How to Grow Shiso – An Interesting Indoor Herb Garden Addition

by | Jan 4, 2018 | Guides, Herb Directory, Herbs P-T, HowTo's | 8 comments

Shiso is a wonderful herb best known in Japanese cuisine but can be far more versatile than that alone.  Learning how to grow shiso in your indoor garden is similar to other herbs especially basil or mint. 

The Shiso plant is also referred to as the beefsteak plant or Perilla and comes is a red leaf and green leaf variety.

Depending on the variety grown, the flavor may include a basil-like essence with hints of citrusy mint, and a touch of anise or clove undertones. It truly is an interesting flavor if you have never tried it. 

Red varieties do better when cooked in dishes with a stronger flavor that carries a slight pleasant bitterness. Green leaf shiso works wonderfully in cold dishes and has a wonderful  flavor raw.

It is part of the mint family and has the familiar square stem appearance that the family is known for. Red leaf type may often be referred to as purple perilla as the leaves are often more purple than red. This coloring bleaches down during cooking leaving just hints of pink remaining on the leaves.

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How To Grow Shiso Indoors – A couple ways to start


Seed: Shiso is easy enough to start from seed. Planting any seed takes more patience before you see results. It can be well worth your efforts knowing the plant’s health during every stage of its growth. I use seed and cuttings for growing shiso and find both work very well.

Cutting: Cuttings are another great way to start and propagate existing shiso plants. Although the roots take some time to form you still get to enjoy the greenery while they are forming.

Starter Plant: Nurseries can be a source for many already developing young herb plants to bring home. I have not yet found shiso in a local nursery here as it is not a very commonly grown herb. I have seen young plants in an Asian market. Sourcing the internet you may find good quality starter plants of shiso.  


Starting Shiso Perilla from Seed

Shiso seeds will take anywhere from 7 to 30 days to germinate so you will need to have a little patience. I highly suggest a seedling heat mat or germination tray to get them started off right and have the best shot at successful germination.

 I reviewed a germination tray previously here if you’re in need of one to use. They are always a good option to have around and can be used in many seed starting applications.

Make sure your seeds came from a reliable source as well, you do not want to put in a lot of time and effort only to find your seeds were not viable.

 My shiso plants were grown from seeds purchased here.


Steps to take When growing from seed
  1. Soak your Shiso seeds at least overnight in water. 12 -24 hours.
  2. Use a good seed starter mix.I like Black Gold 1311002 8-Quart Seedling Mix if you want a reliable starting mix give it a try by following the link provided. Pre-moisten so evenly damp, not soaking.
  3. Plant the seeds no deeper than ¼” into the soil and gently cover over. Plant 2 to 3 a tray to ensure better chance of plant development
  4. If using a germination tray place a lid over and place on heat mat, if not cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place
  5. Check daily to be sure the soil does not dry out and mist lightly to keep soil evenly moist. (you should never over saturate)
  6. When seedlings begin to emerge remove cover and place in a sunny window or under grow lights where they will get 4 to 6 hours of light minimum.
  7. Thin seedlings when they have developed their second set of leaves
  8. You can transplant Your shiso starts once they have developed their second set of leaves

Shiso plant will tolerate low light and partial shade in your home but as your new seedlings develop it is best to give them more light energy to build a healthy plant start.

Growing Shiso from Cuttings

I am going to share with you a very nice video made by Khang Starr on YouTube that makes a very nice demonstration of taking store-bought shiso and rooting them easily in water. Shiso roots very easily from cuttings as long as you are able to get a healthy piece of plant, or you can even propagate one of your own in the future.

The only cautions I would add after watching this video is that direct tap water may not be right for you if you have a municipal water supply. These can be chemically treated and would need to sit at least 24 hours before being used for this or for watering your plants.

I also would let at least an inch or more root growth before planting them in the soil, so the roots were more firmly developed. That is my preference and I have had more success that way. Shiso also does great in hydroponics as well instead of soil and a great way to transition cuttings. You can learn more about growing herbs hydroponically here in an article previously posted on this site.

