Ask the Plant Doctor! How to grow healthy perilla plants in Malaysia


It’s easy enough to grow perilla leaves in our Malaysian weather. Photo: 123rf.com

Do you have a question about plants or how to maintain your garden? Send your questions to the Plant Doctor! Email your questions to lifestyle@thestar.com.my with "Plant Doctor" in the subject field. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q I like perilla leaves but they are not widely available here. Is it easy to plant perilla? I see many ads for perilla seeds and am wondering if it’s wise to buy them. Please share the tips for growing perilla. — Lena

Perilla is easy to cultivate successfully in the warm, humid climate of Malaysia. This versatile plant prefers full sun to partial shade and warm temperatures for its successful growth.

Well-drained organically rich soils provide ideal growth conditions. Seeds can be directly sown into the ground 1cm deep and 30cm apart, keeping the soil consistently moist until germination. The seeds will take one to three weeks to germinate. Do not cover the seeds too heavily as they require light exposure to sprout.

For patio or balcony gardens, perilla can thrive in a 20-litre container filled with moist, nutrient-rich potting mix.

In terms of care, the perilla is relatively low maintenance. It is important to weed regularly around perilla to prevent competition for resources. The application of organic mulch can also help suppress weeds while retaining soil moisture.

Every two to three weeks during the growing season, organic fertiliser or compost should be applied to the soil surrounding the plants.

To promote bushier growth and discourage tall, leggy growth, pruning the top portion of perilla plants is necessary.

If left unpruned, perilla plants can grow as tall as 1.5m. For the best leaf production, older, larger leaves are harvested near the bottom. Perilla is naturally resistant to most pests and diseases, particularly aided with good air circulation.

Adequate watering is essential, especially during dry periods, because this plant cannot tolerate dry soils or drought.

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