Is Shiso a Perennial? Growing and Caring for Shiso

Shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens, is a popular herb in Asian cuisine. It is a member of the mint family and has a distinct flavor that combines notes of mint, basil, cilantro, and anise. While it is native to eastern Asian countries, shiso can be grown in various climates as an annual or as a perennial in USDA zones 10-11.

In this article, we will explore how to grow and care for shiso plants, including the best planting conditions, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting techniques.

  • Shiso is a versatile herb with a unique flavor and vibrant foliage.
  • It can be grown as an annual or perennial in USDA zones 10-11.
  • Proper planting conditions, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting techniques are essential for successful shiso cultivation.
  • Shiso is commonly used in Asian cuisine and offers various health benefits.
  • There are different varieties of shiso, including green shiso and red shiso, each with its own distinct characteristics.

Health Benefits and Culinary Uses of Shiso

Shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens, not only adds a burst of flavor to your dishes but also provides numerous health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, iron, and calcium, shiso can contribute to a healthy diet. Its leaves are widely used in Asian cuisine to enhance the taste and visual appeal of various dishes.

When it comes to culinary uses, the possibilities are endless. Shiso leaves can be used as wraps for sushi, adding freshness and a touch of color to your favorite rolls. They can also be added to salads, soups, and stir-fries, bringing a unique flavor to these dishes. Additionally, shiso leaves can be deep-fried to create crispy and flavorful vegetable tempura.

In addition to its culinary uses, shiso has been associated with several health benefits. The antioxidants present in shiso leaves can help protect the body against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The high vitamin A content supports healthy vision and immune function, while iron and calcium contribute to overall health and wellbeing.

Whether you’re looking to add a punch of flavor to your meals or boost your intake of essential nutrients, shiso is a versatile herb that can elevate your culinary creations while providing a range of health benefits.

Different Varieties of Shiso

Shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens, comes in several different varieties, each with its own unique characteristics. The two most common varieties are green shiso and red shiso. Green shiso, scientifically known as Perilla frutescens var. crispa, has flat leaves with a traditional minty basil flavor. Its vibrant green color adds a pop of freshness to any dish. On the other hand, red shiso, or Perilla frutescens var. crispa, has leaves that are tinted with shades of purple and red. It has a slightly different flavor profile and is often used to color and season pickled plums.

In addition to green and red shiso, there are other interesting varieties worth exploring. Ruffled red shiso and ruffled green shiso have leaves with a textured appearance, adding visual interest to culinary creations. Bicolor shiso, as the name suggests, features leaves with a mix of red and green colors, creating a stunning two-tone effect. Lastly, variegated shiso offers leaves with splashes of different colors, ranging from green and red to white and pink. These varieties can be used not only for their flavor but also as decorative elements in dishes or as eye-catching additions to garden beds.

Table: Shiso Varieties and Characteristics

Variety Scientific Name Leaf Color Flavor
Green Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Green Minty basil
Red Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Red, purple Distinctive
Ruffled Red Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Red Textured, bold
Ruffled Green Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Green Textured, refreshing
Bicolor Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Red, green Two-tone, complex
Variegated Shiso Perilla frutescens var. crispa Various (green, red, white, pink) Colorful, decorative

Each shiso variety offers its own unique flavor and aesthetic appeal, allowing you to experiment with different combinations in your culinary creations. Whether you prefer the classic taste of green shiso or the vibrant colors of variegated shiso, these versatile herbs are sure to elevate your dishes and add a touch of Asian-inspired flair.

Planting and Growing Shiso

Now that you understand the basics of shiso and its culinary uses, let’s dive into how to plant and grow this versatile herb. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, growing shiso is relatively simple and rewarding. Follow these steps to ensure your shiso plants thrive:

Choosing the Right Planting Method

Shiso can be grown from seeds or transplants. Starting from seeds allows you to select from a broader range of varieties, while transplants offer a head start. If you choose to start from seeds, sow them indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost date. Press the seeds lightly into the soil and keep them moist until germination occurs. Once the seedlings are 3 inches tall, thin them out to 1 foot apart.

If you opt for transplants, purchase healthy young plants from a local nursery or garden center. Ensure that the plants have a strong root system and vibrant foliage.

Providing Optimal Planting Conditions

Shiso grows best in a location with full sun to partial shade. It prefers well-drained soil that is loose and rich in organic matter. Before planting, amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture and fertility.

If you’re planting shiso in the ground, space the plants 1-2 feet apart to allow for adequate airflow and growth. Alternatively, you can grow shiso in containers or raised beds, which provides more control over soil quality and drainage.

