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propagating perennials: Perilla frutescens-Beefsteak Plant
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Friday, May 1, 2009

Perilla frutescens-Beefsteak Plant

There is only way to propagate Perilla of Beefsteak and that is by seed if you live in the Zones where they are annuals, but perennial in Zone 8-10, but not frost tolerant and in these zones you can take tip cuttings. Chill seeds at 40 degrees for 3 days in moist sand and plant in 70 degree heat and will germinate in 1-2 weeks. They are extremely fast growers reaching 2'-3' in height and are deer resistant. Some of the varieties leaves remind one of coleus, but they are either burgundy or green, flowers late summer to early fall, and blooms can range from pink, lavender and white. What is interesting about this plant is that it is used as a food staple in Oriental countries and read that India was figuring how to farm it, because if you do not deadhead it becomes extremely invasive, PA has it on their invasive list. Young leaves and seedlings are eaten cooked or raw. Older leaves are used for garnish or salted and used as a condiment for tofu. Yuck! Older flowers are fried and eaten. The plant also yields essential oil which is used as flavoring in candy and sauces. The flavor is supposedly strange to Western palates ranging from cinnamon to citrus flavor. It will thrive in a poor soil but does not take extended periods of drought and will do well either in full sun to partial shade. Another useful aspect are the leaves that can be used in the compost pile as green manure.

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