stem tips in late summer and fall (August – October). Flowers are not particularly showy. This plant has escaped gardens and naturalized throughout many areas of the eastern and central U. S., including central and southern Missouri. Fresh leaves are used in Oriental cooking, salads, soups and as garnishes. Deep red leaves of some perilla varieties purportedly resemble the color of uncooked beef, hence the common name.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Plants can self-seed prolifically.

Garden Uses

Group or mass as garden annuals in beds and borders. Herb gardens. Also effective in pots, containers and window boxes.