Tips and Tricks for Growing Shiso

  • Shiso does best in fertile well-draining soiling. Use an organic potting mix rich in perlite and use worm castings for optimum growth.
  • Mature Shiso plants will do well lower light conditions and partial shade but make sure your seedlings get a few weeks of sun to build up strong stems.
  • Pinch growing tips back regularly to give your plant a bushier more robust growth pattern.
  • Water shiso regularly keeping it moist not soaking. It will tolerate some dry outs, but the flavor stays richer with an evenly watered plant.
  • If you want to move shiso outside keep it in containers or away from your garden beds, as a member of the mint family it will easily take over your growing space

Interesting Facts and Uses of Shiso

In Japan the leaves and flowers are used in culinary dishes and seeds from the flower heads are used to make an edible oil. Often the red leaves of shiso are used in pickling, such as pickled plums also called umeboshi. While green leaves are used raw in tofu or noodles.

It is also a herb considered valuable in traditional Chinese medicine. The perilla leaf is rich in carotene and various other essential minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K are also among the healthy attributes of this unique herb.

I really like to experiment when I cook so besides using shiso in Asian dishes I also like to put it pesto either alone or blended with basil. I enjoy the red shiso in bean soups and cooked with cabbage. Having your own herbs at easy reach is one of the great ways to be able to experiment and find new ways to cook old dishes or make new ones.

One of the most interesting facts about perilla is its known to have strong anti-bacterial effects and prevents and treats food poisoning and other digestive irritation like indigestion. In traditional Chinese medicine, shiso has also been used to treat coughs and other cold symptoms.

Have you tried Shiso?

Maybe you have tried shiso and did not know it. Shiso is used often in tempura and many other Japanese dishes. Maybe you have sat in an Asian restaurant trying to figure out what that herb or seasoning was and could not quite place it. It could have been shiso!

I hope you will give the beefsteak plant a place in your herbal garden. It makes a beautiful addition to your indoor herb garden and gives you something new to talk about with your guests.

red arrow down rightLet me know how it goes and if you have any questions about growing shiso indoors or any other herb or plant I can help with. Leave a comment below!

Happy Gardening!



  1. Taetske

    Good Morning Christina,

    What an interesting and unusual plant, I did not know anything about Shiso and that is why I really liked this in-depth article. The description of the variety in tastes, basil, citrusy mint, anise or clove, hmm, I can smell/taste it all, as I love cooking and experimenting.
    It is good you tell your readers not to mix Shiso with other plants as it might overgrow them quickly. Off the grid, water can pose a big problem for all living things. The quality of water is very important as one would not like to give harmful elements to the plants. You also mentioned the use of Shiso is beneficial for the intestines a problem lots of people have nowadays due to eating the wrong things. I really enjoyed reading your post, thank you.

    Regards, Taetske

    • Christina

      Hi Taetske,
      I am glad that you found this herb interesting, I do as well. It is in the mint family so a lot of the same ways you can use mint you can supplement with Shiso. I recently wrote an article about mint as well that may interest you. You can find it here.
      Living off the grid is a fascinating way of life that I have long envied. I am sure it comes with many obstacles and hurdles to overcome that those of us on the grid do not face. There is a couple way to help water your indoor plants that conserve your water resources and helps the water quality as well. Recycling water used to cook vegetables or even pasta is an excellent way to multipurpose the water. As an example after boiling potatoes preserve the strained water and let it cool. You can then use this to water your plants. For even less runoff when watering your plants, you could freeze this preserved water and use ice cubes to in your pots to give a slow water. This would cause less water loss when giving your plants water.
      Another way that people find surprising is hydroponics(or even aquaponics if you have fish). It is growing in water but actually uses 70% less water than soil growing. You can learn more here in an article I wrote on site. The enclosed system of hydroponics prevents water loss in evaporation and is used almost completely for plant growth. Some of the systems can cause power usage requirements though that can impact you in an off-grid environment. One system I use that only uses power for the light and is a wicking style hydroponics which can be avoided in most cases if you have enough natural sunlight through windows or at least cutdown. That is the click & grow system. It is very simple to use and uses very minimal water to fully grow plants to harvest. They have over 30 varieties to choose from including Shiso. You can check out this system and see how it would work for you
      The Smart Garden 3 White
      and the shiso seed pods that go with it
      Red Shiso Plant Capsules
      I hope that this helps you and enables you to get some ideas on how growing shiso or any other indoor herb may work for you. You can apply these same prinicples for other indoor gardening as well.
      Happy Growing!