Watering and Care

Regular watering is crucial for shiso plants, especially during dry periods. Aim to provide about 1 inch of water per week, and adjust accordingly based on your climate and soil conditions. Water the plants at the base to avoid wetting the leaves, as this can increase the risk of diseases.

Additionally, it’s important to monitor for pests such as aphids, flea beetles, and spider mites. If you notice any infestations, treat them with organic insecticidal soaps or other natural remedies.

Planting Method Advantages Disadvantages
Seeds Wide variety selection Longer time to harvest
Transplants Quick start Less variety selection

Remember to harvest shiso leaves regularly to promote continuous growth and prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Trim the stems above a pair of leaves using sharp, clean scissors or shears.

With the right planting conditions and care, your shiso plants will flourish, providing you with a bountiful supply of fresh leaves for culinary enjoyment.

Caring for Shiso Plants

Proper care is essential to ensure the health and vitality of your shiso plants. Here are some tips to help you take care of your shiso plants:


Shiso plants thrive when kept consistently moist. Water them regularly, ensuring that the soil remains damp but not overly saturated. Watering in the morning is ideal, as it allows the soil to absorb the moisture before the sun evaporates it. Aim to provide about 1 inch of water per week, adjusting based on the weather conditions and the moisture needs of your specific plants.


Shiso plants are not heavy feeders but can benefit from occasional fertilization. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer according to the package instructions, typically every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to promote healthy growth and abundant foliage.

Pruning and Deadheading

Pruning is minimal for shiso plants and mainly involves pinching off the stem tips to promote bushier growth. This helps create a fuller and more compact plant. Deadheading the flowers is essential to prevent excessive self-seeding. Simply remove the spent flowers regularly to redirect the plant’s energy towards leaf production and prevent it from becoming invasive in your garden.

Pest and Disease Control

While shiso plants are generally resistant to pests and diseases, it’s important to monitor them regularly for any signs of infestation or disease. Common pests that may affect shiso include aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, leafrollers, and spider mites. If you notice any signs of pests, such as chewed leaves or small insects, treat the plants with organic insecticidal soaps or natural remedies. Proper watering practices and good air circulation can help prevent diseases such as bacterial wilt, damping off, downy mildew, and rust.

Common Pests Common Diseases
Aphids Bacterial wilt
Cutworms Damping off
Flea beetles Downy mildew
Leafrollers Rust
Spider mites

Harvesting and Storing Shiso Leaves

Once your shiso plants have reached maturity, you can start harvesting their flavorful leaves. Harvesting shiso leaves is a simple process that involves cutting the stems above a pair of leaves using sharp, clean scissors. This method allows the plant to continue growing and producing more leaves throughout the season. Remember to harvest leaves selectively, avoiding excessive removal that may hinder the plant’s overall growth and vitality.

Harvesting shiso leaves

After harvesting, you can use the fresh shiso leaves immediately in your culinary creations, or you can store them for future use. For short-term storage, place the leaves in a sealable plastic bag with moist paper towels to maintain their freshness. Store the bag in the refrigerator, and the leaves should stay fresh for up to four days.

If you’re looking for a longer-term storage solution, shiso leaves can be air-dried or freeze-dried for extended shelf life. To air dry the leaves, simply lay them out on a cookie sheet in a warm, dry place until they become crisp and brittle. Once dried, store them in an airtight container away from moisture and direct sunlight. Alternatively, you can freeze-dry the leaves by laying them flat on a cookie sheet and placing them in the freezer until they are frozen solid. Transfer the frozen leaves to a sealable container or bag and keep them in the freezer until ready to use.

However you choose to store your shiso leaves, be sure to label and date them for easy identification. This way, you can enjoy the vibrant flavor and aroma of shiso whenever you need it, even during the off-season.

Common Pests and Diseases of Shiso

While shiso plants are generally resilient and low maintenance, they can still be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Being aware of these potential issues can help you take proactive measures to protect your shiso plants and ensure their health and productivity.

Common Pests

Some common pests that may affect shiso plants include:

  • Aphids
  • Cutworms
  • Flea beetles
  • Leafrollers
  • Spider mites

These pests can cause damage to the leaves, stems, and overall health of the plant if left unchecked. To control them, you can use organic insecticidal soaps or explore natural remedies like neem oil or garlic spray.

Common Diseases

Shiso can also be susceptible to certain diseases, including:

  • Bacteria wilt
  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Rust

To prevent these diseases, it’s important to maintain proper watering practices and ensure good air circulation around the plants. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can create favorable conditions for disease development. Additionally, practicing crop rotation and providing adequate spacing between plants can help reduce the risk of disease spread.

With regular monitoring and prompt action when necessary, you can keep your shiso plants healthy and thriving, allowing you to enjoy a plentiful harvest of flavorful leaves throughout the season.

Pest and Disease Control Tips for Shiso

To keep pests and diseases at bay and maintain the overall health of your shiso plants, consider the following tips:

  • Inspect your plants regularly for signs of pests or diseases, such as chewed leaves, discoloration, or wilting.
  • Implement cultural practices like crop rotation, proper watering, and good air circulation to create an unfavorable environment for pests and diseases.
  • Use organic pest control methods whenever possible to minimize the impact on beneficial insects and the environment.
  • If necessary, seek professional advice or consult with your local extension office for specific pest and disease management strategies.

By being proactive in monitoring and managing pests and diseases, you can ensure the health and productivity of your shiso plants, allowing you to enjoy its vibrant foliage and unique flavor in your culinary creations.

Common Pests and Diseases of Shiso

Growing Shiso as a Container Plant

If you have limited space or simply prefer to grow shiso in containers, you’re in luck! Shiso is an excellent choice for container gardening. It is a compact herb that thrives in confined spaces, making it perfect for balconies, patios, or even windowsills. By following a few simple guidelines, you can successfully grow shiso in containers and enjoy its flavorful leaves throughout the growing season.

Choosing the Right Container

When selecting a container for your shiso plant, opt for one that is at least 6 inches deep and wide. This will provide enough room for the plant to establish a healthy root system. Ensure that the container has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot. You can choose from a variety of materials, such as plastic, terracotta, or ceramic, depending on your personal preference.

Preparing the Soil

Fill the container with a well-draining potting mix that is rich in organic matter. This will provide the necessary nutrients for your shiso plant to thrive. Additionally, adding perlite or vermiculite to the soil mix can improve drainage and aerate the roots. Avoid using heavy garden soil, as it tends to compact in containers and restrict root growth.

Placement and Care

Place the container in a sunny location where the plant can receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you have limited sunlight, shiso can also tolerate partial shade. Regularly water the container-grown shiso, ensuring that the soil is consistently moist but not waterlogged. To prevent overwatering, check the soil moisture level by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Remember to also feed your container shiso with a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to promote healthy growth.

By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the delicious flavor and vibrant foliage of shiso right at your fingertips. Container gardening allows you to grow this versatile herb in even the smallest spaces, adding a touch of freshness and Asian-inspired goodness to your home.

growing shiso in a container

Propagation and Overwintering of Shiso

Once you have successfully grown shiso and enjoyed its flavorful leaves, you may be interested in propagating it to expand your herb garden. Shiso can be propagated from seeds or stem cuttings. If you have mature shiso plants, you can collect the seeds for future planting. Alternatively, you can purchase seeds from reputable online sources. When starting from seeds, sow them indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost date. Press the seeds lightly into the soil, as they require light to germinate. Once the seedlings reach a height of 3 inches, thin them out, leaving approximately 1 foot of space between each plant.

In addition to seed propagation, shiso can also be propagated from stem cuttings. To do this, take a stem cutting from a healthy shiso plant, remove the lower leaves, and place the cutting in a glass of water. After a few weeks, roots should develop, indicating that the cutting is ready to be planted in soil. Moisten the soil, make a small hole, and gently transplant the cutting, ensuring it is secure and upright. Over time, it will establish roots and grow into a new shiso plant.

Propagation and Overwintering of Shiso

As a tender annual, shiso cannot withstand frost or cold temperatures. In regions with harsh winters, it is recommended to grow shiso as an annual or bring container-grown plants indoors for overwintering. When preparing shiso for overwintering, trim the plant to a manageable size, removing any damaged or diseased leaves. Place the container-grown plants in a well-lit area away from drafts. Provide regular watering, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist. While shiso may not grow as vigorously indoors, it can still be enjoyed as a fresh herb throughout the winter months.


  • Shiso can be propagated from seeds or stem cuttings.
  • Start seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost date. Thin out seedlings once they reach 3 inches in height.
  • Take stem cuttings from healthy shiso plants and root them in water before transplanting into soil.
  • Shiso is a tender annual and should be protected from frost and cold temperatures.
  • Trim container-grown shiso plants before bringing them indoors for overwintering.
  • Provide adequate light and moisture to maintain shiso plants during the winter months.

By understanding the propagation techniques and overwintering methods, you can continue to enjoy the delightful flavor of shiso year-round.

Companion Planting and Garden Design with Shiso

Shiso is not only a versatile herb in the kitchen but also a great addition to your garden design. Its vibrant foliage and unique flavor make it a visually appealing choice for garden beds, borders, or even as a potted specimen plant. When planning your garden with shiso, consider companion planting to maximize its benefits and create a harmonious garden ecosystem.