  2. walker2

    What a great herb! I have never heard of it but it sounds delicious! The idea that it is also medicinal (especially this time of year when colds are rampant) is also a big plus for this pretty herb. How big does the plant get when kept indoors? I will be getting some seeds and trying this one out as I love mint and this one sounds absolutely yummy!

    • Christina

      Hi Walker,
      Anytime you keep a plant indoors and for a constant harvest or use you can usually keep the size down to whatever works nicely for your space. You can do this by pinching or pruning the growth as it comes in. It will allow the plant to grow nice and bushy as well. The best flavor comes from the mint family of plants if you can keep them from flowering so it is best not to let the height max out too much. Keep the plant focusing on producing leaves. If left to leave out and flower the shiso will get about 24 ” tall. Flower spikes can be another 6″ or more.
      If I have the room I will let a nice mature herb plant reach flower stage that has shown great growth and flavor. I do this to save the seeds from the plant for harvest. Also even though these plants are perennial and very hardy when grown indoors eventually stems can begin to become woody after a couple years and flavors can begin to bitter. At this point, it is usually time to do some type of propagation to make new plants. That can be harvesting of seeds, or taking younger cuttings to start new plants. Giving away seeds or even new plants you start can make great gifts for your gardening friends as well. If this is the first time you have heard of shiso, it is likely it may be new for them too!
      I look forward to hearing how things go in the future and if you need any help along the way please let me know!
      Happy Gardening!

  3. Taetske Guillaume

    Good evening Christina,

    Thank you for the long reply to my comment. You see I am blessed with living on an old farm in the south of Spain. Normally what one puts in the earth grows quite well. I have 2 natural water sources but I try not to waste it as Spain is drying out. For the 100 orange trees, I have the so-called drip-system and the rest of the garden is hand watered 2 times a month, flower pots I do once a week.
    The climate is very good here, no frost. On the other side, one also sees the effects of Global warming. I came here in 1976 and one would experience all the 4 seasons, now there are only 2, from summer into winter. I do not know where this will take us but the change is clearly visible.
    You give some good ideas on saving water something which will be very necessary in the future.

    Regards, Taetske

    • Christina

      Hi Taetske,
      It is absolutely fascinating to learn about different areas of the world and the effects of climate changes taking place. 100 orange trees! An old farm in the South of Spain. This sounds so picturesque and wonderful. Yet I see it has it’s obstacles as well. I am sure many could learn from your vast knowledge in water conservation and continued gardening efforts even amongst these challenges. I am very thankful to have you share it here with me and other readers.
      I hope that the water conservation methods I mentioned do help you and if you also come up with other ways in the future that have proven effective for your environment, I hope that you will share them as well.
      I live in the foothills of North Carolina. It is a four season state of the United States. Our winters are very mild here but we do see some occasional snow, average less than 5 inches a year. Our summers can be quite warm here and drought conditions can occur on occasion. I think many of us would benefit from the awareness that climate change may force a necessity in how we garden and conserve water in our future. If it happening elsewhere it will likely find its stretches into other areas of the world as well. Your response is so very beneficial to us all.
      Thank you,

  4. Jeff

    Hello Christiana,

    Every time I come on your website I learn more and more, I thought I knew most of the herbs but Shiso is brand new to me. I have never noticed any seeds or plants being sold in my area, but possibly I just did not notice. I am partial to the mint family herbs, I enjoy fresh brewed tea with my peppermint from my garden. I would like to try growing this Shiso as well, I love experimenting with new herbs.

    Awesome Information

    • Christina

      Hi Jeff,
      Love having you here and finding so much useful information. Shiso is a great herb, packed with a unique flavor punch. It has quickly become one of my must-have herbs in the kitchen. I love the flavor of green shiso raw in salads and makes an amazing pesto! Red is better cooked I think. I like to roll it up in pork with other seasonings. Or mixed with greens or other steamed/cooked vegetables. Green shiso in tea is nice cause it has this nice hint of cinnamon, make a nice combo with peppermint or a floral type tea.
      It is really great for your immune system too so introducing it as a healthy part of your diet has its benefits! I think you mentioned you had an autoimmune disease like me, celiac disease? Anything that helps our immune systems is a plus.
      See you again soon my friend!



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