Companion Planting with Shiso

Companion planting involves strategically placing plants together to enhance their growth and repel pests. Shiso is known to attract beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies, which can help with pollination in your garden. Consider planting shiso alongside other pollinator-attracting plants, such as lavender, marigolds, or cosmos. These companion plants can support the overall health and productivity of your garden.

Additionally, shiso can act as a natural deterrent for certain pests. Its strong aroma can repel insects like aphids, flea beetles, and spider mites. To create a pest-resistant garden, you can plant shiso alongside vegetables or herbs that are prone to insect damage, such as tomatoes, peppers, or basil. It can help protect these plants from pest infestations and reduce the need for chemical interventions.

Garden Design Ideas

Shiso’s vibrant foliage and contrasting colors can add visual interest to your garden design. Consider incorporating shiso as a border plant to define pathways or garden beds. Its lush green or deep red leaves can create a striking contrast against flowers or other ornamental plants. You can also create a dedicated shiso garden bed, mixing different varieties to create a beautiful tapestry of colors and textures.

For a more structured garden design, you can plant shiso in geometric patterns or rows to create a sense of order and symmetry. Its uniform growth habit lends itself well to formal garden designs. Alternatively, you can create a more informal and wild look by allowing shiso to self-seed and grow freely. This can give your garden a natural, untamed aesthetic.

Companion planting with shiso

In conclusion, shiso is not only a valuable culinary herb but also a versatile plant for companion planting and garden design. Its ability to attract beneficial insects, repel pests, and add visual interest makes it a valuable addition to any garden. Experiment with different companion plants and garden designs to create a beautiful and thriving garden ecosystem.


Growing shiso can be a rewarding experience, whether you choose to cultivate it as an annual or a perennial. This versatile herb adds a unique flavor and vibrant foliage to your garden and culinary creations. By following the proper planting, care, and harvesting techniques, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh shiso leaves throughout the growing season.

Shiso is a relatively low maintenance plant that thrives in various climates. It can be easily grown from seeds or transplants and is adaptable to different growing conditions. Whether you have a spacious garden or limited space for containers, shiso can find its place in your gardening endeavors.

With its distinct flavor that combines notes of mint, basil, cilantro, and anise, shiso adds an Asian-inspired culinary delight to a variety of dishes. It can be used to wrap sushi, enhance the flavor of soups and stir-fries, and add a pop of color to salads. The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating shiso into your culinary repertoire.

So, whether you turn to shiso for its health benefits, unique flavor, or vibrant foliage, this herb is sure to elevate your gardening and culinary experiences. Explore different varieties, experiment with companion planting, and enjoy the beauty and versatility of this delightful perennial herb.


Is shiso a perennial herb?

No, shiso is typically grown as an annual in most climates. However, it can be grown as a perennial in USDA zones 10-11.

What are the health benefits of shiso?

Shiso is rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, iron, and calcium. It offers various health benefits, including boosting the immune system and promoting healthy skin.

How can shiso be used in cooking?

Shiso leaves can be used in a variety of culinary dishes, including salads, soups, stir-fries, and even desserts. They can also be used as a wrap for sushi or deep-fried for vegetable tempura.

What are the different varieties of shiso?

Shiso comes in several varieties, including green shiso, red shiso, ruffled red shiso, ruffled green shiso, bicolor shiso, and variegated shiso.

How do I plant and grow shiso?

Shiso can be grown from seeds or transplants. Start seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost date and transplant them outdoors once they reach 3 inches tall. Shiso prefers full sun and well-drained soil.

How do I care for shiso plants?

Keep shiso plants consistently moist, but not overly saturated. Water in the morning to allow the soil to absorb the moisture before the sun evaporates it. Occasional fertilization and pruning are also beneficial.

When and how do I harvest shiso leaves?

Shiso leaves can be harvested about two months after planting and throughout the growing season. Simply cut the stem above a pair of leaves using sharp, clean scissors.

What pests and diseases should I watch out for when growing shiso?

Common pests include aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, leafrollers, and spider mites. Shiso can be susceptible to diseases such as bacteria wilt, damping off, downy mildew, and rust.

Can shiso be grown in containers?

Yes, shiso is an excellent choice for container gardening. Select a container at least 6 inches deep and wide, fill it with well-draining potting mix, and place it in a sunny location.

How can I propagate and overwinter shiso?

Shiso can be propagated from seeds or stem cuttings. It is a tender annual, so in colder climates, it is best to grow it as an annual or bring container-grown plants indoors during winter.

Can shiso be used as a companion plant?

Yes, shiso can be planted alongside other heat-loving plants like lantana and mandevilla. However, be mindful of its potential to self-seed and potentially become invasive.

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